Yesterday (9th November) was the birthday of former St Louis Cardinals ace and Hall Of Fame pitcher, Bob Gibson. He was 77!
One of my biggest regrets in my card collecting life was when I sold a small but nicely put together collection of vintage Baseball rookie cards around 10 years ago. I remember it well as it was just after the birth of my first daughter at the end of 2001 and Baseball card collecting was not top of my list of ‘important things that I needed to be worrying about’ at that moment in time.
As a result I sold off my collection which consisted of rookies of Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Carlton Fisk, George Brett, Ozzie Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, and many, many more. Sadly, the centrepiece of the collection was a 1959 Topps Bob Gibson.
Getting rid of this card is one of my single biggest regrets as, although it was ungraded, it was in fantastic condition – nicely centred with no surface damage and nice sharp edges and corners!
For those of you who aren’t aware of his legacy, Bob Gibson was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. In a 17 year career from 1959 to 1975 Gibson pitched just shy of 4000 innings, with a 251-174 Win-Loss record and a career ERA of 2.91. He pitched 255 complete games, of which 56 were shut outs, and struck out 3,117 batters on his way to nine All-Star appearances, two World Series Championships and two Cy Youngs.
The biggest achievement of his career was in 1968 when he set a modern Baseball record by posting an ERA of 1.12 for the season. He followed that up by striking out a record 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series! In recognition of his performance in 1968 he was awarded both the NL MVP and the Cy Young.
Over his career, Gibson became known for his fierce competitive nature and the intimidation factor he used against opposing hitters.
My favourite quote about Bob Gibson comes from Dusty Baker…
“(Hank Aaron told me) ‘Don’t dig in against Bob Gibson, he’ll knock you down. He’d knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don’t stare at him, don’t smile at him, don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don’t run too slow, don’t run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don’t charge the mound, because he’s a Gold Glove boxer.’ I’m like, ‘Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?’ That was the night it ended.”
This was echoed by former Giants third baseman, Jim Ray Hart, who said of Gibson…
“Between games, (Willie) Mays came over to me and said, ‘Now, in the second game, you’re going up against Bob Gibson.’ I only half-listened to what he was saying, figuring it didn’t make much difference. So I walked up to the plate the first time and started digging a little hole with my back foot…No sooner did I start digging that hole than I hear Willie screaming from the dugout: ‘Noooooo!’ Well, the first pitch came inside. No harm done, though. So I dug in again. The next thing I knew, there was a loud crack and my left shoulder was broken. I should have listened to Willie.”
So, to commemorate Bob Gibson’s birthday, I’ve set myself a small but exciting collecting task of getting hold of each and every Bob Gibson Topps base card from 1959 to 1975, between now and the 9th November next year.
My ‘Gibson-Quest’ should be relatively straightforward as his cards are pretty easy to come by and relatively (with the exception of his 1959 rookie) inexpensive. The only thing that will go against me is a lack of funds for his earlier cards, but we’ll see how it goes!
My progress on this ‘Gibson-Quest’ will be documented in future posts so feel free to pop back and see how it’s going!!