Thursday, September 27, 2018

Celebrate '68: Thank you, Bob Gibson... 1.12

                On September 27, 1968, Bob Gibson capped off his historical season by shutting out the Houston Astros 1-0 in front of 18,658 fans at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The six-hit shutout was his 13th shutout of the season, as well as his 28th complete game of the campaign. Gibson’s ERA coming into his final start of the season was 1.16. After shutting the Astros down, Gibson’s ERA dropped to 1.12, which stands as the lowest earned run average during a single season in the live ball era.

            The game played at Busch that September evening was looked at by many as a tune up for Gibson as the Cardinals were set to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Gibson looked at it like he looked at every other game he started… he came to win. He was a fierce competitor in start number one, and he was the same fierce competitor in start 34.

            Houston skipper Harry “The Hat” Walker called on Larry Dierker to face Gibson. Dierker did a formidable job keeping the Birds off the board until the fifth when he opened the inning with a walk to Julian Javier. Dierker struck the next man out before Gibson sacrificed Javier to second with a bunt. Javier took third on a single by Lou Brock, then scored when Curt Flood singled him in. Brock was thrown out at home trying to score on the same play to end the inning, but the damage was done, Gibson had the run he would need, and he was on the way to victory.

            Houston scattered a few hits along the way, however, they could not figure out a way to get a runner home. Gibson was doing what Gibson did that season, which was set men down. He sailed into the ninth with nine strikeouts under his belt. He struck out ten and eleven to begin the inning, then finished the game off with getting Rusty Staub to hit a pop fly to Javier at second base. Gibson walked off the mound a 22-game winner and the owner of an ERA of 1.12 that has not been matched since.

            In the history of Major League Baseball only three pitchers have posted a season ERA that was below Gibson’s mark of 1.12.  Tim O’Keefe posted a 0.86 ERA as a member of the National League’s Troy Trojans in 1880, Mordecai Brown posted a 1.04 ERA as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1904, and Dutch Leonard posted a 0.96 ERA as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1914. All three of those pitchers accomplished their feats during the dead ball era, making Gibson’s 1.12 an accomplishment like no other.

            That year, “The Year of The Pitcher”, had a plethora of pitching stars. Denny McLain, who Gibson would face off against during the World Series won 31 games, making him the last hurler to win 30 or more. Cleveland’s Luis Tiant posted a 1.60 ERA to earn the American League’s earned run pitching title. Juan Marichal of the Giants led the National League with 26 wins. There were so many accomplishments by pitchers during that season that it looks absolutely ridiculous. 49 starting pitchers had an earned run average below 3.00 on the season and seven starters had an ERA under 2.00.

The dominance in pitching in 1968 caused Major League Baseball to bring changes to the game. The league lowered the mound from 15 to 10 inches in an effort to generate offense. Many in Cardinals Nation credit Bob Gibson for the mound being lowered, however, the fact of the matter is Gibson was one of many men who were responsible for the league choosing to make the change. Gibson simply led the pack.

            Both Gibson and McLain took home MVP and Cy Young honors in their respective leagues. As mentioned before they would face off in the World Series. Gibson opened the series up by breaking a Fall Classic record striking out 17 men, and Gibby then went out and won game four, in a series that would go seven. Gibson started the seventh game and was beaten by Mickey Lolich. The World Series loss was a hard pill to swallow for that pennant winning club. Especially for Bob Gibson who carried that team so far.   

            As we take one more look back at this Celebrate ’68 series I am going to recap the numbers that Gibson posted during that 1968 season: In 34 starts Gibson won 22 games and lost 9. He completed 28 of his 34 starts and recorded 13 shutouts. In 304.2 innings he faced 1,161 men innings and struck out 268 of them. He was an All Star, a Gold Glove winner, the Cy Young winner, and the Most Valuable Player in the National League.  With a wicked fastball and a slider that would send men packing, Gibson put together a year that is celebrated 50 years later and will likely be talked about 50 years from now. For the magic number of 1.12 will live forever and as it lives on Bob Gibson’s name will be right next to it.

Sources included:, The Southeast Missourian, The Schenectady Gazette, The Victoria Advocate, The Free Lance-Star, The Dispatch, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Press, Newsday, as well as a wide variety of that I have utilized throughout this season.

I would like to thank each and every one of you that have taken the time to read these blogs. You doing so has made every minute that I have spent doing this well worth it. I would also like to thank Dan McLaughlin for showing support throughout the season. It has been fun to say the least.

I have always known the number 1.12. I have always appreciated and admired what Gibson accomplished that season and throughout his career as a Cardinal. With that said, by looking back at the ’68 season like we have done together here this year has made me appreciate it in a way that I could have never done without it. Therefore, I want to thank one more person in closing.

