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Gibby’s 1.12 ERA: 40 years later

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  • Gibby’s 1.12 ERA: 40 years later

    Gibby’s 1.12 ERA: 40 years later
    By Derrick Goold

    FILE OCTOBER 1968- St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson

    JUPITER, Fla. — On his way to changing baseball history, Bob Gibson was willing to break baseball tradition.

    During one particularly low-scoring game in 1968, the Cardinals' opponent had runners on first and third bases with no outs. Catcher Tim McCarver trotted to the mound to tell Gibson which middle infielder would cover second on a ground ball to the mound.

    Give up the run to get the double play. Standard stuff.

    Gibson glowered and shook his head. Strategy be damned. He was throwing home.

    "You knew you weren't going to get a lot of runs," Gibson said. "Shoot, every time I pitched it was against Ferguson Jenkins or Juan Marichal ... every one of my starts was just about against one of those guys. What were the chances of us scoring a lot of runs? It just didn't exist. You had to keep other teams down, or you'd lose."

    Hold teams down he did, unlike any other modern pitcher before and since. This season is the 40th anniversary of Gibson's 1.12 earned-run average, a number that defied logic and led to a rule change that altered how the game is played.

    In 1968, Gibson went 22-9, pitched 304 2/3 innings and had 13 shutouts — at least one against every team in the NL besides the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the entire season, Gibson was never removed from a game in the middle of an inning.

    The Hall of Famer won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. His ERA is the fourth-lowest in history. And, of the 40 lowest single-season ERAs, only Gibson's 1.12 came after 1920.

    In the four decades since, only Roger Clemens has pitched a half-season with an ERA less than 1.12; his was 1.11 in the second half of 1990.

    Gibson's 1.12 figure forced a shift in baseball, as if basketball had raised the hoop after Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game or hockey had shrunk the goal after Wayne Gretzky's 92-goal season. In 1969 baseball dropped the pitching mound — from 15 inches to 10 — and ERAs and batting averages climbed. Offense took over.

    "He caused a change in the game," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, a close friend and former teammate of Gibson's. "They lowered the mound and literally took a lot of sinkerballers out of the game. You can do things in others sports that change the rules. (There) aren't too many times they've changed the rules in this game. That's what is unique about (1.12).

    "What'd he lose, nine games that year?" Torre asked. "Think about that. Losing nine games with a 1.12 earned-run average."


    Torre, who became Gibson's teammate in 1969, often tells the story about Gibson refusing to talk with him at an All-Star Game.

    Gibson didn't get cozy with competitors, didn't want to let an opponent past his veneer of intimidation.

    Gibson wasn't going to give up any edge, and in '68 he figured he couldn't afford to.

    In his first 10 starts that season, Gibson was 3-5 despite a 1.52 ERA, mainly because opposing starting pitchers had a 1.34 ERA against the Cardinals.

    His teammates scored two or fewer runs in eight of Gibson's losses that season and twice he lost 1-0, once when Gaylord Perry twirled a no-hitter.

    Eleven of Gibson's 34 starts that summer were opposite another Hall of Fame-bound pitcher. He went 5-5 with a 1.45 ERA in those games.

    "We wish we could have done more on his behalf," Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock said. "Not just the ERA, but the victories. He could have won 30. ... As a hitter, you make it a goal to destroy the pitch before it destroys you.

    "You could not do that with Bob. You could not destroy his pitch. You don't have a lot of time to come up with a plan to destroy something you can't see."


    In 1968, Denny McLain won 31 games for Detroit. Luis Tiant led the AL with a 1.60 ERA, the lowest in his league in 50 years.

    Los Angeles' Don Drysdale pitched 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a span that included a duel against Gibson in which the Cards righthander allowed one hit and Drysdale threw a shutout. The Cardinals weren't the only ones not scoring.

    Pitchers ruled the season. And Gibson reigned.

    A few starts after facing Drysdale, Gibson began what's considered a feat that eclipses the longest consecutive scoreless streaks. He allowed two earned runs over 99 innings, a span that included five consecutive shutouts and produced an ERA of 0.18. One run scored on a wild pitch.

