On this day in Baseball History October 2, 1968: In the first game where the eventual two league Most Valuable Players pitched against each other, St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson defeated Denny McLain 4-0 in Game One of the 1968 World Series while striking out a World Series record 17 batters.
Gibson came into the Series with a 22-9 record and a miniscule 1.12 ERA (How did Gibson lose nine games with an ERA that low?) in 34 games started with 28 complete games and 13 shutouts. Gibson struck out a league leading 268 batters, while walking 62, giving up 198 hits in 304.2 innings pitched for a league leading WHIP of 0.853.
McLain came into the Series with a 31-6 record and a 1.94 ERA in 41 games started with 28 complete games and 6 shutouts. McClain struck out 280 batters while walking 63 and giving up 241 hits in a league leading 336 innings pitched for a WHIP 0.905.
Both pitchers would win their respective league Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award. This was the matchup to open the 1968 World Series.
Gibson held up to his end of the bargain by breaking Sandy Koufax's World Series record of 15 strikeouts that he set in the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. What was even more impressive was Gibson's performances in the World Series up to this point. The article ST. LOUIS WINS, 4-0, IN SERIES OPENER by Joseph Durso of the New York Times dated October 3, 1968 states:
By winning his sixth straight game in three Series in five years, he tied the record set by Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing of the Yankees between 1932 and 1942.
By working his sixth straight complete game in Series competition, he broke the record set by Ruffing for pitchers who finish what they start when the money is on the tableHere is the boxscore to Game One of the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times:
Not to let down the viewing public, Gibson would pitch two more complete games in the 1968 World Series during games four and seven where he would strike out 10 and 8 batters respectively. Gibson would lose Game 7 of the World Series finishing with a career 7-2 record in three World Series (1964, 1967, 1968). In nine starts, Gibson would throw EIGHT complete games. His first World Series start in Game Two of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees was an eight inning start while Game Five was a ten inning complete game. In 81 World Series innings pitched, Gibson put up a 1.89 ERA with 92 strikeouts, 17 walks and 55 hits for a World Series WHIP of 0.889.
McLain on the other hand would only last six innings in Game One though he would vindicate himself with a pivotal victory in Game Six on two days rest after losing his first two World Series starts to Gibson.
On an aside, to answer my question from earlier in the post: How did Gibson lose nine games with an ERA that low? I'm not sure where and when I found this chart, but it shows us how he indeed lost those nine games in 1968:
Gibson goes down as one of the best pitchers ever in World Series history. I say World Series and not Postseason since in his day the World Series was the only round of the PostSeason as compared to today's four rounds including the World Series. Will we see a performance like Gibson's in this year's World Series? We'll have to wait until the Fall Classic begins to see if it happens.
Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Bob Gibson's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click here to access Denny McLain's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click here to access the article Sports of The Times: Gibson Versus McLain by Robert Lipsyte from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the article Cool Pitcher and Victor Over Pain: Robert Gibson from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times
- Click here to access the article Gibson Unaware of Breaking Record Until Message Flashes on Scoreboard by George Vecsey from the October 3, 1968 edition of the New York Times