40 years ago today, on August 12, 1970 – back when men were men and so were the pitchers – Bob Gibson threw one of his most impressive games.
It wasn’t one of his best games. Heck, by Game Score it wasn’t even one of his 50 best games. It was, however, a distinctive game.
Against the Padres, Bob Gibson on that day threw 14 innings, the longest outing of his career. In fact, it’s the longest start by any Cardinal pitcher since September 24, 1944. Gibson faced 52 batters, also the most of his career. With 13 Ks and a pair of walks, a basic pitch count estimator places him at just under 200 pitches thrown. This marathon start came in the midst of 21 consecutive starts in which he made it into the ninth inning. Oh yeah – he picked up the win, as the Cards beat the Pads 5-4. This improved Gibson’s record to 16-5 on the year.
In pointing this out my purpose isn’t to upbraid the modern game for going soft on pitchers or anything quite like that. I’m just fascinated by how very different the game was then. My favorite part came in the eleventh inning. In the top of the inning, Gibson found himself in a big jam, with the bases loaded and only one out. After San Diego’s Ed Spiezio hit into timely double play got Gibson out of the inning, Gibson came to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Even though there were two outs and a runner on (and in scoring position after a wild pitch), the team let Gibson bat. He was one of the best hitting pitchers of his day, but as I said – it was a very different game.
Much as I’d like to say this game had no immediate affect on him, it’s worth noting he had one of his worst starts of the season in his next outing. He gave up eight earned runs (just one below his career worst earned runs mark) and tied his career-worst 14 hits allowed. That said, the effects were not lingering. On August 22 (again against the Padres), Gibson was back to his old self – throwing a CG 2-hit shutout. One San Diego player got both hits, and if it wasn’t for him Gibson would’ve had a perfect game that day. The batter? Ed Spiezio, the same man who hit into the double play 40 years ago today.