By his incredible standards you could call 1964 an off year for Bob Gibson. He failed to win twenty games (19-12), he only struck out 245 that year and his ERA was a hefty 3.01. At the plate he only drove in 4 runs with no homers after putting up this line in ’63-.207/3/20. He only completed 17 games and didn’t lead the league in a single category. He didn’t even make the All Star team or receive a single vote for the Cy Young Award (Dean Chance won); by all accounts it was an off year for Hoot (but would have been a career year for a mortal hurler). It took career years from the rest of the St. Louis pitching staff (Ray Sadecki 20-11, Curt Simmons 18-9) to help the slacking Gibby lead the Cards to a 93-69 record and an NL Pennant.
Their foes in the World Series were the Yankees who had appeared in 14 World Series in 16 years. They had been the dominant team of the 40’s, and then the 50’s and it looked like they would do the same in the sixties. The Yankees fell to the Dodgers in ’63, replaced their manager with Yogi Berra and won the AL Pennant again to earn the chance to face the Cardinals in the Fall Classic. The Yankees beat Bob Gibson in game 2; Gibby came back and beat them in Game 5 in one of the most exciting games of the Series. Gibson had shut the Yankees down all day, but in the bottom of the 9th Tom Tresh hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 2 a piece. The Cards would come back in the top of the 10th when Tim McCarver hit a home run himself. Gibson shut the Yankees down in the bottom of the 10th for a 10-inning complete game. The series back to St. Louis and Jim Bouton won game 6 behind homers from Mantle, Maris and Pepitone to tie the series at 3 each and bring on a decisive game seven.
Game 7 was played on October 15, 1964 at the tiny Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis in front of just over 30,000 fans. After battling in game five Gibson and Mel Stottlemyre were both back on two days rest to square off in game 7. The title line on today’s card of the day gives away the surprise. Bob Gibson’s regular card in the set is number 320 and it shows a close-up of the great power pitcher in spring training before the first pitch of the season. Today’s card of the day is card #138 in the set and it shows Gibby on the mound in game 7 with the headline: Gibson Wins Finale. This is the 7th of 8 cards in the set that chronicle the ’64 World Series, one for each game, plus the final card, #139, titled Cards Celebrate.
Back to the main card of the day… The front shows that Gibson won, beating New York 7-5, a quick flip of the card shows the game’s box score on the back. The disparity between the sizes of the lineups in the box score makes me laugh. The Cardinals finished the game with the same 9 guys who started it. The Yankees on the other hand used 5 different pitchers and 3 pinch hitters. Gibson shut the Yankees down for the first five innings and had a pretty cushy 6-0 lead, but Mickey Mantle cut the lead in half with a 3 run homer in the top of the sixth. There was no scoring from either team until Ken Boyer (3-4 that game), who led the NL in RBI that year, hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 7th to set the score at 7-3, in favor of the Cards. That score held until the top of the 9th when the Yankees, backs to wall, unloaded against Gibson. Tom Tresh, who had homered earlier, struck out to lead off the inning, bringing up Ken Boyer’s (Cards) brother Clete Boyer (Yanks). This had to be a proud day for the Boyer family because both of the Boyer boys (both 3rd basemen) homered that day. Clete Boyer’s solo shot make it 7-4, Cards. With the pitcher’s spot in the order up, back-up catcher Johnny Blanchard got the call to pinch hit and Gibson struck him out for the 2nd out in the 9th. 25-year-old utility guy Phil Linz was the Yankees final hope. Linz started the game at shortstop (Tony Kubek was injured and missed the Series) and was the Yankees lead-off hitter. He had made an error earlier in the game and was looking for redemption. He got it, getting his 2nd hit of the day, a solo homerun to left field to bring the Yankees a little bit closer. With two outs in the 9th, the Yankees were down 7-5. Gibson remained in the game despite giving up two homers in the inning, he wanted this one. He still had a two-run lead and needed just one more out. All Star second baseman Bobby Richardson (.406 BA in Series) was the batter. Richardson popped one up, second baseman Del Maxvill pulled it in, the game was over and the St. Louis Cardinals were World Champions! Like the card told us earlier when it spoiled the surprise, “Gibson Wins Finale, Game #7-St. Louis 7, New York 5. This would be Gibson’s first World Championship-he pitched in 3 games, finished 2 of them and earned two wins. His final stat line for the Series was 2-1, 3.00 ERA. He went 27 innings, gave up 23 hits and struck out an incredible 31 Yankees-a World Series record. He was named the Series MVP and in 1965 he would return to his dominate self (winning 20 games and striking out 270) and would finish the decade as one of the most dominate pitchers ever. As for the Yankees, this would be their last World Series for 12 seasons-they would return in ’76 and be the victims of the Reds 4 game sweep. Perhaps it was Gibson’s game 7 toying with them that broke their winning spirit. That is my take on the game and the Series, but here is what the back of the card had to say: "St. Louis pitcher, Bob Gibson, survived a 9th inning rally by the Yankees as the Cardinals won the 1964 World Championship title. Pitching with just two days rest, Bob Gibson set a World Series strikeout mark, fanning 31 Yankee batters in 27 innings." I love this game, I love this hobby! As a collecting end note-as my friend Master Mike of JDs Wild collects cards of phenom pitchers, I collect Topps originals of my favorie dominate pitchers of the 50's, sixties and seventies-Billy Pierce, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Steve Carlton. The collection is pretty small, but I do love these '65 Gibsons! A '65 Koufax would be a nice addition, too... Troll out.