Pack Robert "Bob" Gibson (born November 9, 1935 in Omaha, Nebraska) is a former right-handed baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals from to . He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in . Gibson was a fierce competitor who rarely smiled and was known to throw close fast inside pitches to let batters know who was in charge (similar to his contemporary and fellow Hall of Famer Don Drysdale), although he had good control and hit only 102 batters in his career (fewer than Drysdale's 154). Considered to be the best pitcher in Cardinals history (along with Dizzy Dean), Gibson dominated with his fastball, sharp slider, and a slow, looping curveball. He now resides in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue with his wife and son. He is currently a special instructor coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Born Pack Gibson, after his father who died 3 months before his birth (the Gibson family could not afford a camera, therefore no photographs of his father exist). Gibson changed his name to Robert when he turned 18. Despite a childhood filled with health problems, including rickets, asthma, pneumonia, and a heart murmur, he was active in sports as a youth particularly baseball and basketball. After a standout career in baseball and basketball at Tech High in Omaha, Gibson won a basketball scholarship to Creighton University.
In , Gibson received a $3,000.00 bonus to sign with the Cardinals. He delayed his start with the organization for a year, playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, earning the nickname "Bullet" Bob Gibson (his nickname in baseball was "Hoot", after Hoot Gibson, the cowboy and silent movie star). Although one of the star players on the team--Gibson was famous for backhanded dunks--he resigned from the Globetrotters to play baseball because he could not stand the clowning. In he spent a year at the triple-A farm club in Omaha. He graduated to the major leagues in and had the first of nine 200-strikeout seasons in .
In Game 7 of St. Louis's World Series triumph on October 15, 1964, Gibson held on to earn the win despite allowing ninth-inning home runs to New York Yankees Phil Linz and Clete Boyer (brother of the Cardinals' Ken Boyer).
In , Gibson made a remarkable recovery from a broken leg to become the premiere pitcher in that year's World Series. Gibson's normal follow-through included landing hard on his right leg. On July 15, he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente just at that point of his follow through. The broken leg put Gibson on the disabled list until early September, while the Cardinals continued to play well. With Gibson back in the lineup, the Cardinals secured the National League pennant.
In the 1967 Series, Gibson allowed only three earned runs and 14 hits over three complete game victories (Games 1, 4, and 7), the latter two marks tying Christy Mathewson's record, also hitting a vital home run in Game 7.
The season became known as "The Year of the Pitcher", and Gibson was at the forefront of pitching dominance. His earned run average was 1.12, which is a live-ball era record, the major league record in 300 or more innings pitched and was the lowest major league ERA in 54 years (see Dutch Leonard). He threw 13 shutouts, only behind Grover Alexander's 1916 MLB record of 16, and allowed only two earned runs in 92 straight innings of pitching. Gibson also pitched 47 consecutive scoreless innings, at the time the third longest scoreless streak in Major League history behind only Walter Johnson's 56, and Don Drysdale's 58 2/3 (set earlier in that same season). He also won the National League MVP. With the batting anemic everywhere, Gibson lost 9 games against 22 wins despite his record-setting low ERA.
In Game One of the 1968 World Series, he struck out 17 Detroit Tigers to set a World Series record for strikeouts in one game (breaking Sandy Koufax's record of 15 in Game One of the 1963 World Series), which still stands today.
Gibson's 1968 season was so successful that his performance is widely cited in Major League Baseball's decision to lower the pitcher's mound by five inches in . The change had only a slight effect on him; he went 20-13 that year, with a 2.18 ERA. Some say that his 13 shutouts combined with his 28 complete-games season may never be repeated by anyone again given the heavier emphasis on pitch counts, relief pitching, and the continuing shift to hitters with newer ballparks having smaller foul areas, shorter distance to the outfield walls, and a smaller strike zone today.
On May 12, , Gibson struck out three batters on nine pitches in the seventh inning of a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gibson became the ninth National League pitcher and the 15th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning.
Gibson achieved two highlights in August . On the 4th of the month, he won his 200th career victory, defeating the San Francisco Giants 7-2 at Busch Stadium. Ten days later, he no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-0 at Three Rivers Stadium. Three of his 10 strikeouts in the game were to Willie Stargell, including the game's final out. The no-hitter was the first in Pittsburgh in more than 60 years; none had been pitched in the 62-year (mid- to mid-) history of Three Rivers Stadium's predecessor, Forbes Field.
He was the second pitcher in MLB history (after Walter Johnson) to strike out over 3,000 batters, and the first to do so in the National League. He accomplished this at home, at Busch Stadium on July 17, , the victim being César Gerónimo of the Cincinnati Reds. (Gerónimo would also become Nolan Ryan's 3,000th strikeout victim, in .)
Gibson was also a good hitting pitcher and was sometimes used by the Cardinals as a pinch-hitter. In 1970, he hit .303 for the season, which was over 100 points higher than his teammate, shortstop Dal Maxvill. For his career, he batted .206 with 24 home runs (plus two more in the World Series) and 144 RBIs. He is one of only two pitchers since World War II with a career batting average of .200 or higher and with at least 20 home runs and 100 RBIs (Bob Lemon, who had broken into the majors as a third baseman, is the other).
Gibson was above average as a baserunner and thus was occasionally used as a pinch runner, despite managers' general reluctance to risk injury to pitchers in this way.
The constant pounding on Gibson's right knee took its toll, eventually inflicting knee injuries that contributed to Gibson losing his effectiveness. In his final season, he went 3-10 and announced his retirement.
"'Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.' I'm like, 'Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?' That was the night it ended."
Gibson was surly and brusque even with his teammates. When his catcher Tim McCarver went to the mound for a conference, Gibson brushed him off, saying "The only thing you know about pitching is you can't hit it."
Gibson maintained this image even into retirement. In , an Old-Timers' game was played at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego as part of the All-Star Game festivities, and Reggie Jackson hit a home run off Gibson. When the edition of the game was played, the 57-year-old Gibson threw the 47-year-old Jackson a brushback pitch. The pitch was not especially fast and did not hit Jackson, but the message was delivered, and Jackson did not get a hit.
Although a dominating pitcher never known for laughing or smiling during a game, but for a perpetual scowl, Gibson was also a man of great humility.
His number 45 is retired by the St. Louis Cardinals, and in , he was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
He has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. A bronze statue of Gibson by Harry Weber is located in front of Busch Stadium, commemorating Gibson along with other St. Louis Cardinals greats.