Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Celebrate '68: Five Shutouts In A Row For Gibson

                On June 26, 1968, Bob Gibson fired his fifth shutout in a row, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 during the first game of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The shutout extended Gibson’s scoreless innings streak to 47. Earlier that season, Don Drysdale had set the mark for scoreless innings thrown with 58 and 2/3, as well as the record for shutouts in a row with six. This left sportswriters across America clamoring as they looked to report that Gibson had surpassed the mark. When Gibson’s fifth shutout was in the books he was asked about possibly breaking records and he answered “Macht nichts” which is German for “it does not matter.” You see, Bob Gibson’s focus was not on a record book. Bob Gibson was focused on winning.

            Gibson had to feel good early on about winning this ballgame, as an Orlando Cepeda sac fly off Bucs starter Al McBean plated Curt Flood in the first. In the fourth inning, Gibson picked up a two-out double, then scored when Lou Brock followed him with a double. McBean gave his club seven innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth. His replacement Ron Kline served up a longball to Mike Shannon in the bottom of that same inning, which capped off the Cardinals scoring for the day.

            The way Bob Gibson yearned for run support that season a 3-0 lead was a big one. With the way he was throwing though all he needed was a run. Nobody could solve the puzzle that wore the 45 on the back of his St. Louis Cardinals jersey. Gibson allowed just four hits in this game. He struck out seven, including the great Roberto Clemente, who ended that game with a K. Pitching shutout after shutout meant that Gibson’s ERA would continue to fall. It sat at 1.21 coming into the day and at 1.14 once the game was in the books.

            This would be Bob Gibson’s last start of June in 1968. Not one run had scored on him during that month of domination. He would begin the month of July in Los Angeles going head-to-head with none other than Don Drysdale. It may have been the game of the Summer as fans, writers, and all of baseball would have eyes on it to see what would come next during what was coined the year of the pitcher.

Sources included: The Pittsburgh Press, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Joplin News Herald, The Havre Daily News, and Baseballreference.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibby Shuts Out Jenkins And The Cubs

                On June 20, 1968, Bob Gibson extended his scoreless innings streak to 38, pitched  his eleventh complete game, as well as his fourth shutout in a row with a 1-0 win over the Cubs in St. Louis. Gibson allowed just five hits in the contest, while his counter part Ferguson Jenkins allowed just four. A triple by Lou Brock in the third would haunt Jenkins after Curt Flood made the most of it with an RBI single that gave Gibby the lead that he would not let go of.

Not only did Gibson run his scoreless innings streak up to 38, the Cubs set a National League record for not scoring in 46 consecutive innings. The previous record had been set in 1931 by the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs tied a still standing major league record of 48 consecutive innings without a run scored against the Reds in their next contest but avoided breaking the record by putting one on the board in the third inning of that contest. The Philadelphia Athletics set the record in 1906.

The June 20th contest was a rematch between Jenkins and Gibson. The two went head-to-head on the April 20th in what was Gibson’s third start of the campaign. Jenkins got the win that day, winning 5-1 over the Redbirds in St. Louis. However, as we know that was not the case on this day in June. With that said, it was not because of  a bad effort by Jenkins. He struck out 11 Redbirds, and as mentioned before he allowed just four hits. However, that triple by Lou, and the following single by Flood were the hits that mattered. You toss in the splendid pitching by Bob Gibson and the day belonged to St. Louis.

Gibson wrapped up that day by bringing his record up to 8-5. On the flip side, he lowered his ERA from 1.30 to 1.21. The main story of the day in newspapers across America regarding Gibson was the scoreless innings streak and that story would continue. Stay tuned...

Sources included: The Post-Tribune, The Pittsburgh Press, The Marysville Appeal Democrat, The Boone News County Republican, The Woodland Daily Democrat, St. Joseph Gazette, USA Today, and Baseballreference.com 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibby Strikes Out 13

                On June 15, 1968, it took Bob Gibson just one hour and 42 minutes to beat the Cincinnati Reds by the score of 2-0 in front of more than 35,000 fans at Busch Stadium. Facing just 31 men, Gibson struck out a season high 13, extended his scoreless innings streak to 29 innings, and allowed only four hits in the contest. It was his fourth win in a row and his third shutout in a row.

            Cincinnati’s pitcher Gary Nolan had a decent day himself. He matched Gibson’s total hits given up with just four allowed, but he only went seven in the contest. Nolan surrendered his first run in the sixth. It came after Dal Maxvill opened the inning with a single, then moved to second on a sac bunt by Gibson. The line kept moving when Lou Brock singled, which put Maxvill on third before he scored on a flyball that came off of Curt Flood’s bat.

            The second Redbird run came in the seventh with Nolan still on the mound. He struck out the first two men he faced, only to walk Mike Shannon. Moments later, Julian Javier doubled, and Shannon came into score the insurance run. Not that Bob Gibson needed insurance. He was mowing them down.

