Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Shuts'em Down In Pittsburgh

                On August 28, 1968, Bob Gibson went to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and led the way to victory over the Pirates who had just beaten him four days earlier. The victory was a blowout for the Cardinals, as they took down the Pirates 8-0 in front of 11,000 plus. The win was Gibson’s 11th shutout of the season, surpassing a franchise record of 10 shutouts, set by Mort Cooper in 1942. It was also Gibson's 19th win of the campaign, Gibson had lowered his ERA to 1.03 while striking out 14 men.

                Gibson had taken to the mound one day early because his book, Ghetto To Glory, was set to be released in New York City the following day. The short rest had no effect on Gibby. He went straight to work. Bob Veale got the start for the Bucs that day and was able to work through the first three innings unscathed. He was not so lucky in the fourth.

                Julian Javier and Curt Flood opened that inning with back-to-back singles. Moments later, Orlando Cepeda hit his 14th home run of the season and the Birds were up 3-0. The inning was far from over. Veale retired one man before allowing a single to Tim McCarver, unleashing a wild pitch that moved McCarver over, then walked Dal Maxvill. Bob Gibson stepped to the plate and helped his own cause by knocking a single into left that brought both McCarver and Maxvill around to score. Veale found himself in a 5-0 hole before striking out Lou Brock and retiring Javier on a ground out. The Cardinals had batted around.

                Cepeda walked in the fifth, moved to third on a single by Mike Shannon, then scored when McCarver hit into a fielder’s choice. That ended Veale’s day, and with the 5-0 cushion, one would imagine Gibson was feeling pretty damn good. Cepeda added to his RBI totals with a single that plated Javier in the fifth. Later, Javier added to his RBI totals with a home run in the eighth. It was 8-zip. The offense had come alive, and Bob Gibson did what Bob Gibson did; He shut his opponent down.

                Not one Pirates player reached second base that day. They could hardly get a ball in play. Gibson allowed just four hits, and half of those four were credited to Manny Mota. Matty Alou and Gary Kolb were lucky enough to scratch hits off of the nearly untouchable Bob Gibson. As mentioned before, he had struck out 14, future hall-of-famer Willie Stargell falling victim to Gibby twice.  Two hours and twenty minutes after the first pitch was thrown, Gibson was right where he belonged… back in the win column.

Sources included: Baseballreference.com, The Pittsburgh Press, The Southeast Missourian, The St. Joseph Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Friday, August 24, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Loses For the First Time Since Late May

                On August 24, 1968, falling 6-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch, Bob Gibson took a loss for the first time since the 28th of May. Despite the loss, Gibson recorded his 22nd complete game of the season, and struck out a season high 15 men. Unfortunately for him and the Redbirds, a home run by Willie Stargell and two errors would lead to the loss. Only three of the six runs that the Pirates scored were charged to Gibson.

            The Cardinals jumped out to a 1-0 lead after they opened the bottom of the first with four consecutive singles, which plated Lou Brock. Pittsburgh’s starter Bob Moose had flown in from North Carolina the night before from a stint with the Marine Corps reserves. He arrived after midnight and had to take the ball for a 1:15pm start. As it turned out, that may not have been a good move by the Pirates management, as Moose lasted just three and two thirds.

Moose began the fourth by surrendering a double to Orlando Cepeda, who scored when Mike Shannon came through with a one out single. Shannon moved over to second on a two out single by Dal Maxvill and scored when Gibson punched a single into right. That spelled the end for Moose. He handed the ball off to Luke Walker, who did not retire a single man. Gibson stole second on him, and moments later, Lou Brock drew a walk. Pittsburgh’s manager went to his pen once again, calling on Tommie Sisk who threw a wild pitch, bringing Maxvill dashing home. The score was 4-0 Cardinals, and with Bob Gibson on the bump, it probably seemed like they were well on their way to victory. However, nine innings of baseball must be played, and on this day the lead would not stand.

Gibson was flying through the lineup. He walked the first man he faced and set down 15 men in a row. That string of men ended in the sixth when Jerry May singled to open the fifth. Gibson set the next three men he faced down as the single to May seemingly did not phase him.

Then came the seventh. The inning opened with a grounder towards Cepeda that the first baseman could not handle, which would prove to be a costly error. Roberto Clemente, who had already struck out three times, singled and moved Alou over to third. Moments later, Willie Stargell jumped on a Gibson pitch that got over Lou Brock’s head and sailed over the wall in left. Just like that, the score was 4-3, and there was a ballgame at Busch. Gibson did not mess around with the next three batters. In fact, he struck out all three of them.

