How do you begin writing about Bob Gibson? I mean, really, how do you start? You can go with the Obvious 251 Wins, greatest Cardinals pitcher of all time, the 1.12 ERA in 1968 that was, in part, the reason MLB lowered the Pitchers Mound in 1969 by 6 inches……..You can go into all of that, and, it is part of who Bob Gibson is. But it’s not all. To us Cardinal Fans, at least of my generation, you had four REVERED Cardinal Legends. Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith, and Bob Gibson.
These Men shaped Cardinals History, brought pennants and World Series trophies. They won M.V.P.’s and made St Louis a city, despite all odds, of Champions. ELEVEN WS Titles. Most in NL history, second-most in MLB History behind the Yankees. New York’s population is 8 Million. St Louis? 350,000. These were players we had seen, or our Fathers or Grandfathers had grown up watching. We had a direct tie to them.
I never got to see Rogers Hornsby, or, my Idol growing up, Dizzy Dean. Nor had anyone I knew, but, I knew folks who had seen Musial and Red. I had seen Smith. Out of all of them, the one you heard the most about was Bob Gibson. Fierce. Dependable. Loyal.
He came up in 1959. Five years before the Cardinals would become a good team again. We cannot ignore the era he came up in either. Baseball had only been integrated for 12 years. Racism wasn’t as rampant, but, it certainly wasn’t gone. An African American player had to play harder than his contemporaries or risk losing his spot and having the fans and media turn on him. He also had to be tough and stand his ground. NO ONE did this as well as Gibson.
Bob was known to not even talk to opposing players. He would treat former teammates the same. He had no problem knocking anyone in an opposing uniform down to establish control over the plate. He never popped off to the media, never said poor me or made excuses. Like Jackie Robinson before him, he left it all on the field, and, let it all out on the field.
From 64-70, he played on some average teams, but, from 59-64 and from 68 until his leg was broken by a Roberto Clemente line drive. )Broken, as in broken in half.) Six weeks later, he was back on the mound, like it wasn’t any big deal. He had many years of offensive letdowns (Cardinal Teams from the 50’s-the late ’70s, with the exceptions of 64,67,68 were not very good. Look them up). And his slider……..I have watched the video of his slider my whole life. I threw one myself when I pitched as a kid. I, and no one else, in my opinion, mastered it as well as Gibson. Devastating. Look at the last at bat of the 1967 World Series. Look at the break on that pitch.
As most of you know, Bob was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. If anyone can beat it, its Bob Gibson, The Greatest Living Cardinal.
Gibson Career Stats of Interest:
- 89.1 WAR
- 1.188 WHIP
- Won 20 games 5 times, 19 games or more seven times, 18 or more games eight times.
- 2.91 CAREER ERA
- 3117 Strikeouts
- 3884.1 Innings Pitched
His average season was as follows:
17-12/2.91. 17 complete games/262 Innings Pitched/210 Strikeouts
Thanks for reading, say a prayer for Bob and his family, and, take some time to dig in, learn about, and appreciate the MINDBOGGLING accomplishments of the Greatest Cardinals Pitcher EVER!