Looking back at a different era in pitching


While Bob Gibson‘s autobiography, Stranger to the Game: The Autobiography of Bob Gibson, is out of print and hard to find in brand new or like new condition, I’ve been busy reading memoirs and biographies of other members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It has been fascinating to see what some of these former players have had to say about the Cardinals icon, be it Ernie Banks, Juan Marichal, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, or Gary Carter. Gibby was a different pitcher than most pitchers are today. He was seen as one who intimidated hitters and protected the plate.
Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals former player Bob Gibson throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to game four of the MLB baseball World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium. Image Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
One looks back to the late 1960s and early 1970s and it’s hard to imagine a series between the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs that did not include a matchup between Gibby and Jenkins. Those were two of the best pitchers of their era in games that featured several future Hall of Famers, including Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda on the Cardinals.

More surprising? Marichal–not Gibby or Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax–led all pitchers in wins in the 1960s with 191 wins in the decade–and he only played in 11 games during the 1960 season! Gibby only had 164 wins during the time frame.

Compared to today’s era, it’s astonishing to even consider a time in baseball when pitchers stretched the limits in pitching complete games and not being pulled due to pitch limits. It’s so hard to get into the 300 win club or 3000 strikeout club because of pitch counts and the five-man rotation. Back then? Pitchers wouldn’t leave games early and they pitched every fourth day, not five.

At best guess, CC Sabathia will be the next member of the 3000 strikeout club. The New York Yankees pitcher, coming off of his worst major league season by far, enters the 2014 season with 2389 strikeouts. At 32 years old, he’s the youngest pitcher in the top ten active leaders for career wins with 205 of them. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is the next youngest on the active wins leaderboard with 137 wins. Both have a good chance at getting to 300 wins, if not awfully close.

There won’t ever be another epic pitching duel like there was when Marichal went head to head with the great Warren Spahn for 16 innings. What makes it amazing when one looks back was that Spahn was 42 and Marichal was 25 during that contest. Spahn later said he told his manager that he wouldn’t leave until Marichal did. Marichal had said the same thing.

Just something to think about…