Did Gibson have heart attack during '68 season?

Amid historic campaign, Hall of Famer suffered health scare

January 12th, 2018

Bob Gibson, the Hall of Fame former Cardinals pitcher, recently revealed he battled significant stomach issues throughout his career year in 1968 -- but could those have possibly led to an undiagnosed heart attack?

According to a recent exchange between Gibson and the St. Louis Post-Disptach, the nine-time All-Star said 20 years after his National League MVP season in 1968 that during a routine health checkup, an electrocardiogram analysis led his doctor to believe Gibson had previously suffered a heart attack. Shuffling through recollections of when he could have possibly undergone such a drastic health scare, Gibson recalled a night in Houston in '68 when he said he had stomach cramps so painful he couldn't get out of bed.

Bob Gibson's career stats

"I got to thinking about that," Gibson, 82, told the Post-Dispatch. "I wonder if that's what it could have been. It hurt so bad that I was down on my knees. You know when you're young, you say, 'Ah, just take some aspirin.' But that's the only time I can remember having something hurt that badly that it could have been a heart attack. It started in my rib cavity and went straight through to my back."

However, Gibson added that bringing such information to club doctors would likely have kept him from pitching again.

"Good thing I didn't go check it out," Gibson said, attributing his churning stomach to the many tight and late games he pitched into. According to STATS, he received just 2.95 runs of support over his 34 starts that spanned 304 2/3 innings.

Perhaps most bizarre about Gibson's correlation between cardiac arrest and pitching is how truly remarkable his season was -- one of the greatest in MLB history for a starting pitcher. He went 22-9 with and National League-best 268 strikeouts, but more impressively, posted a 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts, both of which remain the best for a starter in baseball's modern era.

While Gibson didn't specify during which trip to Houston he stomached such pain that may have led to a heart attack, he pitched a complete game in each of his two starts there that year including a 12-inning shutout on May 1, one of three outings he pitched into extras that year.

For not just a career year, but a historic one, Gibson's Hall of Fame résumé may have gotten richer for dodging the disabled list for what would've assuredly been one of the most radical injury reports, well, ever.