Thank you, Bob Gibson.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Celebrate '68: The Dodgers Beat Gibby Thanks To An Error

                On September 22, 1968, Bob Gibson tossed his 27th complete game of the year, but ended up on the losing end of a 3-2 Dodgers victory over the Cardinals in Los Angeles. The loss by the Cards put Gibson’s record at 21-9, while his ERA rose from 1.13 to 1.16. Gibby had one more start in front of him, and in that start, he would reach what many of us consider a magic number: 1.12.

            The Dodgers called on future Hall of Famer Don Sutton to face Gibson. 23-year-old Sutton was in control that day. He surrendered a hit to Dal Maxvill in the third, then held the Cardinals hitless until the eighth. Meanwhile, Gibson kept the Dodgers off the board until the sixth when Paul Popovich knocked in Tom Haller to make it 1-0. Willie Crawford made it 2-0 Dodgers with a solo shot in the seventh and Gibson found himself in a hole.

            Gibson and company were not in the hole long. Sutton’s run of dominance over the Redbird lineup wore off in the top of the eighth. Although, he did retire the first two men he faced in the frame. Dal Maxvill and Gibson began the rally with a pair of singles. Lou Brock followed suit with a single to right that brought Maxvill into score and moved Gibson over to third. Sutton then balked, Gibson scored, Lou moved to second and the game was knotted up 2-2.

            The tied ballgame did not last long. Gibson began the bottom of the eighth by issuing a walk to Bill Sudakis. Wes Parker moved Sudakis over to second with a sac bunt before disaster struck… Popovich came to the plate having already knocked in the run in the sixth. He was just a .218 hitter, who likely had one job, which was to move Sudakis over to third. Popovich hit a flyball to Joe Hague in right that looked like it would do exactly that. However, Hague threw a wild one into third trying to get Sudakis out and once the runner saw the ball get away, he made the dash to home. The score was 3-2. Gibson struck the last man he faced in the inning out and headed to the dugout back in a hole.

            Sutton gave up a single to Orlando Cepeda in the top of the ninth, which ended his day. Jim Brewer came on in relief and set the next three men down in a row. After looking at this entire season, it would be easy to say that this loss was perhaps the most heartbreaking loss that Gibson had to endure that season. With that said, the Cardinals had clenched the pennant, he and his teammates would be going onto represent the National League in the World Series, and Gibson would go out one more time during the regular season and drop that number down to 1.12.

Sources included: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The St. Joseph Gazette, The Schenectady Gazette, and

Monday, September 17, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Tosses His 26 Complete Game; Perry No-Hits The Cards

                On September 17, 1968, Giants hurler Gaylord Perry spoiled Bob Gibson’s 26th complete game of the season by no-hitting the Cardinals at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Gibson allowed just four hits in the contest. Perry’s effort was one for the record books, though, and it led to the historical 1-0 no-hit win.

The first of Gibson’s four hits allowed came just three pitches into the game. Gibby threw a fastball inside to Ron Hunt sending who sent it over the wall in left. Little did Gibson know that, along with Perry’s tremendous display, that one pitch moved his record to 21-8.

            After walking Mike Shannon in the second inning, Perry was masterful. The future Hall of Famer said that he first started thinking about a potential no-no in the fifth inning.  Ironically,  he had a scare in the fifth when, according to him, Perry served up a “fat pitch” to Orlando Cepeda. That fat one ended up being a pop up to Willie McCovey. The closest the Cardinals came to getting a hit was in the sixth. Dal Maxvill started that inning by ripping one up the middle. Perry fell off the mound, snagged the ball, then threw Maxie out at first. Two batters later, Bobby Tolan scorched one in between first and second only to watch Willie McCovey get to it just in time to throw it to Perry who covered first.

            The day was Perry’s. He went into the eighth having only given up the one walk. He retired the first two he faced in that inning and gave up his second walk of the game to Phil Gagliano. Moments later, Perry recorded his eighth strikeout of the game.

            Perry went into the ninth having to face Lou Brock, Bobby Tolan, and Curt Flood. He sat Brock and Tolan down on groundouts, then caught Curt Flood looking for his ninth strikeout of the game. Gaylord Perry had joined a coveted list of men with the words no-hitter on their resumes. It was the only no-no of Perry’s Hall of Fame career.

            Gibson, who would not add his name to that coveted list until 1973, still pitched one helluva ballgame that day in San Fran. He was simply outdone by his counterpart. Gibson gave up 11 hits in his previous start and managed to walk away with a 5-4 victory. That’s just how baseball goes. At the end of this day, Gibson’s ERA sat at 1.13, which is where it sat before the contest began. He had struck out 10 men and walked just two. The disappointment of this one would not last long, because Gibson knew his number would be called on again, and five days later that was the case… See ya then, folks. 

