Career Year: Bob Gibson – 1968
Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had so many seasons that most pitchers would have called career years that a true career year for the St. Louis Cardinals’ hard-throwing right-hander would have to be nothing short of spectacular.
For Gibson, the 1968 season was. During the so-called “Year of the Pitcher,” when Denny McLain astounded all of baseball by winning 31 games in the American League, Gibson had a season like no pitcher in the modern era had experienced.
And, basically, it took him two months to do it.
Gibson was a dominating pitcher throughout the 1960s. After going 28-25 for the Cardinals (his only major league team) in 1961-1962, Gibby “arrived” in 1963 with a record of 18-9 – and never looked back. He was 19-12 in 1964, 20-12 in 1965, and 21-12 in 1966. Any of those would have been career seasons for most pitchers.
He started well in 1967 and was 10-6 with a 3.35 ERA when his season was interrupted. On July 15, he suffered a fractured leg off a Roberto Clemente line drive, and missed the next six weeks. When he came back in September, Gibson was 3-1 in leading the Cardinals to the National League pennant, and then was 3-0 in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Would the injury have any lingering effects in the 1968 season? Not hardly, though it seemed that way at the outset. Gibson didn’t win his first game of the 1968 season until April 26, when he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 with his second complete game. (He had lost his first complete game of the season the week before, 1-0 to the Chicago Cubs.) Gibson continued to struggle for wins through May, going 2-4 though posting a 1.27 ERA for the month.
Things turned around for Gibson in June. He won all six of his starts, the last five with shutouts, and had a 0.50 earned run average for the month. In July, Gibson again won all six of his starts (all complete games, with three shutouts) while recording another 0.50 ERA for the month. His combined totals for June and July: 12-0 with a 0.50 ERA, eight shutouts and 91 strikeouts in 108 innings pitched.
For the last two months of the 1968 season, Gibson’s numbers were decidedly less spectacular. He was 7-4 with an ERA that “ballooned” to 1.42. He recorded five more shutouts in August and September, and struck out 115 batters in 108 innings.
Gibson ended the 1968 season at 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and a major league best 13 shutouts. He completed 28 of his 34 starts, and struck out 268 batters, the most in the National League. He was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player, its Cy Young winner, and captured his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. Gibson remains the only player in major league history to garner all three awards in the same season.