The Buc’s tied things up in the eighth after Freddie Patek got on base with a one out walk. He was moved over to third when Maury Wills doubled, then scored on a sac fly by Matty Alou. That play was contested by the Cardinals, as the throw home by Roger Maris to Johnny Edwards looked like an out.  When the home plate umpire, Mell Steiner, threw up the safe call, players flew his direction. The call stood, though, and the game was knotted at four all. Gibson ended the eighth with a strikeout of Clemente, but the damage had been done.

Stargell opened up the ninth with a double. Gary Kolb came in to run for him, just before another error led the way to the loss. The error came when Donn Clendenon bounced a ball to short. It looked like Kolb was hung out to dry, but Maxvill’s throw to third ended up hitting Kolb on the helmet. Instead of an out, Kolb scored and Clendenon dashed to second. Gibson and the Redbirds were down 5-4. That score became 6-4 when Gene Ally singled in the final tally of the ballgame. Neither run was charged to Gibson, but the loss was.  After the Cardinals failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth, his record went to 18-6. His ERA rose from 1.00 to 1.07.

As mentioned before, the loss was his first since May 28th when the Giants came out on top with a score of 3-1. He had won 12 consecutive decisions from June 2nd to July 30th. The Cardinals lost when he started on August 4th, but fell in 13 innings, after he had pitched 11 of them. He rattled off three more wins in a row after that game, running his streak to 15 wins since the beginning of June; achieving an absolutely astounding feat.  The loss did not stop Bob Gibson. Four days later he would face the Pirates again, and the outcome would be a much better one for the man who was on the road to 1.12.

Sources included: Les Biederman of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Toledo Blade, The Sarasota Herald, as well as Baseballreference.com

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Did It Again

            On August 19, 1968, “Bob Gibson did it again.”  He won his 18th game of the campaign, tossed his 21st complete game, and recorded his 10th shutout of the season. Gibson allowed just two hits during the 2-0 victory over the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. The shutout matched a franchise record that had been set by Mort Cooper in 1942. The win was also Gibson’s 15th straight win. He had not been beaten since May 28th as he owned the mound in St. Louis and everywhere else the team traveled.

            Ron Davis played an unlikely hero for the Redbirds after Red Schoendienst penciled him into center. Davis had been acquired in mid-June and was giving Curt Flood a breather. He did not find himself in the starting lineup much.  However, he made the most of it on that day. His first RBI came in the second after Phillies starter Woodie Fryman walked Mike Shannon, who moved to second on the first of three hits by Tim McCarver, before Davis came through with an RBI single.

            Meanwhile, Gibson was mowing them down. He had ten strikeouts through seven innings before Davis struck again with an RBI in the eighth. John Boozer had taken over pitching duties for the Phils in the third and had been effective throughout the game, until Phil Gagliano tripled to lead off the eighth. Boozer set Orlando Cepeda and Shannon down in succession, then issued an intentional pass to McCarver just to pitch to Davis. The move backfired as Davis came through again with a single that scored Bobby Tolan who had pinch run for Gagliano.

            Gibson, who had allowed his first hit of the game in the sixth, went into the bottom of the eighth with just one hit allowed on his side of the scoreboard. That one hit was by none other than the pitcher, Boozer. With that said, he did surrender his second hit during that inning. He had walked a man before Johnny Callison singled, putting men at second and third with two outs. Gibson retired the next man, then went out in the top of the ninth and led things off with a single. Nothing came of the base knock, but quite frankly Gibson did not need any more run support. He opened the bottom of the ninth by getting Cookie Rojas to fly out. The next man up, John Briggs popped out, then Gibson recorded the last out of the ballgame by striking out Dick Allen. He had struck eleven men out on the day. Dick Allen owned four of those strikeouts while Gibson’s ex-teammate and friend Bill White owned three.

            Gibson’s ERA dropped to 1.00 after the shutout. His dominance was far from over, as he led the way to the National League Flag. St. Louis and the rest of the nation knew the name Bob Gibson and when it came up I am sure that heads were shook in disbelief when the words were said, “Bob Gibson did it again.”

Sources included: The Victoria Advocate, The St. Joseph Gazette, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Baseballreference.com

I would also like to add that something I truly enjoy is writing about a guy like Ron Davis. We will forever remember the names of Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Jim Edmonds, David Freese, and many others who have shined during the regular season and postseason. However, the men who are unsung heroes are often forgotten. Those guys that are fourth outfielders, defensive replacements, pinch runners, or even a mop up guy that takes some lumps when his team is getting blown out. When a team wins a division, a pennant, or a championship, each and every man who contributes to the team is a piece of a puzzle that made it happen. All too often, so many of the unsung heroes are forgotten, but on days like today it is my pleasure to sing a little bit of praise on their behalf. Respect.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Halts The Cubs At Wrigley

            On August 14, 1968, Bob Gibson recorded his 17th win, and 20th complete game of the season, by beating the Cubs 3-1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The victory put an end to a string of seven straight victories over the Cardinals for the Cubs who had enjoyed crowds of more than 30,000 in each game of the three-game series. It was Gibson’s 14th straight victory. He had not been beaten since the 28th of May.