Sources included:  The Pittsburgh Press, The Schenectady Gazette, The Southeast Missourian, and

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Celebrate '68: 21 Wins For Gibson

                On September 11, 1968, Bob Gibson locked down his 21st win of the season with a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The victory was not an easy one for Gibson, as all four runs were charged to the hurler, raising his ERA from 1.03 to 1.13. Despite that fact, Gibson went the distance in the contest, which earned him his 25th complete game of the season.

            The Cardinals were facing an uphill battle just minutes after Gibson took the mound, when Los Angeles’ leadoff hitter Willie Crawford belted a home run. Gibby surrendered a two out double to Ron Fairly in the first as well, but he was able to get out of that frame down just 1-0.

            His counterpart Mike Kekich took the mound for the Dodgers and he was not sharp. The Redbirds were able to get the lead back right after Kekich gave a one out single to Julian Javier which was followed by a walk to Curt Flood. Javier scored when the next man up, Orlando Cepeda, singled to make it 1-1.

            Kekich was able to get out of that first inning with the game tied, but the same could not be said for the second inning. He gave up a one out double to Ron Davis and walked Dal Maxvill before getting Gibby out on a flyball that moved Davis over to third. Lou Brock ripped a double into left that brought both runners in. The score was 3-1 and Kekich was headed to the showers, after skipper Walter Alston called on Mudcat Grant to take over the mound.

            Grant was able to get out of the second when Javier grounded out. However, the pitcher had a rough go in the third when Flood opened with a single, Cepeda doubled him to third, and Mike Shannon hit a sac fly to bring Flood home to score. Tim McCarver doubled to bring Cepeda in, which brought the game to 5-1.

            Most days, you give Bob Gibson a lead like that and the game would be over. Not on this day in Cardinal history. He still had his work cut out for him. The Dodgers began to mount a comeback in the fifth. Gibson began the inning by plunking Willie Crawford, the same man who hit the leadoff home run in the first. Willie Davis followed him with a single. Just like that, the Dodgers had runners on first and third with no outs, and they were back in business. Tom Haller singled in Crawford to make it 5-2. Gibson’s pitch escaped McCarver which brought Davis in to score. The score was 5-3 with no outs and a man on second. Gibson regrouped and sat the next three men down in order.

            Mudcat Grant had gotten things figured out since allowing the runs in the third. He was able to hold the Cardinals in check thereafter. Gibson did the same against his foes until the ninth. He began that frame by getting back-to-back outs. He needed just one more out for the win. As they say, that last out of a ballgame can prove to be the hardest one to get, and it certainly was a tough one that day. The club from L.A. found life as Willie Davis, Tom Haller, and Ron Fairly each singled, respectively, ultimately bringing Davis in to score. Gibson stared at the next batter, Len Gabrielson, coming up to home plate. With men on first and second and two outs, he knew it was time to put this one down in the books. The story wrote itself when, moments later, Gabrielson hit a fly ball to Curt Flood in center field. 21 wins for Gibson.

            The countdown was on. The Cardinals’ magic number was down to four. There was talk of champagne, of another pennant, and of an upcoming World Series that could feature the likes of Denny McLain and Bob Gibson. That “Year of the Pitcher” is an astounding thing to look at, but I do believe that you can look at this game, along with many others, and realize that these games were not easy. In this instance, Gibson gave up 11 hits on the day, struck out six, and gave up one home run. Some of the wins Gibson earned that season almost seemed easy when we look back on them. This win is almost more impressive because he fought so hard for it. He reached down with the game on the line after a rough day at the office and found a way to win. After all, Bob Gibson was a warrior on the mound.

Sources included: The St. Joseph Gazette, The Schenectady Gazette, The Victoria Advocate, and

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Celebrate '68: Gibson Takes The Loss Against San Fran

            On September 6, 1968, Bob Gibson lost just his second game in his last 20 starts, falling 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants during the first game of a doubleheader at Busch. Gibson went just eight innings in the contest, which ended a string of six complete games. The loss moved Gibson’s record to 20-7 and raised his ERA from 0.99 to 1.03.

            Many of the Cardinal faithful expected Gibson to go head-to-head with Juan Marichal. However, the Giants manager Herman Franks shuffled his starters at the beginning of the game and called on Bobby Bolin to pitch in the first game. Bolin was no Juan Marichal, but he got the job done for his club.