            Gibby rolled into the ninth having only given up three hits. His fourth of the day came after he retired the first man in the inning. I imagine he wiped his brow, looked into the box at Vada Pinson and went back to work. Pinson grounded out, which brought Alex Johnson to the dish. He was the last hope for the Reds. Their hope was dashed when Johnson got caught looking for what proved to be the 13th K of the day for Gibson.

Gibson’s ERA dropped from 1.40 to 1.30 over the course of those nine innings. It would continue to fall in the weeks to come. Batters would continue to have their hopes dashed on the days that Gibson stood on the mound, as the year of the pitcher continued with him dominating one team after another.  

Sources included: The Pittsburgh Press, The Oxnard Press Courier, The Columbian Missourian, and Baseballreference.com

Monday, June 11, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Shuts'em Down In Atlanta

            On June 11, 1968, Bob Gibson recorded his ninth complete game of the season with a 6-0 shutout over the Braves in Atlanta. The victory was the first for Gibson over the Braves in two seasons. The shutout was his second in a row. Gibson had not allowed a run in 20 innings and his ERA dropped from 1.52 to 1.40. A dominant stretch of baseball was on the horizon.

The hurler who turned the lights out on the Atlanta lineup received all the runs he would need in the first inning after the Braves starter Dick Kelley walked Lou Brock to start the game.  Kelley followed the walk with an RBI double to Julian Javier. Leftfielder Mike Lum threw wildly into home plate and Javier kept running until he crossed the plate for the second run of the inning.

Kelley was knocked out of the box in the third.  He surrendered a leadoff single to Brock to open the inning. However, Lou was picked off, and Javier was retired on a fly out, before it all unraveled. Curt Flood singled, back-to-back walks were given to Orlando Cepeda and Mike Shannon. Moments later, Tim McCarver cleared the bases with a single to left. One of those runs was not charged to Kelley because Lum committed another error on the play. However, the hurler’s day ended after just two and a third innings of work. The Redbirds were up 5-0.

Meanwhile, Gibson had the Braves lineup under his thumb.  They scattered just five hits against him, all of them being singles. Only three Braves players picked up those singles, who were Felix Milan, Joe Torre, and Felipe Alou. Torre and Milan had two hits apiece. It hardly mattered since nobody else could get past the mighty Bob Gibson.

The Cardinals capped their scoring off in the eighth, with Cecil Upshaw on the bump for the Braves. He surrendered a leadoff double to Flood who moved to third on a ground out by Cepeda, and then he scored when Mike Shannon came through with a single. The score was 6-0 and Gibson would keep it that way. He walked a man in the eighth and surrendered a leadoff single in the ninth, but that was all she wrote for the Atlanta Braves. Gibson was on fire.

The featured article has a quote from the late Red Schoendienst, saying “Gibson looked great. It was the best he’s pitched. He was throwing with a nice and easy motion, no strain. I think he’s over the little arm trouble he had.” Red was a great player, a great manager, and a great man. I dedicate this entry to the memory of the man who donned the number 2 on his back for over six decades with the St. Louis Cardinals. We will never forget you, Red. Generations to come will know the name Schoendienst because legends live forever.

Sources included: The Southeast Missourian, The St. Joseph Gazette, The Mount Vernon Register News, and BaseballReference.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Gets His First Shutout

                On June 6, 1968, despite not being scheduled to pitch, Bob Gibson volunteered his services when Dick Hughes came up with a sore arm. The four days of rest did not appear to bother Gibson, as he turned in a three-hit complete game performance to help the Cardinals earn a 4-0 victory over the Astros in Houston. It was the ninth victory in a row for the soaring Redbirds.

            The first two Redbird runs came from RBIs by Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda in the third. Both ribbies were given up by Houston’s starter Don Wilson, who surrendered back-to-back home runs to lead off the sixth inning. The first was off the bat of Cepeda, followed by that of Tim McCarver. The Houston starter settled down enough to get the next three outs in that sixth inning, but his day would end shortly thereafter, when he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh.

             Meanwhile, Bob Gibson was locked in. Only one man had earned the privilege of rounding first base, which came when Ron Davis doubled in the fourth. The fierce Cardinals hurler would carry a two-hitter into the ninth before Rusty Staub singled with two outs. Gibson capped things off by inducing Lee Thomas into a ground out. The victory was Gibby's fifth of the campaign, advancing his record to 5-5. It was his eighth complete game of the season and his first shutout.

            The performance by Gibson featured just two walks along with five strikeouts. His ERA dropped to 1.52 and would continue to fall in the weeks to come. He was on his way to the history books, and together we will remember how he got there as we continue to celebrate that glorious year: 1968.

