Bob Gibson 1966 #320
by William Szczepanek
Bob Gibson was the epitome of intimidation on the mound. In his 17 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals he compiled 251 wins and a 2.91 career earned run average. He pitched a no hitter in 1971.
Proof that Gibson was one of the toughest pitchers occurred on July 15, 1967 against the Pittsburgh Pirates when Roberto Clemente lined the ball off of Gibson's leg. Gibson tossed o few warm ups and then went on with the game facing 3 more batters before his fibula snapped and Gibson went down with a broken leg.
Gibson's delivery was one of extreme power, flinging his arm across his body with such force that he fell off to the first base side on every pitch. In spite of being out of position after throwing he still managed to make the plays, often in spectacular manner, which enabled him to win 9 Gold Glove Awards. His 2 Cy Young Awards, 1 MVP award and 8 All Star elections made him one of the most dominant power pitchers of the 60s and 70s. He ranks 14th all-time in strikeouts with 3,117 and 13th in career shutouts with 56.
1968, called the "year of the pitcher", was arguably Gibson's best with a 22-9 record, 13 shutouts, 28 complete games and a season ERA of 1.12, a modern day record. With an ERA like that the real question is how did he manage to lose 9 games? With no run support he lost five 1-0 games. Over a 2-month period in June and July Gibson allowed only two earned runs in 92 innings including 47 consecutive scoreless innings for an ERA of 0.20.
Bob Gibson was probably one of the best pitcher athletes to ever play the game. Outside of his extraordinary pitching performances he performed well offensively also. He was occasionally used as a pinch hitter and pinch runner. Gibson was a lifetime .206 hitter with a career slugging percentage of .301. He batted .303 in 1970. He had 24 lifetime home runs, 13 stolen bases and walked 63 times.
Gibson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 in his first year of eligibility.
How I Remember Bob Gibson
One of my most memorable experiences involving Bob Gibson was the day that a friend of mine and I decided to be play-by-play announcers for a Cubs-Cardinals game. My friend had just acquired a home tape recorder, a fairly new invention at the time and his favorite pitcher, Dick Ellsworth of the Cubs, was on the mound that day. So, we settled down at a table in his living room in front of an, I would guess, 21" inch black and white television, which was pretty standard for the time, as very partial Cubs fans to save this experience for posterity.
Bob Gibson was on the mound for the Cardinals that day, so we both knew that Ellsworth would need to be at his sharpest and that some notable Cubs' player, like Ron Santo, Billy Williams or Ernie Banks would need to get their bat in front of one of Gibson's fastballs. Gibson could be beaten, but it wouldn't be easy. On this day Gibson looked his meanest.
To this point Gibson had three good years in 1962, 1963 and 1964, but had lead the league in only one positive category, 5 shutouts in 1962, the first year he made the All Star team. In 1961 he led the league in walks with 119. This year, 1965, he would lead the league in home runs allowed with 34.
It was Tuesday August 31, 1965. The Wrigley Field attendance was
4,036. The Cardinals took the lead in the second on a home run
by Bill White. In the fifth inning Gibson himself tagged
Ellsworth for a home run and I let out an expletive that would
eliminate my chances of ever becoming an announcer. The
Cardinals 2 - 0 lead seemed enormous. Through 5 innings Gibson
had not allowed a hit.
Time of game 2 hours and 8 minutes.
This was this year that Gibson began his domination of NL hitters and would set him on a path to become one of the all-time greatest pitchers.
You can check out Gibson's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.