The great Bob Gibson dies at 84

He is a baseball legend. I have written a lot about him over the years because he was not just a great talent, but also a larger-than-life figure because of his skill at intimidation.

Did you know – that he is the most effective pitcher in history against right handed batters? I covered the exact stats on that in the article linked below, but as a top-line summary, here are the batting averages against Gibson of the greatest right-handed hitters of the National League in Gibson’s era.

Hank Aaron .215
Roberto Clemente .208
Ernie Banks .229
Willie Mays .196
Frank Robinson .229
Orlando Cepeda .222
Dick Allen .211
Tony Perez .121
Johnny Bench .204
Mike Schmidt .214
Tommy Davis .167

Those are not typos. All-time greats like Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron struggled to cross the Mendoza line when they had to face Gibby, so you can imagine how poorly mere mortal right-handers fared. You may have suspected that he had that kind of performance, but you may not know that, compared to all pitchers of his era, he was a completely mediocre pitcher against lefties, and compared to the left-handed pitchers of his era, his performance against lefties was actually below their average.

As opposed to the right-handed stars detailed above, many left-handed and switch hitters hit Gibson hard. The Willies, Stargell and McCovey, each batted .290 with power. Eddie Mathews batted .326 with power. Richie Hebner batted .387 with an 1.127 OPS. Ralph Garr also batted .387. Al Oliver batted .342. Joe Morgan hit .313 with power. Billy Williams batted only .259, but with ten homers. Unheralded Dave Rader batted .484 against Bob Gibson. Many other lefties and switch hitters topped the .300 mark.

I covered all of that (and more) in my article, “Wither the Complete Game, and Why?” That article is not specifically about Gibson, but he is prominently featured for many reasons, particularly his fierce insistence on pitching complete games.

I also wrote a long article about the very day a chance opportunity delivered by a childish teammate lifted Gibson from “struggling minor league long reliever” to “future baseball God.” It just so happened that this transpired under the watchful eye of a 9-year-old me, because Gibson played for my home town heroes in the first full year that I ever followed the game. That article is called “The Day Bob Gibson’s Stardom Began (in My Home Town)

11 thoughts on “The great Bob Gibson dies at 84

  1. Interesting. Well the Bums got the last laugh on the Braves two years later, to this then 11-year old’s delight. Someone should write a book on both leagues in 59. Bizarre year – the Yanks were in last place on Memorial Day if I remember right. The Indians contended; this was just before their 35-year stretch in the wilderness
    There was a poor book about the 3-way race in the NL which didn’t even mention maybe the biggest play of the year – third-string Dodger catcher Joe Pignatano wiping out Darryl Spencer on a double play attempt, leading to the Dodgers taking a huge series with the Giants. One of the rare games televised in LA.

  2. Drysdale made one critical mistake in 1957. He threw at the head of Eddie Mathews’ teammate, Johnny Logan. Oh, what a reckoning there was. If you’ve never seen the photos, it was really something to behold. Mathews held him down with his body and just kept pummeling him with lefts and rights to the head, again and again, like something out of a movie. (Mathews chose baseball over his other major career option – professional heavyweight boxer.)

    It was a different game then. Drysdale and Logan were evicted, but Mathews was allowed to stay in the game.

    Mathews had essentially knocked the Dodgers out of the pennant race with his brutal beating of Drysdale. Big D lost that one and was slow to recover. He was able to win only one of his next six starts. The defending champion Dodgers, still the great Boys of Summer, had been in first place on June 8th while the Braves were in 4th. Starting with the Mathews/Drysdale game, the Dodgers went into a 12-15 tailspin, dropping them into 5th place. They would never again top the 1957 NL standings. The Braves went on to win the pennant and the World Series.

    Knowing full well what Mathews had done to big guys like Drysdale and Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson was never so foolish as to make Mathews angry. Throughout his career he pitched Mathews low and away, avoiding confrontation, letting him get all the walks and singles he wanted. Gibson was never his usual aggressive self against the Braves in general, with a lifetime record of 10-15 in the Mathews era.

    1. And woe befell any batter who tried to slow him down with fidgeting and stepping out of the box. The next pitch was coming as close to his head as the count and game situation would allow.

  3. Yes, thanks for your homage to Gibson. Very well done. (Though I would have mentioned what an exceptionally good hitter, with power, he was too). And I also always enjoyed the fact that any game Gibson was going to end half an hour or more earlier than normal. (Or so it seemed; someone’s probably run the numbers on that by now).

    “Legend” is the right word. Will never see his like again.

    1. He and Drysdale were both great pitchers and really good hitters. When I was 9 or 10 I was at a game where Drysdale hit one out in left field that would have gone out if hit the same distance and height to right. And right field in the Colosseum was halfway to San Diego – Snider had trouble hitting balls out there. Only man who hit .300 on the 65 WS champs team.
      And both mean as fuck. Dandy Don:
      “One day at Dodger Stadium, St. Louis Cardinal catcher Gene Oliver blasted a long homerun off Drysdale. Before beginning a leisurely trot around the bases, Oliver first stood at home plate admiring the flight of the ball and then said, loud enough for Drysdale to hear, ‘Hey, batboy, come get the bat.’… The next time Oliver batted, Drysdale drilled him with a fastball. While Oliver writhed in the dirt of the batter’s box and teammates and the Cardinals’ trainer rushed to his aid, Drysdale said loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘Hey, batboy, come get Oliver.'” – (Mike Shannon)

    1. … and Marichal turns 83 in a couple of weeks.

      What a foursome.

      Seaver 311-205
      Koufax 165-87
      Gibson 251-174
      Marichal 243-142

      So much talent in the NL after the war!

      1. Speaking of NL talent after the Big One, that older guy from Buffalo (Spahn) wasn’t half bad either. 363W, 13 20-W seasons. And one of the coolest windups in history.

        1. I don’t remember the exact amount offhand, but he won something like 275 of those games after age 30.

  4. I love reading your writing about baseball. Thanks for the homage to Gibson, and the the links to the other articles.

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