- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"It was something you knew you had to face," ex-Tiger Tracewski says today. "And you faced it like a man."
Through the eighth inning, Gibson had struck out 14 Tigers. When he struck out Norm Cash for his 16th K in the ninth, McCarver stood and gestured toward the scoreboard. "Gimme the ball!" Gibson screamed at his catcher. "Gimme the goddam ball!" He then saw the scoreboard, which bore the news that Gibson had just broken Sandy Koufax's World Series record, and for one brief shining moment, with the Cardinals' 4-0 win all but assured, Bob Gibson...well, he did not exactly smile, but, in McCarver's words, "He looked less fierce."
McLain had been removed from the game after five innings, but he duly admired his opponent's masterpiece. "It was," says McLain, "the single greatest pitching performance I have ever seen."
Gibson faced McLain again in Game 4 in Detroit, a contest preceded by Jose Feliciano's...interesting interpretation of the national anthem. With the Cardinals leading 4-0 in the third inning, the game was interrupted by rain for an hour and 14 minutes, which Gibson spent eating ice cream bars in the dugout. When play resumed, McLain did not; but Gibson returned to hit a home run in the fourth, to strike out 10 Tigers, to pitch his seventh consecutive complete-game World Series win. The Cardinals had a three-games-to-one lead in the Series. "And we knew if we went to seven games," says McCarver, "we had an ace in the hole." Gibson could not lose.
McLain's right arm was a side of beef, shot up with cortisone and Xylocaine to ease the muscle inflammation in his shoulder, but he pitched all nine innings of Game 6, which the Tigers won 13-1 to even the Series at three games each. The Cardinals were saving Gibson for Game 7 in St. Louis. Mickey Lolich would start for Detroit, and though Lolich had heroically thrown two complete-game victories already in the Series, the Tigers were not exactly overconfident.
"We had a helluva year," Smith told his Tigers before the decisive game, before addressing the matter of Gibson. "This guy is not Superman. He's beatable. But even if we don't win, we've had a helluva year."
"Mayo," announced Tiger first baseman Norm Cash. "I don't know about him not being Superman. He's dressing in a phone booth over there."
Gibson and Lolich would both go the distance. But Cardinal centerfielder Curt Flood misjudged Northrup's line drive in the seventh inning. The result was a two-run, go-ahead triple and a 4-1 win for the Tigers, world champions of 1968. "And of course," says McLain, "those were still the days when you didn't break into stores or burn squad cars to celebrate a championship." Imagine that.
"Do you still speak to Flood?" an old lady asked Gibson in an airport one week after the Series.
"How can you ask that?" Gibson, aghast, wanted to know.