Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bob Gibson

I cannot write about baseball players who made an impact on me in my youth without writing about Bob Gibson. Bob Gibson pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1959 through 1975, with lifetime stats of:

ERA: 2.91
Won/loss 251/174
Strikeouts 3,117

I was not a National League fan growing up, but I saw him pitch in three World Series, 1964, 1967, and 1968. St. Louis beat the Yankees in seven games in 1964, beat the Boston Red Sox in seven in 1967 before losing to the Detroit Tigers in 1968. He was an awesome pitcher and I hated him. I hated him because he was such a good pitcher who beat up on the American League.

I am sure that I watched the 1964 series. Asides from the fact that the Cards beat the Yankees, there was nothing much that stayed with me about that series. 1967 was another story. Gibson, killed the Red Sox. I watched most of that series, The Sox could do nothing against Gibson. The Sox scored three runs off Gibson in the three games that he pitched (1, 4, and 7). Gibson pitched on three days rest, pitching complete games in his starts. That year he had a 1.12 fifth on the list for single season leaders for lowest earned run average. In case you are wondering, Dwight Gooden had a 1.53 era in 1985 (43rd on the list). All the players ranked between Gibson and Gooden played prior to 1920. Think about it. All these years later, I still shake my head when I think about watching Gibson pitch that year.

In 1968, he had one bad game against the Tigers, giving up four runs in the seventh and deciding game, losing 4 to 0 to Mickey Lolich and the Tigers. Lolich gave up only one run, in the bottom of the ninth inning, a homerun by Mike Shannon, the Tigers third baseman. Those of you who are into such things know that the Detroit Tiger’s Denny McClain won 31 games that year, the last major league pitcher to win at least 30 games..

My hat is off to you, Bob Gibson. The hatred of my youth is replaced by awe and respect. Will we ever see a single season era lower than your 1967 era?

*With the exception of the reference to single season leader for era, the stats come from The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball: Total Baseball, Seventh Edition (2001), Total Sports Publishing.

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