On May 10th., I turned on the Boston-Detroit NBA playoff game. I saw the last two minutes of the game in disbelief; a grand total of 130 points. Boston beat Detroit, 66-64. I then heard Paul Pierce of the Celtics interviewed. He attributed the low score to great defense by both teams. Paul, a message to you and your so-called star NBA playoff counterparts. "Defense, my rosy red basketball. Today’s NBA just can’t shoot!!"
Story of the Week
When you find the definition of the word ‘competitive’ in the dictionary, a picture of Bob Gibson should be there as well. He took that word to a new level. He wasn’t just competitive; Bob Gibson was intense and angry and mean. It may have had to do with his impoverished childhood in Omaha, Nebraska that he took with him into his career, but whatever the reason, when you batted against Gibson, you were the enemy, and he showed it in absolutely no uncertain terms.
In my article of April 4, I wrote that Sandy Koufax is one of the two greatest pitchers I’ve ever seen. The subject of this week’s article is the other pitcher I alluded to in that statement, Bob Gibson.
(Note: I saw both Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson in their prime and throughout their careers. I saw Satchel Paige at the end of his career, so I can't compare apples-to-apples here. But historians of the game make a case for Paige being the greatest pitcher of all time.)
Bob Gibson was a winner whether he was using his arm, his bat, or his glove. In a 15-year career, all with the St. Louis Cardinals, he won 251 games, posted 56 shutouts, became the first major leaguer to strike out 200 or more batters in nine seasons, and posted a lifetime ERA of 2.91. He also hit 24 regular season home runs, and earned a Gold Glove every year from 1965 to 1973. But his most impressive stat was to come in 1968; more about that later.
Before becoming a major leaguer, Gibson won a basketball scholarship to Creighton University, and upon graduation he played with the Harlem Globetrotters for a year.
In 1964, his 19-12 record helped the Cardinals win the pennant, and he began an unprecedented streak of seven straight World Series wins when he was victorious in the fifth game of that Series, and, with just two days rest, the seventh and deciding game against the Yankees as well.
In 1967, Gibson was out when a Roberto Clemente smash fractured his left leg. Incredibly, after being sidelined for eight weeks, he came back to win three World Series games against the Red Sox, allowing just three earned runs and pitching three complete games as the Cards won the Series.
Now for the ultimate. There are several records in sports that I feel will never be broken; that could well be the subject of a future article. Bob Gibson architected one such record. In 1968, Gibson’s ERA was an incredible 1.12; that’s slightly more than one earned run allowed per every nine innings he pitched. For the cherry on the cake, he pitched 13 shutouts that year, on his way to the MVP and Cy Young Awards. Although the Cardinals lost the World Series to the Tigers, Gibson struck out 17 batters in Game One of that Series.
In 1970, he won his second Cy Young Award. In 1974, he became only the second pitcher in baseball history to notch 3,000 career strikeouts. Shortly before Gibson retired in 1975, I was one of 55,000+ people who gave him a very deserved 12-minute standing ovation at Busch Stadium. I’ll always remember that day, and this legendary Hall-of-Fame pitcher. It just doesn’t get any better than
#45, Bob Gibson.
Last Week’s Trivia
What former Supreme Court Justice once led the NFL in rushing? Byron "Whizzer" White did it. (This one really was too easy.)
Trivia Question of the Week
He was an NBA general manager who played major league baseball. Who is he? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.