Bob Gibson, the intimidating St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who set the record for earned run average and won seven consecutive World Series starts, has died. The team confirmed his death from pancreatic cancer on Friday in his home town of Omaha, Nebraska.
Gibson set the earned run record during the 1968 season, finishing with a microscopic 1.12 ERA. He died on the anniversary of one of his greatest games, when he struck out 17 Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series.
Known as one of the fiercest competitors in baseball, few batters dared to dig in against the powerful right-hander. Gibson spent his entire 17-year career as a St. Louis Cardinal, and was a two-time Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in baseball during that span. He was also named the World Series MVP in their 1964 and ’67 championship seasons, and was the National League’s MVP in 1968. His performance during that season was so dominating that the pitching mound was lowered to give hitters a greater edge.
A top athlete, Gibson was a nine-time Gold Glove winner, and a strong hitter who twice hit five home runs in a single season and batted .303 in 1970, marks unheard of for most pitchers. He also starred in basketball at Creighton University in Nebraska and spent a year with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Averaging 19 wins a year from 1963-72, Gibson finished his career with a record of 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA, becoming only the second pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts.
Only the second Black man (after the Dodgers’ Don Newcombe) to win the Cy Young Award, he would describe himself as a “blunt, stubborn Black man” who once posted a sign over his locker reading “I’m not prejudiced. I hate everybody.” But he was a leader among one of baseball’s most racially integrated teams in the 1960s, and played a role in ensuring that players did not live in segregated housing during the season.
Born Pack Robert Gibson in Omaha on Nov. 9, 1935, Gibson attended Creighton from 1954-57, averaging 20.2 points during his college basketball career. He spent the 1957-58 season with the Globetrotters before turning his full attention to baseball.
Gibson retired after 1975 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981, and the Cards retired his uniform number.
He was married twice, most recently to Wendy Gibson, and spent much of his retirement at his longtime home in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue. He was active in charitable causes and hosted a popular golf event in Omaha that drew some of the top names in sports.
No information on survivors or a memorial was immediately available.
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