On Saturday, St. Louis Cardinals legend and baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson celebrates his 78th birthday. And since there isn’t a whole lot of baseball activity going on this weekend, we might as well celebrate right along with him by reliving some of his biggest career highlights and milestones.
He has quite a selection to choose from, too, over his remarkable 17-year big league career (1959-1975), which was spent entirely in St. Louis. In fact, a quick look at his list of accolades gives you just an idea about how consistently brilliant he truly was:
• 251 career wins
• Nine-time All-Star
• Two-time World Series champion (1964, 1967)
• Two-time World Series MVP
• 1968 NL MVP
• Two-time NL Cy Young Award (1968, 1970)
• Nine-time Gold Glove Award winner
• Voted to Major League Baseball's All-Century Team in 1999
As much as his consistency should be marveled at, it’s the big moments and key performances in important games that truly cemented Gibson's legacy. He was simply better when the stakes were higher, and no single game illustrates that better than Game 7 of the 1967 World Series. In the Cardinals 7-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox, Gibson pitched the sixth of his nine consecutive postseason complete games, allowing only two runs on three hits while striking out 10.
Here's his final pitch to get George Scott swinging:
By the way, he could hit a little bit, too, finishing his career with 24 home runs in regular season play and two more in the World Series. In Game 7, he helped his own cause with a solo shot that landed just to the right of the Green Monster in Boston.
What did Gibson do for an encore? 1968 didn't only prove to be his personal best season, but it was perhaps the most dominant single season ever by a pitcher. Gibson posted a 22-9 record, a ridiculous 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts, 268 strikeouts and was named the NL's MVP and Cy Young.
In October, Gibson inevitably led the Cardinals back to the World Series, but they fell this time to the Detroit Tigers in seven games. Gibson took his second and final postseason loss in the decisive Game 7, but in Game 1 set a World Series record with 17 strikeouts.
1968 was obviously Gibson's peak, but he didn't exactly fall off the map in the years that followed. In fact, he was a 20-game winner in 1969 and in 1970 he racked up a career best 23 victories, totaling another 51 complete games and seven shutouts over those two seasons. His greatest regular season performance, however, would come on Aug. 14, 1971 when he tossed his lone career no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For a pitcher that had no-hit stuff more times than not over 482 career starts, it's amazing he only finished with one no-hitter. It just goes to show how truly difficult the feat is, and how much they deserve to be celebrated when they occur.
Today, though, the only celebrating we'll be doing is for Bob Gibson.
Happy Birthday, "Gibby!"
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