Just weeks after Hall of Famer Lou Brock passed away at age 81, another Hall of Famer and Cardinals legend passed away.
It was confirmed on Friday night that Bob Gibson, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, passed away at the age of 84. He had been dealing with pancreatic cancer for over a year, and passed away in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. His passing occurred on the 52nd anniversary of his most notable game… his record 17-strikeout performance in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, a record that still stands to this day.
Gibson, often considered the greatest pitcher in team history, was the last living “Franchise Four” member of the St. Louis Cardinals, following Brock’s passing back on September 6th.
Born Robert Gibson in 1935 to Pack and Victoria Gibson, he was the youngest of seven children. Gibson was originally named after his father, but changed his name to Robert. His childhood featured a heavy interest in basketball and baseball, despite numerous health issues plaguing him, including pneumonia and heart murmurs. In 1957, both the Harlem Globetrotters and St. Louis Cardinals expressed interest in Gibson, who was known as an all-around athlete by that point.
Debuting with the Cardinals in 1959, Gibson had five 20-win seasons over the course of his 17-year career. He also had two seasons with 19 wins and another with 18.
In 1964, he posted a 19-12 record with a 3.01 ERA with 17 complete games and 245 strikeouts. In the postseason, he was a crucial player as he helped the Cardinals win their first World Series since 1946, defeating the New York Yankees in seven games. He later helped the Cardinals win another World Series in 1967 over the Boston Red Sox.
But it was the 1968 “Year of the Pitcher” that will forever be remembered.
In 1968, Gibson finished with a 1.12 ERA (the third-best ERA all-time, and the lowest in the modern-ball era). He went 22-9 with 28 complete games, a career high of 304.2 innings pitched, and struck out 268 batters. He also only allowed 11 home runs all season.
Because of his phenomenal season, Major League Baseball actually lowered the mound by 33%. He continued his dominance into the 1968 World Series, where the Cardinals took on the Detroit Tigers. In Game 1, Gibson struck out 17 Tigers batters, a record that hasn’t been matched to this day. Over the course of the series, he faced off against Tigers’ star Mickey Lolich, and the two had cinematic performances in Game 7, which the Tigers ultimately won, and the series as well.
Gibson threw his first (and only) no-hitter in 1971, and pitched four more seasons until swelling in his knee took its toll and he eventually retired in 1975.
A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1981, Gibson finished his career with a 251-174 record, 2.91 ERA, and 3,117 strikeouts. He was just the second pitcher (after Walter Johnson) to reach 3,000 strikeouts.
He was also a very effective hitter, hitting 28 home runs in his career and was often used as a pinch-hitter.
Among the above statistics, here are some other accolades from Gibson’s career:
9× All-Star (1962, 1962², 1965–1970, 1972)
- 2× World Series champion (1964, 1967)
- NL MVP (1968)
- 2× NL Cy Young Award (1968, 1970)
- 2× World Series MVP (1964, 1967)
- 9× Gold Glove Award (1965–1973)
- NL wins leader (1970)
- MLB ERA leader (1968)
- NL strikeout leader (1968)
- Pitched a no-hitter on August 14, 1971
- St. Louis Cardinals No. 45 retired
- St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame
- Major League Baseball All-Century Team
Nicknamed “Gibby” and “Hoot”, Gibson was known as one of the most dominant and intimidating pitchers in history. Despite only hitting 102 batters in his career, Gibson was never afraid to throw “brushback pitches” to establish dominance over opposing batters.
One famous story told by former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Tim McCarver was that, one time when he went to the mound for a conference, Gibson brushed him off, saying “The only thing you know about pitching is that it’s hard to hit.”
Off the field, Gibson was very active in the Civil Rights Movement, alongside his teammates Bill White and the late Curt Flood. The three of them worked together to fight racism and segregation in America, and to make all players live in the same clubhouse and hotel rooms. Because of their efforts, the St. Louis Cardinals became the first sports team to end segregation in the 1960’s.
After his playing career, Gibson returned to baseball in 1981 as an assistant coach to future Hall of Famer Joe Torre, and was very active in the Cardinals organization in his later years, acting as a mentor to up-and-coming pitchers. He was a frequent attendee at Opening Day games and special events in St. Louis, while keeping his residence in Omaha.
On September 1st, 1975, the Cardinals retired #45. He has a star of the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and has a statue outside of Busch Stadium, in addition to in his hometown. He was also named as an inaugural inductee into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.
Gibson’s legacy will forever be remembered by dominance, intimidation, and admiration.
My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends at this time.