            Gibson went head-to-head with Joe Niekro that afternoon. The Cubs hurler looked like he was going to get through three innings with no score on the board, instead he watched his centerfielder Adolfo Phillips drop a fly ball that came off of Roger Maris’ bat. The error was costly. Maris scampered to second while Phillip recovered, and moments later he crossed the plate when Orlando Cepeda came through with a double.

            The Cards jumped ahead 2-0 in the fourth after Julian Javier came up big with a one out triple, then scored on a single by Dal Maxvill. That run would prove to be the game winner, as the Cubs scored in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Jim Hickman. Cepeda padded the lead by knocking another run in during the seventh, and from there it was all Bob Gibson.

            A few runners would reach base for the Cubs the rest of the way, however, they would not reach home plate. With that said, the fans in Chicago may have been on the edge of their seats in the bottom of the ninth. Ernie Banks opened the inning with a single. Gibson retired the next two men, but he surrendered another single to Hickman, which put a man on at first and third. Cubs Manager Leo Durocher called on Dick Nen to pinch hit for the pitcher. He was the last hope for the Cubs, and that hope was lost when Gibson struck him out looking.

            Gibson’s ERA sat at 1.04 at the beginning of the day and it remained at that mark after he surrendered the one run. The Cardinals skipper Red Shoendienst joked that Gibson must have slipped since he gave up a run. The legendary Ernie Banks who had managed to get a hit off Gibson said, “That Gibson is really something. He doesn’t fiddle with his hat, or rub his uniform, or nothing. He just takes the ball, dares you to step into the batter’s box, and then hums it right by you.” Those who faced Gibson that season would have to get used to that hum as he made his way to the legendary mark of 1.12.

Sources included: The Southeast Missourian, The Pittsburgh Press, The St. Joseph Gazette, The St. Petersburg Times, The Schenectady Gazette, The Victoria Advocate, and Baseballreference.com

 The artwork accompanying the article was done by G.T. Johnson. A print of this work can be purchased here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/BOB-GIBSON-ST-LOUIS-CARDINALS-ART-PRINT-/351969376367 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Shuts Down The Braves

                On August 9, 1968, Bob Gibson recorded his ninth shutout and 19th complete game of the season, allowing just four hits during a 1-0 win over the Braves in Atlanta. Lou Brock scored the lone run in the contest on an RBI by Roger Maris. 

            A matchup of future Hall of Famers, Gibson would have to bring his best, as the Cardinals were set to face Phil Niekro. The knuckleballer went eight innings for the Braves and allowed eight hits along the way. The two hits that mattered most came in the third as Brock picked up a one out single, swiped second, then watched Curt Flood strike out, just before Maris singled him in with hit right. Brock came flying around to score and Gibson had what he would need for the day.

            Only one runner would even get to second against Gibson.  It came in the bottom of the third after shortstop Marty Martinez singled and was moved over to second on a sac bunt by Niekro. Moments later, Gibby retired Felipe Alou, then trotted to the dugout.

            A crowd of 41,267 packed into the stadium in Atlanta that night. They witnessed greatness, as Gibson sailed into the ninth, then into the win column, after Joe Torre flied out to right. The victory was Gibson’s 16th of the season. His ERA dropped from 1.08 to 1.04.

The writers of the day credited him with his 13th consecutive victory. However, he had not gotten a win, nor did he figure into the decision during his last time out. They also credited him with breaking the Cardinals franchise record for shutouts with 34. He had actually broken the record set by Bill Doak when he reached his 31st shutout as a Cardinal. Doak’s mark of 34 was for his entire career and four of those were recorded when he was a member of the Brooklyn Robins. Regardless of those facts, Bob Gibson was rolling. Batters would fear the man who wore the Birds on the Bat on front and the 45 on his back. He was on fire and the blaze would continue to roar.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibby's WInning Streak Is Snapped

                On August 4, 1968, despite pitching 11 innings for the club, Bob Gibson’s 12 consecutive games with a win came to an end after the Cardinals fell to the Cubs 6-5 in 13 innings at Busch Stadium. Gibson was charged with four earned runs, which caused his ERA to balloon to 1.08.  While Gibson and the Cardinals walked away disappointed there would be nothing that would stop the club from taking the National League Flag in the months to come. Following the game, the statue that we all know and love of Stan Musial was unveiled outside of the stadium.