            The Cardinals did get to him in the third after Dal Maxvill led the inning off with a single. He scored later in the inning when Curt Flood came up with a two out single to make it 1-0 Redbirds. Gibby ran into trouble immediately thereafter. He surrendered a leadoff single to Ty Cline in the top of the fourth. Willie McCovey reached on an error by Maxvill before Gibson was able to record one out. The next two batters, Jesus Alou and Jack Hiatt came up with back-to-back singles that plated two, and, just like that, the score was 2-1 Giants.

            The Giants added a run in the sixth. Gibson gave up a single to Hart who stole second, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Gibson then retired two men in a row. He may have had visions of getting out of the inning unscathed, but Hal Lanier had other thoughts in mind. Lanier singled, Hart scored to make it 3-1, which proved to be the winning run.

            Bolin seemingly had the Cardinals on the ropes after his third inning hiccup. He had only allowed two hits heading into the eighth when they finally got to him. It was in that eighth inning that Red Schoendienst lifted Gibson for pinch hitter Johnny Edwards, who came up with a one out single. Shoendienst was not done pushing buttons. He sent Ron Davis to pinch run for Edwards, then watched Lou Brock hit a grounder to retire the lead man. Brock stole second, then scored when Flood knocked him in with a single. It was 3-2 and the Cardinals were knocking on the door.

            The Giants skipper then called on Fred Linzy to answer the door, or shut it I should say, as he was able to get Roger Maris to ground out. Shoendienst called on Ron Willis to take over pitching duties in the ninth. He worked his way out of a bases loaded jam to keep the Birds in it, but Linzy shut them down with a 1-2-3 ninth. As they say “You can’t win them all.” However, Lord knows that with Bob Gibson on the mound, there was always a chance. He would give it his all as he helped lead the way to the National League Pennant.

            As it turned out, Marichal would go onto claim his 25th win of the season in what proved to be a shootout 8-7 victory for the Giants in the second game. Linzy was able to get the save in that game as well. Not a good day for the Redbirds. With that said, they were counting down the wins until they won the pennant and had their sights set on October baseball. In the end it was just one of those days. Move on to the next one and get right back to work. In a lot of ways that’s what baseball is all about.  Win or lose, you gotta put it behind you and focus on the task at hand.

Sources included: The Southeast Missourian, The Pittsburgh Press, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Kentucky New Era, and

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Celebrate '68: 20 Wins For Gibson

            On September 2, 1968, it took Bob Gibson 10 innings to record his 20th win of the season. The victory was a 1-0 shutout over the Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Julian Javier played the offensive hero by belting a homer to lead off the Cardinals' half of the 10th. The monumental win was Gibson’s 12th shutout as well as his 24th complete game of the campaign. Once the game was in the books, Gibson’s ERA sat at an astounding 0.99.

            Gibson and the Cardinals had their hands full facing Gary Nolan. The Reds hurler held the Redbirds in check through nine. He had struck out eight and allowed just five hits along the way. Gibson had struck out seven through nine and allowed just two hits up to that point.

The momentum changer in the game happened after the ninth inning ended and Nolan had to be replaced by Ted Abernathy. Nolan had been bothered by a strain in his ankle and it began to bother him late in the game. Abernathy was a proven reliever that had led the National League in saves one season earlier. The first batter he faced in Javier was not known as a home run threat, but Julian got just enough of an Abernathy pitch to get it to fly over the wall in left just inside the foul pole. The big blast was his third home run of the season and his second game in a row with a longball.

Gibson had to walk to the mound in the bottom of the tenth happy to have the lead after the hard-fought battle. With that said, I am sure that Bob Gibson knew that battle was not over. He would have to retire three men to end it. He was able to get the first two in a row before the Reds looked to have a little life. Tommy Helms and Mack Jones picked up back-to-back singles, which brought Fred Whitfield to the plate to pinch hit for Abernathy. Whitfield had reached double digits in the home run department four seasons in a row from 1963 to 1966, so he was a legitimate power threat. His problem was that he had to face Bob Gibson, who was able to get him to hit a flyball to left to end it.

Gibson pitched into extra innings four times during that 1968 season. The club only lost one of those contests, which Gibson was pulled from after eleven innings. That contest went to the 13th before it was decided. The September 2nd contest was the only extra inning shutout of the season for the man who wore the 45 on his back, and it is safe to say it was a masterpiece.

Gibson’s final line was 10 innings pitched, four hits allowed, along with three walks. The fact that his ERA dipped below one in the month of September in what was his 29th start of the season is perhaps the most jaw-dropping stat of them all. He was the most dominant man in all of baseball. The dominance that led to the magic number 1.12 will never be forgotten.

Sources included:  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Toledo Blade, The St. Joseph Gazette, and