No pitcher ever dominated the Tigers like Bob Gibson
Boy, it's been a tough year. On Friday night, we learned that Hall of Fame member Bob Gibson has passed away at the age of 84. He joins Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and Lou...

Boy, it's been a tough year. On Friday night, we learned that Hall of Fame member Bob Gibson has passed away at the age of 84. He joins Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and Lou Brock, baseball legends who also passed away earlier this year. Kaline and Brock were in uniform in the 1968 World Series when Gibson roughed up the Detroit Tigers in the opening game in St. Louis.

In all the years and games the Tigers have played, this Gibson's 68 series throwing performance stands out as the greatest by an enemy pitcher.

"[Gibson] That was the whole story, ”Detroit manager Mayo Smith said immediately after the contest. “It's the best I have ever seen. This is the whole story, I don't see why you [reporters] even came here.

Ol 'Mayo was right: the headlines after Game One could have just read "GIBSON" for all that mattered.

In the Cardinals' 4-0 win, the tall right-hander struck out 17 Tiger batters. Yes, 17 years old, a World Series record that still stands and can last forever.

"If I ever had to face him again I would love to retire," said Detroit first baseman Norm Cash, after facing the best and fiercest pitcher in the National League. Cash and Kaline both struck out three balls, and each of Detroit's nine starting players has harnessed "Gibby" at least once. Twelve of the K's came on swings, six came with the batter cheated and staring, and one came on a third hitting base.

Here in Michigan, all these years later, we can laugh at the strikeouts and the game lost. We know the Tigers came back to win this World Series in seven games. But, for one game, for a glorious afternoon, the Detroit Tigers and their fans, and the rest of the baseball world, saw a brilliant pitcher turn a big league roster silly.

Gibson was blessed with incredible athletic ability. He set a state record in the wide jump as a high school student in Nebraska. He was an excellent basketball player, and if he wished he could have been an NBA star. Tall, leaning forward, Gibson was an excellent basketball player for Creighton University, setting school and league records in points and rebounds. He played briefly for the Harlem Globetrotters. But baseball was his favorite sport, and when he was on the mound, Gibson was the center of attention.

When Gibson grabbed the baseball and got ready to pitch, he was an intimidating presence. He approached the first game of the 68 series with added motivation. Ahead of the series, Denny McLain of Detroit boasted to the press that he was going to eliminate the much-vaunted St. Louis lineup. “I don't just want to beat the Cardinals,” McLain said, “I want humiliate their."

That kind of bulletin board material only pissed off Gibson, who wasn't a happy man on the court anyway.

“Bob was not hostile when he was playing,” said teammate Joe Torre, “I would say it was pretty hateful.”

Gibby was in hate mode for the series opener against the AL champions Tigers. The Cardinals were overwhelming favorites and defending champions. The previous fall, Gibson had started, finished and won three World Series games against the Red Sox. including Game Seven. He was on a five-game winning streak in the Fall Classic when he took the mound to face the Tigers on October 2.

There are 27 strikeouts in a baseball game. Gibson got 17 by play-off this afternoon against the Tigers, who felt outclassed. Only 14 times have the AL champions put a ball in play, including five hits. In the second inning, Gibson hit the side on 11 shots. He struck out two batters in the first and two batters in the third, sixth and seventh innings. In the ninth, after Mickey Stanley petted a single down center field, Gibson rose back and struck out the last three hitters of the game: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

“I wouldn't want to compare,” Kaline said after the game when asked to measure Gibson against pitchers he had seen in the American League. "But I've never seen anyone like him."

When Bob Gibson pitched, he didn't just kick the baseball over at home. It seemed like he waved his whole body against the frightened drummer. His straight, trailing leg circled around his body, often perpendicular to the ground. The surge from the force of his arm's action frequently sent Gibson rushing towards first base.

And what did the batter take away from all this movement? A fastball to the chest as fast as anyone in the game, a curve that went down from "12 o'clock to 6 o'clock" and a bad slider that was unusual in the game.

Gibson had one of the first and best “save sliders” in the game. A save slider starts on the plate, inside on a right-handed hitter, but slides over the inside of the plate in the last feet. Gibson used his save slider to take out Willie Horton in the second set and again in the ninth for the final.

“I never knew what he was doing, I was lucky enough to put the stick on the ball,” said Horton.

The Tigers rebounded to win the 1968 Series, but not before Bob Gibson beat them again in Game 4, removing 10 more. The Detroit roster only felt a little more at ease and in Game 7 the confidence was there to fight against the best in the other league.

But for one game, played 52 years to the day since Gibson is dead, the ominous right-hander Omaha outscored the Tigers better than any pitcher. For this afternoon and many more in his Hall of Fame career, Bob Gibson was King of the Hill.

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Watch the 1968 World Series opener between the Tigers and the Cardinals, when Bob Gibson struck out 17 batters from Detroit:

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