A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bob Gibson

There's something about watching a pitcher dominate a game that really says what a baseball game can be. I can still remember Pedro Martinez coming in to Baltimore in May of 2000 and annihilating the Orioles in a 15 strikeout 2 hit masterpiece complete game shutout (this became Bill Simmon's "Pedro and the Pantheon" in the book Now I can Die in Peace). The Orioles fans were gone, and Pedro was on mop up duty for that one. However, Pedro's best game was his perfect game that wasn't - June 3, 1995. He was still an Expo (and there still were Expos in baseball at the time). He made it 9 innings and 1 batter into the 10th, he let up a hit. Like Harvey Haddix, he was betrayed by an equally great opponent (Joey Hamilton, who let up 3 hits). However, his Expos won. Haddix's Pirates... not so much. Lew Burdette went 13 innings of shutout ball (and 12 hits, no walks) to win a shutout while Haddix let up 1 hit and 1 walk - enough to lose the greatest game ever pitched (registered trademark).
Larry Walker, an Expo at the time, said it best about Pedro...
"You just don't expect a guy weighing ninety-seven pounds to throw ninety-nine miles an hour. He's just very aggressive. I never really watched Bob Gibson pitch, but I get the feeling he's like a Gibson. If he has to throw one under your chin, he'll do it."
And Pedro was a man who owned the plate in the same way as Gibson did. My favorite Pedro moments involve him riling up his opponents. I still contend Don Zimmer got what he asked for. However, the fight with Jorge Posada... classic Pedro. But the best Pedro was starting a game off on August 29, 2000, by smashing a ball into Gerald Williams' hand. Williams got PO'ed and came after Pedro and wailed on him, but for all the anger that he had, the Devil Rays imploded for 8 full innings until God intervened and brought the no hitter (save the hit on Williams' hand) to an end after Pedro's cross necklace broke and he let up a double.
Gibson was much the same way. He owned those 17 inches. Roger Angell said that he was the most formidable and scary pitcher of all time when he spoke about Gibson for Ken Burns' Baseball. He once hit his former room mate high on the chest to show him that they weren't on the same team anymore. In 1968, he had a 1.12 ERA, but somehow went 22 and 9. How a man can do both of those things boggles the mind (save the Cardinals offense). In 1967, he won the World Series on the strength of a home run that he hit - finishing the World Series 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. The man was a machine and a class act all around.
Summarizing what baseball meant, a pitcher has to get batters off his plate. Be it Pedro, the Big Unit, Bob Gibson, or Sal "The Barber" Maglie. As the Baseball Project sings... "high and inside."
In a game where Barry Bonds could wear tank armor on his arms in getting all of the advantage for home runs, we need something to take the edge away from hitters...
A little chin music will do nicely.

No comments:

Post a Comment