Courtesy of TheBaseballPage.comThe greatest big-game pitcher of his era, and perhaps of all-time, Gibson almost single-handedly won two World Series for the Cardinals in the 1960s, and nearly won another.
He was the ultimate warrior on the mound - mean and focused on one thing - winning. In 1968, he enjoyed one of the most dominating seasons in baseball history, posting a 1.12 ERA and winning 22 games. Twice he was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series, and he is the only pitcher to win Game Seven and hit a home run in the same game.
Gibson had as much of an impact on his team in ultimate games as any pitcher in baseball history. He started three Game Sevens, winning two.
As a child Gibson survived multiple illnesses and once nearly died. He grew up in poverty but by the time he was a teenager he was growing into a smart, tough young man. He was a star basketball and baseball player who briefly played with the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1957 he was signed by St. Louis, and two years later he made his major league debut. Like many pitchers, he took some time to mature, not winning twenty games until he was 29 years old.
He first made the All-Star team in 1962, the same year he paced the NL in shutouts. In 1964 the Cards won the pennant and faced the Yankees in the World Series. After losing Game Two, Gibson won the fifth and seventh games within four days of each other, setting a Series record with 31 strikeouts in the process. The Cardinals had their first title in 18 years. In 1967 Gibson again sparkled in the World Series, this time against the Red Sox. He won Games One, Four, and Seven, pitching complete games each time. In his 27 innings he allowed a scant 14 hits, struck out 26, walked just five, and posted a 1.00 ERA. It was one of the greatest Series performances in history and he earned the MVP award for the effort.
The following year the Cardinals returned to the Fall Classic and took a 3-1 lead over the Detroit Tigers. Gibson defeated the Tiger’s 30-game winner Denny McLain in Games One and Four, allowing 10 hits in his 18 innings, while striking out 27. In Game One he was simply masterful – fanning 17 Tigers – a Series record that still stands. The Tigers rebounded and forced a Game Seven, pitting Gibson against Mickey Lolich, who had won two games already. The two battled in a scoreless game for six innings until Detroit finally got to Gibson and won the title. Gibson had done his part, winning two games, finishing with a 1.67 ERA, and breaking his own Series record with 35 K’s.
In his World Series career Gibson had started nine games, winning seven and losing two (he won seven in a row). Every one of his victories was a complete game and he pitched eight in all. In 81 innings he allowed 55 hits, had a 1.89 ERA, struck out 92, and walked 17. His 92 strikeouts are even more amazing when compared to the Series lifetime record-holder, Whitey Ford, who whiffed 94 batters. Ford accumulated his 94 K’s in 12 more games and 63 more innings than Gibson.
Almost as incredible as his post-season performances is Gibson’s 1968 season. He won 22 games and completed 28 of his 34 starts. He led the NL with 268 strikeouts and 13 shutouts. Five of his shutouts came consecutively, and at one point he pitched 47 1/3 straight scoreless innings. Amazingly, the right-hander allowed just 38 earned runs all season, in more than 300 innings. He lost nine games, but in three of those he allowed just a single run.
He won both the Cy Young and the MVP award. Gibson won the Cy Young again in 1970 after posting a career-high 23 victories. He was more than just a pitcher, hitting 24 career homers, including twice hitting five in a single season. From 1965 to 1973 he won a Gold glove each season for his defense on the mound. He was extremely tough, rebounding from a broken leg in ’67 to turn in his clutch World Series mound work. He retired the winningest pitcher in Cardinal history, with an excellent .591 (251-174) winning percentage.
- At the time of his retirement, his 3,117 strikeouts ranked second behind Walter Johnson.
- On May 12, 1969, Gibson struck out the side against the Dodgers on nine pitches. It's just the seventh time that has happened in NL history...
- On August 14, 1971, Gibson no-hit the Pirates, 11-0, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Gibson collected three RBI in the game, and struck out 11 batters...
- From 1965-1975, Gibson started 310 games without appearing in relief, an NL record at the time.