                More than 47,000 packed the house in St. Louis, as Gibson faced off against Fergie Jenkins for the third time that season. Jenkins won the first time, Gibson won the second, but neither would add a W to the back of their baseball card on this day. In fact, Jenkins would only go four innings for the Baby Bears. He watched three runs cross the plate in the third when Curt Flood singled, Roger Maris reached on error, before Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon, and Julian Javier singled in succession.

On most days a three-run lead would be all Gibson needed. Signs of trouble began to show in the fifth. The inning began with Gibson walking rightfielder Al Spangler. Cubs skipper Leo Durocher lifted Jenkins for pinch hitter Willie Smith who singled, which moved Spangler to third. Don Kessinger followed with an RBI single to put the Cubs on the board. Moments later, Mike Shannon committed his 14th error of the season, which put Glenn Beckert on and loaded the bases. Billy Williams grounded out to first, but quick thinking by Orlando Cepeda kept the Cubs from scoring, as he threw Smith out at the plate. The bases were still juiced though, and Ron Santo came through with another single that pushed another run in, making it a 3-2 ballgame. The bases were still loaded and there was only one out. It seemed that the Cubs were poised to at least tie it or take the lead, but Ernie Banks grounded into a double play and just like that the Cards escaped the inning with the lead intact.
That lead remained intact until the seventh. Williams, who had grounded out in a crucial situation earlier in the game belted a two-out solo shot to tie it up at 3-3. Gibson kept himself together and retired the next man to end the inning. He worked a scoreless top of the eighth, then watched the Cardinals regain the lead in the bottom of the inning when Javier came up big with a two-out single off reliever Rich Nye. Gibson came into the ninth needing just three outs to get his 13th win in a row. Unfortunately, Al Spangler led off with a solo shot to tie it, which meant there would be extra innings at Busch.

Gibson worked his way into the 11th. One would imagine his arm was ready to fall off at that point, but he was still battling. He allowed a single to Randy Hundley to lead the inning off, retired a man, then issued an intentional pass to Spangler. Durocher sent John Upham to the plate to pinch hit, but the move failed as the pinch hitter struck out. It was Gibson’s 10th K on the day. The next man up was Don Kessinger. He had come up big in the fifth and he would do it again in the 11th with a single that scored Hundley and gave the Cubs a 5-4 edge.

While the Cards were down they were not out of this one just yet.  Bill Stoneman came in to pitch for the Cubs in the bottom of the 11th and things did not go well for the righty. Johnny Edwards opened the inning with a single. Bob Gibson was the next man up, but his day ended when Red Schoendienst called on Phil Gagliano to pinch hit for the pitcher. The skipper also called on Ron Davis to run for Edwards, as he tried to do all he could to help push another run across.  Gagliano moved Davis over to third with a sac bunt, before Lou Brock singled to left, tying the game up at 5-5. Stoneman could not get out of the inning. He threw a wild pitch that led to Brock moving up 90 feet and led to a trip to the showers for Stoneman. Eventual game winner Jack Lamabe took over and put out the fire.

Joe Hoerner took over pitching duties for the Birds in the 12th and he worked a 1-2-3 inning, only to be matched by Lamabe in the bottom of the inning. Hoerner did not have the same luck in the 13th. He allowed a single to Hundley to open the inning, retired the next man on a ground out that moved the runner to second, then pick up the second out of the inning by striking out Spangler. With two outs on the board, Hoerner was nearly out of it unscathed. However, Durocher lifted Lamabe for pinch hitter Lee Elia who came through with the biggest hit of the day, a single that scored Hundley. Elia had just one hit in 14 at bats on the season, and when he knocked the single through he picked up his first ribbie of the campaign. The score was 6-5, and there would be no more magic left in the Cardinals' bats. Three hours and twenty-seven minutes after the first pitch was thrown Joe Niekro was able to get a fly ball out off the bat of Curt Flood to end the ballgame.

While the loss was disappointing, the magical season for Gibson was far from over. He would bounce back as would the Cardinals. As they say, “You can’t win them all,” and this one just wasn’t meant to be. With that said, Gibson did record ten strikeouts and gave his club a chance to win with the 11-inning performance. His magical season was far from over as he put the outing behind him in a haste and went right back to work the next time out. Stay tuned.

 Sources included: The St. Joseph Gazette, The Kentucky New Era, The St. Petersburg Times, The Schenectady Gazette, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Baseballreference.com

 Note: Gibson did not figure into the decision in this one, so technically his consecutive game winning streak did not come to an end. Joe Hoerner took the loss. With that said, I look at it differently, because he did pitch the game, and did not get the win. You will notice in the next entry that the newspapers stories reported it was his 13th consecutive win.