By Rob Rains
The Cardinals lost another legend on Friday night with the death of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Gibson, 84, died at his home in Omaha, Neb., where he had been battling pancreatic cancer for the last year. His death came 26 days after his longtime teammate, Hall of Famer Lou Brock, died at age 81 on Sept. 6.
The news came just as the Cardinals lost to the Padres in the winner-take-all game three of their wild card series, with Jack Flaherty suffering the loss – and also the death of a man who had become his friend..
“That one hurts,” said Flaherty, who said he had been updated on Gibson’s health in recent days and knew he was not doing well. “He was a legend, somebody I was lucky enough to develop a relationship with, lucky enough to learn from. You don’t get that from people like that very often. You don’t get the opportunity to learn from somebody of that caliber who was that good very often.”
Flaherty said it was Gibson who initiated their relationship a few years ago.
“It was a relationship I never saw coming or never expected,” Flaherty said. “When I found out he wanted to talk to me I was like, ‘Damn all right … let me jump at this opportunity.’ It wasn’t something I was going to pass up.
“When somebody of that caliber comes and seeks you out, what you want to do as an athlete is seek advice from the best of the best. There’s not many people better than a guy like that. You want to pull information from guys of that caliber, to take every bit from him that I could once I was given that chance.”
Flaherty said it had been some time since he last spoke with Gibson, and he considered wearing his jersey on Friday night as a way to honor him but ultimately decided against it.
“I’m incredibly thankful to have a relationship and learn what I learned from him,” he said. “The last message I got from him was, ‘Go be you and attack.’ It was pretty simple.”
Gibson’s death came on the anniversary of one of the biggest highlight games of his career, striking out 17 Tigers in game one of the 1968 World Series.
Gibson played for the Cardinals from 1959 to 1975, becoming the best pitcher in franchise history. He was elected to the Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, in 1981.
He won two Cy Young awards, in 1968 and 1970, and also was named the MVP of the NL in 1968, when he set a major-league record with a 1.12 ERA. A nine-time All-Star, Gibson also won nine Gold Gloves and hit 24 home runs in his career.
Gibson won 20 or more games in a season five times and finished his career with 56 shutouts. He also threw 255 complete games, four more than the number of games he won in his career. He was the MVP of the World Series in 1964 and 1967 and won seven of his nine starts in his three World Series appearances, compiling a 1.69 ERA in those games. He threw a no-hitter against the Pirates in 1971.
Gibson also played basketball at Creighton University and before becoming a baseball star played professionally for one year with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Gibson’s health issues had kept him away from the team in recent years after he was a regular guest at spring training for years.
“When you lose a guy like Bob Gibson, it’s hard,” Yadier Molina said after the Cardinals loss in San Diego. “We lost another one. Bob was funny, smart … he brought a lot of energy when he talked. It was good to have him around for many years. He was a great man.”
Manager Mike Shildt said, “It’s a big loss for our organization. I think he would have enjoyed playing on this team. We’re going to miss him.”
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports