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Thursday, March 31, 2011

#7 - Bob Gibson (1935- )

"Hoot"  "Gibby"

St. Louis Cardinals (1959-1975)

Career Statistics:
W-L:  251-174
W-L %:  .590
ERA:  2.91
Strikeouts:  3,117
BB:  1,336
CG:  255
SHO:  56
IP:  3884.1
WHIP:  1.188

Pack Robert Gibson was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1935.  His father died of tuberculosis three months before his birth, and Bob was named Pack in honor of him.  Bob didn't particularly like the name Pack, and later officially changed his first name to Robert.  Though he suffered from numerous health problems as a child, notably rickets and asthma, he excelled in sports, such as basketball and baseball. 

He attended Omaha Technical High School where he participated in track, baseball, and basketball.  He was named to the All-State basketball team his senior year by a newspaper in Lincoln, and later won a full athletic scholarship to Creighton University.  At the end of his junior year of college, he was averaging 22 points per game for the basketball team and made third team Jesuit All-American.  After he graduated, he courted offers from both the Harlem Globetrotters and the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was offered a $3,000 signing bonus to play for the Cardinals, which he accepted, though he spent a year playing with the Globetrotters.  He continued playing basketball in the offseason after beginning his baseball career, but later quit when Cardinals general manager, Bing Devine offered him $4,000 to hang it up.  Gibson attended spring training in 1958 with the Cardinals before being sent to the minors for the regular season.

He was assigned to the Cardinals major league roster in 1959 and made his big league debut on April 15 as a relief pitcher.  He was sent back to the minors briefly before returning July 30 as a starting pitcher.  He earned his first win as a pro that day.  In 1960, he was shuffled back and forth between the Cardinals and their Rochester affiliate until mid-June.  After compiling a 3-6 record and 5.61 ERA for the season, he traveled to Venezuela to play winter ball.  In 1961, Cardinals skipper Solly Hemus rotated Gibson back and forth between starting pitcher duties and the bullpen for the first half of the season.  When Hemus was replaced by Johnny Keane in July, Gibson was moved permanently into the starting rotation.  He posted an 11-6 record with a 3.24 ERA.

In late May of the 1962 season, Gibson pitched 22 2/3 scoreless innings and was named to his first All-Star team.  In spite of suffering a broken ankle late in the season, Gibson still managed to strike out over 200 batters.  His rehabilitation was slow and he had only posted one win May 19, 1963.  He then rattled off six straight wins by late-July.  His offensive production was also impressive, driving home 20 runs which exceeded the combined RBI totals of all other National League pitching staffs.

In 1964, Gibson's pitching prowess led the Cardinals to the World Series, where they faced the New York Yankees.  Gibson and Yankees ace Mel Stottlemyre faced one another in three of the series' seven games.  Gibson lost Game 2, but prevailed in Game 5.  In Game 7, Gibson pitched into the ninth inning, but gave up homeruns to Phil Lenz and Clete Boyer, making the score 7-5, Cardinals.  As a reliever was warming up in the bullpen, Gibson retired Bobby Richardson, winning the game and the Series for the Cardinals.

On July 15, 1967, the Pirates' Roberto Clemente hit a line drive off Gibson's right leg.  He faced three more batters before the bone snapped right above the ankle.  He returned September 7 and the Cardinals soon secured the National League pennant.  In the World Series that season, the Cardinals faced the Boston Red Sox.  Over three complete games, Gibson allowed only three earned runs and fourteen hits.  The Cardinals prevailed once again, with Gibson pitching the decisive Game 7, and even hitting a homer in the game.

In 1968, Gibson posted a 1.12 era, which remains a record in the "live-ball" era.  He threw 13 shutouts, and between June 2 and July 30, allowed only two earned runs in ninety-two innings pitched.  Opposing hitters batted a meager .184 off of him, with .233 OBP.  He also pitched forty-seven consecutive scoreless innings on his way to the National League MVP award.  In Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, Gibson struck out 17 Tiger's batters, a record which still stands.  The Cardinals ultimately lost the Series 4-3.

Gibson's stellar performance in 1968 is widely considered to be one of the driving forces behind lowering the pitcher's mound from 15 inches to 10 inches starting in the 1969 season.  However, this did not change anything, as Gibson posted a 20-13 record with a 2.18 ERA, 4 shutouts, and 28 complete games in '68.  On August 4, 1971, Gibson earned his 200th career victory.  Ted days later, he pitched a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  On July 17, 1974, he fanned his 3,000th batter.

Bob Gibson's hitting prowess was unusual among pitchers.  He was sometimes used as a pinch hitter and ended his career with a .206 batting average, 44 doubles, 5 triples, 24 homers, and 144 RBI.  Eventually, Gibson's wild delivery began to take its toll on his right knee.  In 1975, his final season, he put up a 3-10 record with a 5.04 ERA.  Early that season, he announced his retirement.  In his final appearance, he was brought in as a reliever against the Cubs in a game that was tied 6-6.  He ended up giving up the game-winning grand slam.  In his career, Gibson won nine Gold Glove Awards, the World Series MVP in '64 and '67, and the Cy Young Award in '68 and '70.

Gibson was known throughout his career as a fierce competitor who was not afraid to throw brushback pitches to show the batters who was in charge.  Young players were often warned by veterans not to dig in against Gibson because he would knock them down.  Hank Aaron once said that he would knock his own grandmother down if she challenged him.  Still yet, he had excellent control, hitting only 102 batters in his career.  When his friend and teammate, Bill White, was traded to the Phillies, Gibson hit him in the arm.  In 1992 during an Old-Timer's Game, Reggie Jackson hit a homerun off of Gibson.  At the following year's Old-Timer's Game, Gibson threw Reggie a brushback pitch and he ended up not getting a hit. 

After retirement, Gibson returned to Omaha and served on the board of a local bank, became the principal investor in a radio station, and opened his own restaurant.  He also worked as a color analyst for ABC's Monday Night Baseball in 1976.  He returned to baseball in 1981, working as a coach for Joe Torre, who was managing the New York Mets.  He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame that year.  He stuck with Torre after he accepted a job as the manager of the Atlanta Braves and remained in that position until 1984.  He then began hosting a pre- and post-game show for Cardinals games from 1985 to 1989.  After that, he worked as a color commentator for ESPN in 1990, but resigned due to the time he had to spend away from his family.  Gibson currently serves as Vice President of the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization dedicated to helping former baseball players through financial and medical hardships.

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