    "Well, it wasn't a wild pitch," Gibson said. "It was called a wild pitch. ... It was a passed ball."

    The other came on a bloop double.

    "Impossible," Cards pitcher Mark Mulder said of Gibson's 1.12 ERA. "It would be impossible in today's game, and I can't understand how it was possible in that era. Look at Chris Carpenter's year, when he won the Cy Young. What was his ERA that year? (2.83.) Well, take away all of the runs scored on bloop hits and cheapies and would his ERA be under 2.00 then? It wouldn't be close to 1.12."

    The game won't allow it.


    When Gibson and the others reported for spring training in 1969, they found they weren't looking down on the hitters quite as much — literally and figuratively. The mound was lower, the strike zone was tighter and there was stricter enforcement of illegal pitches. Hitters took over. Gibson felt he pitched better in '69, though his ERA was a run higher.

    "I don't doubt that someday somebody will break that 1.12," Gibson said this spring. "But 300 innings and 1.12 — I don't think anybody is going to get the 300 innings. They've changed the game so much to keep you from pitching well."

    They didn't change the game.

    Gibson did.

    [email protected] | 314-340-8285

    THE ROAD TO 1.12

    Ten regular-season highlights and one World Series record from Bob Gibson's MVP and Cy Young season of 1968, the year his 1.12 ERA led baseball and forever changed the game.

    May 6

    Future Hall of Famers Gibson and Tom Seaver duel in an extra-inning game that ends 2-1 when the Cards' Lou Brock scores in the bottom of the 11th. That is the only earned run Seaver allows. Gibson strikes out 11, including Seaver four times.

    May 22

    Opposite Dodgers great Don Drysdale, Gibson allows one hit over eight innings and still loses 2-0. The hit was Wes Parker's double to score Paul Popovich, who had walked. Gibson slips to 3-4.

    June 20

    A Brock triple sets up the only run in a clash between Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins. The Cubs righthander strikes out 11, but Gibson's ERA drops to 1.21 with the fourth of five consecutive shutouts.

    July 21

    Gibson strikes out 13 Mets in the first game of a doubleheader, winning 2-0 for his seventh shutout of the season. The victory pushes his career record against the Mets to 20-3.

    July 25

    In his next start, Gibson pitches the Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over Philadelphia. His ERA plunges to 0.96. From June 6 to July 25, Gibson starts and finishes 10 games, including shutouts of eight different teams.

    July 30

    The Mets' Ed Kranepool doubles in a run in the fourth inning to end Gibson's streak in which he allowed two earned runs over 99 innings. It is the Mets' only run in a 7-1 loss.

    Aug. 9

    Gibson throws a 1-0 shutout opposite Atlanta's Phil Niekro and again it's Brock who scores. Afterward, Cardinals outfielder Bobby Tolan yells to Gibson: "Don't you ever get tired of getting people out?"

    Sept. 2

    Gibson's 20th victory comes with a 10-inning shutout that takes his ERA beneath 1.00 for the final time. Julian Javier breaks a scoreless tie with a solo homer to lead off the 10th.

    Sept. 17

    Ron Hunt's solo home run for the Giants in the first inning is enough, even though Gibson strikes out 10 and allows only that one run. San Francisco's Gaylord Perry throws his only no-hitter to win 1-0.

    Sept. 27

    The regular season ends, fittingly, with a 1-0 shutout, Gibson's 13th shutout of the summer. He strikes out 11 Astros and, in the fifth inning, sets up the eventual winning run with a sacrifice bunt.
    Make America Great For Once.

  • #2
    I love Gibson -

    Double play my ass - I'm throwing home.
    Turning the other cheek is better than burying the other body.

    Official Sport Lounge Sponsor of Rhode Island - Quincy Jones - Yadier Molina who knows no fear.
    God is stronger and the problem knows it.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Schwahalala View Post
      I love Gibson -

      Double play my ass - I'm throwing home.

      We were lucky to have seen him.
      Make America Great For Once.


      • #4
        1968 Gibson only lost 5 fewer games than Anthony Reyes did last year.
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