Another hero of my youth is gone. Bob Gibson, the fiercest pitcher I can remember, passed away in his hometown of Omaha on October 2. He was 84. During the 60s Gibson was known for intimidating opposing players. It was an era when pitchers could throw inside and back a batter off the plate. Today it would not be allowed. Gibson was more than a baseball player. He played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters and starred at Creighton University, too. Besides being an amazing pitcher, he was a good hitter once batting over 300 for the year. In those days, pitchers came to the plate to hit.
The Cardinals of the 60s were a racially mixed team. There were whites, African Americans and Hispanics in the lineup. Gibson was a man who did not tolerate racial prejudice and led the cause for equality in housing and other issues. He was also known for not talking to opposing players on the field when he was in the game. He might not have even talked to his teammates, but that is speculation on my part.
In 1968 Gibson had an ERA of 1.12. That was the lowest since the dead-ball era at the turn of the century. He completed 28 of the 34 games he started. Pitchers now rarely pitch a complete game. Pitch counts and computers rule today’s game. In game I of the 1968 World Series Gibson struck out 17 Detroit Tigers breaking a record.
Another Hall of Fame Cardinal, Lou Brock, passed away on September 6th of this year. He was a valuable members of the Cardinals dynasty. Cardinal fans can thank the Chicago Subs for that. Brock was traded to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, who had a couple good years for the Cardinals, but never panned out for the Subs. Brock was known for his ability to steal bases and ended his career with over 3,000 hits.
My favorite Cardinal in my youth was Ken Boyer, who played third base. I had a Ken Boyer glove, and I think I used a Ken Boyer model bat in Little League. Sadly, he passed away from cancer at the age of 51 in 1982.
Another Cardinal, Curt Flood, is known as the player who helped create free agency. He fought the system and won. Players today should be thankful.
I did a search on Wikipedia and found that many of the star players from the 60s Cardinals are gone. Bill White, Dick Groat, Julian Javier, Orlando Cepeda, Mike Shannon and Tim McCarver are still around. Shannon and McCarver are broadcasters. FYI, Bob Uecker was a member of the Cardinals in 1964 and 1965. Fans who don’t remember Uecker as a player or broadcaster may remember him from the movies Major League and Major League II where he appeared as a broadcaster alongside Skip Griparis. There might be a link between long life and broadcasting baseball games.
Another favorite Cardinal of the 50s and 60s, and member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, was Albert ‘Red’ Schoendienst. Red was born on Germantown, Illinois, in 1923. With a name like Schoendienst, where else should he be born. He played for and managed the Cardinals for many years. He took over as manager in 1965 and stayed in that position until 1976. He wore a baseball uniform as either a player, coach or manager for 74 consecutive years. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 95.
The man most identified as a Cardinal was Stan ‘The Man’ Musial. There is a statue of him outside the stadium. Must be where the Bulls got the idea. Musial started his major league career on September 17, 1941. No, Tom Hernandez, I was not at the game. Anyone who knows anything about baseball has heard of Stan Musial. If you haven’t, you aren’t a real fan. Look him up. His career stats are amazing. He retired in 1963, and I watched his final game on TV. In those days, few Cardinal games were broadcast on television, and never a home game. They made an exception for Musial’s last game. He got a hit in his last at bat and then was taken out of the game. Musial was a rarity. He was a genuinely gracious and humble man. He was known for his humor and ability to play the harmonica. He was married to his high school sweetheart for 72 years.
My father and his twin brother moved to Granite City while in high school. They would take the bus or train across the Mississippi River into St. Louis and go to Cardinal games at what was then called Sportsman Park. When I was a kid, my father often took me and my cousin Paul to games at the same stadium now called Busch Stadium. It is the stadium pictured on the pennant hanging on the wall behind me. I would show you, but I did that in Part 1. Paul and I would often wait outside the door the players exited and ask for autographs. Some players would sign. Others would ignore us. On one of those occasions I got Stan Musial’s autograph on a scorecard. I still have the old scorecard. It and several others from the era are sitting on a table under the Cardinal pennant. If the house ever catches on fire, I will grab the pennant, the scorecards and several thumb drives before I race out of the house. The thumb drives are my backups for all my writing and photos of grandkids. Oh, I might warn my wife about the fire, also.