- C, 1B
- July 22, 1880
- 5' 11"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-02-1905 with PIT
While he was generally not one of the most powerful offensive cogs in the great Pirate machines of the early part of the 20th century, George “Moon” Gibson nevertheless was one of the best defensive and most durable backstops in the time period.
Moon came to the majors in 1905 and hit a meager .178 in his first two seasons with the club. He played in over 100 games for the first time in 1907 and celebrated by eclipsing the Mendoza line for the first time with a .220 average.
By 1908, Gibson had pretty much taken over behind the plate exclusively and despite his .228 average, was considered among one of the best catchers in the league.
Moon would enjoy what was probably his best season in the Steel City; the same year the team had what was one of its best campaign in the long history of the franchise. George’s average skyrocketed to .265 as he knocked in a career high 52. Gibson’s glove had always been his strength and in 1909 he led the NL for the first time in fielding percentage with a .983 mark. His legendary durability came into focus this season when he broke Chief Zimmer’s 1890 record when he caught in 140 consecutive games. Moon played in his one and only fall classic this season and although he only hit .240, was said to have completely outclassed the Tiger backstops.
After enjoying another decent offensive season in 1910, hitting .259 while once again leading the league in fielding with a .984 mark, Gibson fell down the following campaign to a paltry .209 in 1911.
Although he was no longer the durable player he had been in the past, Moon nonetheless had his highest two averages ever in 1913 and 1914, hitting .285 and .280 respectively. George only had one more significant year with the club in 1915, playing in 120 games, before being reduced to a .202 average in only 84 games the following year. After the 1915 campaign, manager Fred Clarke finally retired from the bench. It was rumored that Gibson was one of the top candidates to take over the job, which was given to Nixey Callahan
The Stocky catcher was so respected by the team’s owner, Barney Dreyfuss that Dreyfuss promised never to put him on waivers. After a poor 1916 season, Barney chose not to keep his word and put the Canadian backstop on waivers where he was picked up by the Giants. Rather than going to New York, Gibson retired from the game. Eventually John McGraw coerced him into coming to the Big Apple where Moon ended his career after only 84 at bats in two seasons.
Eventually Gibson did take over the Bucs in 1920, after Dreyfuss agreed to give him the salary George felt he owed him after the 1916 episode. He had two stints at the helm of the Bucs (please read more about that in manager’s chapter) and one with the Cubs where he amassed a .546 winning percentage. He was relieved of his duties on both occasions with the team, primarily because it was thought he was unable to maintain discipline.
Gibson lived to the age of 87 when he passed away in his hometown of London, Ontario. He eventually was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, one of the best players the country ever produced, and the last Canadian ever to manage in the Big Leagues.
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