            Earlier that day, in the wee hours of the morning, our nation lost a presidential hopeful and then-sitting state senator in the political assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, California. He had been shot and fatally wounded just 26 short hours before his passing that morning of June 6th. In the days to come several teams cancelled games as the nation mourned. Mark Tomasik at Retrosimba wrote about how the Cardinals reluctantly played on the day of the funeral, which was June 8th, and what was declared a day of national mourning on June 9th. 1968 was a glorious year in baseball.  Off the field, it’s hard to say.  It makes me realize how important sports can be to our national landscape: When the world seems to be falling apart around us, we as fans can tune in for a few hours of joy. The players also take to the field in an effort to bring us that joy, despite any circumstances outside the stadium, troubling them just as much as they trouble you and me. Somehow the show must go on.

I dedicate this entry to the memory of Bobby Kennedy. He once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Long before Bob Gibson was great, he paid his dues. He faced failure. In fact, the first batter he ever faced in the major leagues hit a home a run off of him, so I do believe those words that Mr. Kennedy spoke ring true.

            Sources included: The St. Joseph Gazette, The Columbia Missourian, Arkansas City Traveler, The Sikeston Daily Standard, The Kansas City Traveler, Retrosimba.com and Baseballreference.com

            Side note: I had no intention of adding any political commentary to my blog about Cardinals history. However, when I pull up these newspaper articles, I tend to look through the whole newspaper. I just could not ignore such a tragic event. I do not care which side of the aisle you lean toward, because I believe that at the end of the day, we are all Americans.

I hope when looking back at such a tragic event in our history, that we can all have compassion, and as we look toward our collective future, that we can all dare greatly enough to achieve a greatness we can all be proud of.  God Bless.

If you would like to read the piece Mark wrote you can do so here: https://retrosimba.com/2013/06/03/while-nation-mourned-rfk-cardinals-reluctantly-played/

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Goes The Distance In New York

          On June 2, 1968, Bob Gibson notched his fourth win of the season and his seventh complete game with a victory over the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium in New York. Gibson ran into a little trouble along the way, however, the offense showed up for him that day as the Redbirds prevailed 6-3. It was their fourth win in a row. Before the day was over they would win their fifth in a row with a 3-2 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the National Leaguers that called the Big Apple home.

            Once the contest got underway after being delayed by rain for more than 40 minutes, Gibson was given run support right from the start. Lou Brock doubled off New York’s starter Al Jackson, who followed that up with a walk to Julian Javier. Curt Flood moved Brock and Javier over on a groundout, and then the Mets skipper Gil Hodges chose to intentionally walk Orlando Cepeda. Good chance Hodges was hoping the next man up, Mike Shannon, would hit into a double play, but that hope was dashed when “The Moon Man” singled and brought both runners around to score. While Jackson retired the next two batters, the damage was done, and the Birds were up 2-0.

            Gibson had his own hurdles to overcome during that first inning. He walked the first man he faced, allowed a single to the next, retired a man on a flyball, but hit J.C. Martin with a pitch that loaded the bases with just one out. What did Gibson do? He struck the next two men out. The first was Kevin Collins, and the next was Ed Kranepool who got caught looking.

            Jackson looked to have settled down in the second with a 1-2-3 frame, but shoddy defense and timely hitting put two more runs on the Cardinals side of the scoreboard in the third. Jackson began the inning with an out off the bat of Javier.  However, Curt Flood reached first on an error when Weis mishandled a ball at short, Cepeda doubled, Shannon was put on intentionally, then Tim McCarver came through with a two-run single to extend the lead to 4-0. A two-run blast by Dick Simpson in the fifth capped off the Cardinals scoring, as Gibson worked his way through the Mets lineup on his way to victory.
            Gibby did have a hiccup in the sixth after retiring the first two men he faced he then walked three in a row to load the bases. The Mets rightfielder Cleon Jones made him pay by rapping a two-run single of his own to break up the shutout and put his club on the board, but well behind, as they trailed 6-2. Al Jackson’s day ended for the Mets in the bottom of the seventh when he was lifted for pinch hitter Ed Charles who got hold of a Gibson pitch and cut the lead in half with a solo blast to make it 6-3.

            Gibson regrouped and took charge the rest of the way. Well, that is until the ninth, when he allowed back-to-back two out singles. Suddenly the tying run was at the dish in Jerry Buchek. Gibson put him in check with a strikeout to end the game. It was the eighth strikeout of the game for Gibson who had allowed seven hits, and the three runs as well. His ERA rose from 1.52 to 1.66. However, he was about to go on a historic run that would bring that number down significantly.

            This was a significant win during that 1968 season because the Cardinals came into the contest tied for first. They were a half game up after the contest and would never trail in the standings again that season. While this Celebrate ’68 series is focused primarily on Bob Gibson, I believe he would tell you it was a collective effort that led that club to a pennant. For on all pennant winning teams you have a variety of heroes that help them capture the flag. With that said, if we were to list the heroes, Bob Gibson would likely top the list in 1968.

Sources included:  The Alton Evening Telegraph, The Bradford Era, The Constitution Tribune, The St. Joseph Gazette, BaseballReference.com