The St. Louis Cardinals organization, the St. Louis community and baseball fans everywhere were saddened late last night to learn of the passing of Hall of Famer Robert “Bob” Gibson at the age of 84. Gibson, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, ranks first all-time among Cardinals pitchers in wins (251), games started (482), complete games (255), shutouts (56), innings pitched (3,884.1) and strikeouts (3,117) along with a 2.91 ERA.
Gibson, the National League Most Valuable Player recipient in 1968, was a nine-time All-Star, winning the N.L. Cy Young Award for pitching excellence in both 1968 and 1970. “Gibby” was a member of three (1964, 1967 and 1968) Cardinals World Series teams, winning the title in both 1964 and 1967.
“Bob Gibson was arguably one of the best athletes and among the fiercest competitors to ever play the game of baseball,” said Cardinals’ Principal Owner & Chief Executive Officer William O. DeWitt, Jr. “With yesterday being the anniversary of his record-setting 17 strikeout World Series game in 1968, it brought back many fond memories of Bob, and his ability to pitch at such a high level when the Cardinals were playing on the games’ biggest stages. Even during the time of his recent illness, Bob remained a strong supporter of the team and remained in contact with members of the organization and several of our players. He will be sorely missed.”
An outstanding athlete, Gibson played with the Harlem Globetrotters before arriving in St. Louis to stay in 1961. Three years later, he posted a 19-12 record with a 3.01 ERA in helping the Cardinals win the National League pennant. After losing Game 2 of the World Series to the New York Yankees, Gibson posted complete-game victories in Game 5 (5-2 in 10 innings) and Game 7 and earned Series Most Valuable Player honors.
Gibson was on his way to another banner season in 1967 when a line drive off the bat of Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Roberto Clemente on July 15 broke Gibson’s right leg. He was sidelined 52 days but returned to pitch the N.L. pennant clincher against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 18. In the Cardinals’ World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox, Gibson went 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, three complete games and 26 strikeouts to again be named series MVP.
The postseason dominance was a sign of things to come. In 1968, Gibson authored the greatest season by a pitcher in modern history. His 1.12 ERA established an all-time record for 300 or more innings. Gibson posted a 22-9 record with league-leading totals of 13 shutouts and 268 strikeouts. During one stretch, he surrendered merely two earned runs over 95 innings. Gibson was named the N.L. Cy Young Award winner and MVP. For an encore, Gibson set a record with 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers (a 4-0 victory). He pitched two more complete games (winning Game 4 by the score of 10-1, before losing Game 7 by a 4-1 margin) to run his streak to a record eight straight distance-going performances. Gibson totaled 35 strikeouts in the three games to establish a Fall Classic standard.
Gibson won his second Cy Young Award in 1970 on the strength of a 23-7 record and 3.12 ERA. He fired a no-hitter against Pittsburgh on Aug. 14, 1971, winning 11-0 at Three Rivers Stadium, and became the second pitcher in baseball history to record 3,000 career strikeouts July 17, 1974 (following Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators).
Accompanying his blazing fastball and pinpoint control was an intense demeanor. Gibson was a complete pitcher, socking 24 home runs and winning nine Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence. The nine-time N.L. All-Star was a first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 1981 and an inaugural member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. He was selected to the Major League Baseball All-Century team in 1999 and voted the starting pitcher on the All-Busch Stadium II team in 2005. In 2015, Gibson was voted by the fans as a member of Franchise Four, joining Lou Brock, Rogers Hornsby and Stan Musial as one of the most impactful players who best represented the history of the Cardinals.
Gibson and his close friend and teammate Tim McCarver paired together as battery-mates for 197 games, second most among Cardinals. Gibson’s uniform number 45 was retired by the Cardinals in 1975, the year that he retired from the game.
Gibson served as pitching coach for the New York Mets (1981) and Atlanta Braves (1982-84) and bullpen coach for St. Louis (1995). He also did some broadcasting and was a special instructor for the Cardinals for over 20 years starting in 1996.
In 2018, the Cardinals organization launched a season-long campaign, #CompleteGamer, to honor Bob’s 17-year career with the Cardinals and share his extraordinary life story with fans across multiple generations.
Gibson’s long-time teammate, Hall of Famer Lou Brock, passed away nearly one month ago on September 6 at age 81.