Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 1967: The Cardinals Lose Their Ace

On July 15, 1967, a Roberto Clemente line drive broke Bob Gibson's leg in the fourth inning of a 6-4 loss to the Pirates at Busch. Somehow Gibby stayed in the game and pitched to three more batters before falling to the ground, when you hear Gibson called a true warrior it's no bullshit. Gibson was 10-6 at the time of the injury that would keep him sidelined until September 7th. He came back strong and finished the season with a 13-7 record, then pitched 3 complete games in the World Series which earned him MVP honors in the Fall Classic as he led the club to their 7th World Championship. Nelson Briles took over Gibson's spot in the rotation following the injury. Before Gibson was hurt Briles was just a long man that didn't have a true role in the pen, his career record was just 12-23 and it's safe to say that expectations were moderately optimistic at best. Briles not only filled the spot in the rotation, he won his last 9 regular season decisions then extended his winning streak to 10 as he pitched the team to victory in the third game of the World Series. While hopes of a pennant might have been dashed on that day in mid July, the team got the job done until their ace returned. Gibson picked up 3 more wins and only took one loss as the team finished 10 1/2 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants to take the National League Flag. While Briles was a kid who couldn't find his role at the beginning of the '67 season, he became a mainstay in the rotation over the next few years. He won his first four starts in '68 which led to 275 days between losses for the young hurler. The injury to Gibson had no lingering effects, in '68 the future Hall of Famer won 22 games, pitched 28 complete games and had 13 shutouts on his way to breaking a major league record with an earned run average of 1.12, it has not been matched by any pitcher with at least 300 innings pitched in a season. Bob Gibson was simply a badass.

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