It is fairly easy to pick out the peak of Bob Gibson’s pitching career. From 1968 through 1970, Bob Gibson was the best pitcher on the planet. That is not even an exaggeration. He leads all players in fWAR during those seasons. He has the most or second most fWAR for pitchers every year of that time frame. In 1970 he led all players in fWAR.
Before the 1968 season, Gibson was still a highly respected and feared pitcher. He broke out in 1962 with a 6.0 fWAR season and stayed near that pace for every year after that, looking to surpass that in 1967 until his season was cut short. On July 15, 1967 Bob Gibson suffered a broken fibula on a line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente. He pitched to three more batters, issuing two walks and coaxing a flyball before the leg gave out and he was replaced. Gibson returned on September 7 after just under eight weeks. The Cardinals went on to win the pennant soon after and faced Boston in the World Series.
In that World Series Gibson won three games and lost none, pitching twenty-seven innings. He gave up three earned runs, two coming in the deciding seventh game of the series that the Cardinals had already taken a commanding lead in. He earned himself the Series MVP honors for the second time in his career. From there, he just got better. though he never did win another World Series. Bob Gibson, it seemed, was indestructible.
That reputation has followed him, even as the years have passed and his playing days move further into the rear-view mirror. At 83 years old, he is as sharp as ever. He is Bob Gibson and nothing can stop him. The man is a living legend.
Perhaps that is why the news of his pancreatic cancer diagnoses is so affecting. I think former VEB editor John Fleming explains this perfectly in his article at STLBullpen:
That Bob Gibson could even be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is a sobering reminder of a fact which is both obvious and incomprehensible–Bob Gibson is human.
Because Bob Gibson does not get hurt. He pitches three games in the World Series and he pitches on broken legs and he plunks Pete LaCock in old timers games. Bob Gibson has risen beyond the scope of mere humans have to a place of legends. His legacy has grown to transcend the boundaries of time and space. Bob Gibson broke his leg two years before my father was born, yet here I am, talking about his career like I was there. The fact that Bob Gibson, a persona so great it spans generations, who for so long was indestructible might actually not be... is a harsh reality to reconcile.
Pancreatic cancer is a tough diagnoses, but Bob Gibson is a tough man. On this day in 1967, Bob Gibson snapped his fibula and returned to pitch three games and win World Series MVP three months later. If we have learned anything about Gibson, it is that you never count him out.
Here is a video of him throwing a no-hitter in 1971:
Get well soon, Bob.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 14, 2019
All of Cardinal Nation is behind you! pic.twitter.com/DZulwl0boz
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