Remembering Bob Gibson
by Paul Semendinger, October 3, 2020
He was one generation too soon, or I was one too late…
His career was close enough to my interest and love of baseball that I had many of his baseball cards, especially the ones from 1972, 19723, 1974, and 1975.
But I never saw him play.
I remember buying his autobiography, From Ghetto To Glory, at a used book sale when I was just getting into reading about baseball and used books sales were the place for me to find thousands of pages of enjoyment. I probably paid ten cents for that old paperback.
It was in that book, I am sure, that I first learned that Bob Gibson had been a Harlem Globetrotter before his baseball days. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
And I remember the day when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. I remember being happy for him. Real happy.
I had a Mets Yearbook from the early 1980s. I recall him being their pitching coach. For whatever reason, that never made sense to me. He never looked right as a Met.
I never saw him pitch, but I always knew he was one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. And I always (almost always) rooted for him when I read stories about baseball.
Baseball has lost a legend.
Just recently, this past summer, I read Pitch by Pitch by Bob Gibson. My oldest son picked up the book for me (hardcover) at a used book sale. (Some things never change.) In this book, Gibson discusses his great performance in the 1968 World Series when he struck out seventeen batters. It was a great read.
I always liked Bob Gibson. He was a player I always felt a connection to even though I never saw him play. Some players are like that. I felt no real connection to many of his contemporaries like Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, or Gaylord Perry, but somehow I felt close or connected to Bob Gibson.
It’s like that with this game. As we flip their cards, watch old clips, or read their stories, we just root for certain players. I rooted for Bob Gibson, even though what I was watching or read about had already happened.
Maybe I liked Gibson because I loved hearing his former teammate Bill White, the great Yankees broadcaster, talking about him frequently on the old WPIX television broadcasts. I grew to like him more as an adult, I am sure, because of his closeness with Joe Torre.
All that being said, I still always root against him, always, whenever I read about the 1964 World Series. I want him to lose the games so badly. As I read, I hope, against all hope, that somehow the story turns out differently and the Yankees win. I want Mel Stottlemyre to be the hero. (It never turns out well for the Yankees no matter how many times I read those stories.)
Bob Gibson pitched three games against the Yankees in that 1964 World Series. He won two and lost one. He pitched 27 innings. He won Games 5 and 7 to bring glory to St. Louis and begin one of the longest non-winning Yankees eras of all-time.
Gibson struck out 31 batters in those 27 World Series innings against the Yankees. Mickey Mantle went 3-for-11 against Gibson. Mantle hit one homer and struck out five times against Gibson.
Interestingly, Gibson pitched 27 innings in those three games, but had only two complete games. In Game 2, he went eight innings. In Game 5, he went ten. Then, in Game 7, he went all nine to close it out.
Tom Tresh, Clete Boyer, and Phil Linz (in addition to Mantle) all homered off Gibson in the 1964 World Series.
Bob Gibson has passed.
Another baseball legend gone forever.
I never saw him play. But his loss saddens me today.