Gibbon ‘Em Nothin’ to Hit

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Gibbon

Joe Gibbon was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college. On the basketball hardwood, he was the NCAA’s second-highest scorer in 1957, the same year he signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates (in favor of playing in the NBA with the Boston Celtics). Continue reading

Mathews Reaches 500

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 14, 1967) At Candlestick Park, batting against San Francisco Giants ace Juan Marichal, Eddie Mathews hit home run number 500 as the Houston Astros beat the Giants 8-6.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

Prior to the 1967 season, Mathews had been traded by the Atlanta Braves with a player to be named later and Arnold Umbach to the Houston Astros for Bob Bruce and Dave Nicholson. A nine-time All-Star in 15 seasons with the Braves, Mathews had hit 493 homers playing for the franchise in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. His seventh round-tripper of the 1967 season made him the seventh major leaguer to reach the 500 home run plateau.

Mathews’ home run came in the sixth inning with two runners aboard. It was not Marichal’s best day. The Giants went into the sixth inning leading 4-3, but the first two Astros batters, Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub, opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Mathews came up and homered to put the Astros on top 6-4.

Marichal then walked Norm Miller (who had hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning) and gave up a single to Bob Aspromonte before being relieved by left-hander Joe Gibbon. Marichal left the game after allowing seven earned runs in five innings. The loss brought his season record to 12-8.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

The winning pitcher was Dave Giusti (6-8), who allowed nine hits and five earned runs in seven innings, including a two-run homer by Giants third baseman Jim Davenport. The Giants also got a solo home run from Jim Ray Hart in the eighth inning. That home run came off Larry Sherry, who picked up his second save of the season.

Mathews would end the 1967 season with the Detroit Tigers. On the season, he would hit 16 home runs with 57 runs batted in. He would retire after the 1968 season with 512 career home runs, and he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.

No More Fastballs to This Guy

 

Lights Out: Tony Cloninger’s Twin Grand Slams

When: July 3, 1966

Where:  Candlestick Park,   San Francisco, California

Game Time: 2:42

Attendance: 27,002

Of course, in the 1960s, all pitchers did their own hitting. And some of them were pretty good at it.

Some of them, in fact, set hitting records that no non-pitcher has ever topped. That’s what Tony Cloninger did on July 3, 1966.

On his way to his ninth victory of the 1966 season, Cloninger helped his cause with a pair of grand slam home runs and another run batted in on an eighth-inning single. His nine RBIs in one game are still the major league record for a pitcher.

On his way to his ninth victory of the 1966 season, Cloninger helped his cause with a pair of grand slam home runs and another run batted in on an eighth-inning single. His nine RBIs in one game are still the major league record for a pitcher.

On that Sunday afternoon in front of 27,000 fans at Candlestick Park, Cloninger pitched a complete game, winning his ninth victory of the season in a 17-3 laugher over the hometown Giants. What made the game significant wasn’t Cloninger’s arm but his bat, and the nine runs it produced that afternoon (a major league single-game record for a pitcher).

Before he threw his first pitch, Cloninger already had a seven-run lead. In the top of the first inning, against Giants southpaw Joe Gibbon, the Braves struck for three runs on a Joe Torre home run. Gibbon gave up two more singles before being replaced by Bob Priddy, who walked shortstop Denis Menke to load the bases. The next batter was Cloninger, who sent the ball over the left-center field fence for a grand slam that made the score 7-0.

Cloninger was just getting started.

Batting in the top of the fourth inning against Ray Sadecki, Cloninger launched his second slam of the afternoon. And after flying out to left field to lead off the sixth inning, Cloninger collected his ninth RBI of the game in the eighth inning, singling to left off Sadecki to score Woody Woodward from third base.

Tony Cloninger wasn’t the only pitcher in this game to hit a home run. The Giants’ third pitcher, Ray Sadecki, hit a solo home run off Cloninger in the fifth inning.

Tony Cloninger wasn’t the only pitcher in this game to hit a home run. The Giants’ third pitcher, Ray Sadecki, hit a solo home run off Cloninger in the fifth inning.

Cloninger allowed three runs (all earned) on seven hits, including a pair of solo home runs: one by Giants catcher Tom Haller, and the other by the opposing pitcher, Sadecki. Pitchers’ bats that afternoon accounted for 10 RBIs. Not a bad hitter for a pitcher (with a .192 lifetime average), Cloninger hit .234 in 1966, with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Unfortunately, by 1966, he was on the downside of his pitching career, finishing that season at 14-11, 10 victories fewer than the previous year and the most he would ever again win in any single season.

Cloninger finished his 12-year career with 113 wins … and 11 career home runs.

Matty Alou Bids ‘Frisco Adieu

 

Swap Shop: Matty Alou Turns Pirate

For five seasons, Matty Alou languished on the San Francisco Giants’ bench, hitting a combined .260. Signed by the Giants in 1957, Alou made his big league debut in 1960. He was an outfielder with a quick bat and quick feet, and too many power hitters between him and everyday playing time.

Matty Alou

Matty Alou

With an outfield that featured, at various times, the likes of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and even brother Felipe Alou hitting for average and power, there was little opportunity for Matty to find a place in the Giants’ lineup. From 1961-1964, he averaged only 180 at-bats per season. In 1965, with Cepeda out for nearly the entire season due to injury, and younger brother Jesus playing regularly as the team’s right fielder, Matty should have had his opportunity to shine. But he hit only a meager .231, and he became very expendable on a team in search of more pitching.

That was the Giants’ goal as the team entered the winter of 1965. On December 1, the Giants traded Alou to the Pittsburgh Pirates for utility player Ozzie Virgil and left-handed pitcher Joe Gibbon. A 10-game winner in 1964, Gibbon slipped to 4-9 with a 4.51 ERA in 1965. But the Giants liked the fact that Gibbon had been successful in the past as both a starter and reliever, and they saw Matty as the Alou less likely to succeed.

The Giants were wrong.

Alou’s career turned around with the playing time he received in Pittsburgh. In 1966, with 535 at-bats, Alou batted .342 to lead the National League. (Brother Felipe was second at .327.) Over the next five seasons, Alou would collect 986 hits (an average of 197 per season) and produce a combined batting average of .327. In 1969, he batted .331 and led the league in hits (231) and doubles (41).

Joe Gibbon

Joe Gibbon

Gibbon had three solid but unspectacular seasons in San Francisco, working mostly out of the bullpen with an occasional start. He was 4-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 1966 and 6-2 with a 3.07 ERA the following season.

Alou was a two-time All-Star who ended his career with 1,777 hits – more than half coming during his five seasons in Pittsburgh.

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