Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson is one of the best to have ever played the game.
Gibson, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, played 17 seasons for the Cardinals from 1959-1975. The list of superlatives and awards that define his career is lengthy though his new book, “Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game,” is a snapshot―an account of the first game of the 1968 World Series.
“The World Series is probably the most important time of anybody’s career, not just that year, but anybody’s career, and that’s what you aim for at the beginning of the season, is to get into the World Series,” Gibson told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Friday. “And to have that and to pitch one of the best games of your entire career at the time when it was the most important, I thought it was just nice to tell that story.”
Written along with baseball writer Lonnie Wheeler, “Pitch by Pitch,” also explores team chemistry, baseball culture and issues of race.
Reaching the postseason
“You try for it to not be different,” Gibson said. “When you go into the game … you say to yourself, this is just another game and I’m going to be cool and relaxed and you probably are up until the time you get up on the mound.
“You get a high that you just can’t really explain. Your stomach jumps a little bit. As soon as you throw the first pitch you settle down but it’s really exciting and I don’t know that you can really explain it unless you’re just there and it happens to you.”
In terms of the ’68 team, Gibson credits the group's success to its chemistry, despite losing to the Detroit Tigers in game seven of the World Series. “If you look back at each individual, there are several players off of that ball club that became better individuals than baseball players after they got done playing,” Gibson said.
“I think in order to be a good ballplayer you have to have a little more than physical talent.”
Players now vs. then
“I don’t think the mindset of the average young person is the same,” Gibson said. "The kids today, and I hope they don’t send me a bunch of nasty letters, but I think they feel entitled and a lot of these ballplayers, they act as if they invented the game, that there was nobody before them.”
Some players, for example, don’t know of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball during the modern era. Gibson, although not naming who, said there was a black player on the St. Louis Cardinals who did not know of Robinson’s contributions.
During his career, Gibson was known as one the most intimidating players in baseball―a fact he wouldn’t learn until his baseball career was over, he said.
“The intimidation as far as I’m concerned, is not me intimidating you, it’s you being intimidated by me,” Gibson said. “My idea was not to intimidate, my idea was to win.
“I’m glad they were intimidated by me but that really wasn’t what I was trying to do. Now my personality happens to be the type of personality that I didn’t smile a lot, I didn’t talk a lot to people on the other team and maybe that’s intimidation, well, so be it, but it wasn’t something I sat home and thought about ‘I think today I’m going to go out and growl at somebody.’”
An extended interview with Gibson that includes his thoughts on recent events in Ferguson and race relations will air on Thursday at noon on “St. Louis on the Air.”
Follow Alex Heuer on Twitter - @alexheuer.
"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.