Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10, 1968: Gibby Starts Strong and Ricketts Comes Up Big

     On April 10, 1968, with 34,740 fans in the stands at Busch the Cardinals kicked off the season with a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. The game was highlighted by dominant performance by Bob Gibson who pitched seven strong innings, and Dave Ricketts who won the game with a pinch hit walk off single in the bottom of the ninth. This game marked the beginning of what was a legendary season for Bob Gibson and the Cardinals.

     The only run the Braves put on the board came on an error by Lou Brock in the second inning of  the game where the Cardinals struggled to find an offensive spark. In fact, they didn't pick up their first hit off of the Braves starter Pat Jarvis until Gibson laced a single into right in the sixth. When Gibby was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh he had allowed just 3 hits, walked a man, and despite being dominant he did not record a strikeout.

     On the Braves side of the diamond Jarvis remained strong. He kept the Birds off the board until Orlando Cepeda doubled in the bottom of the eighth that scored Curt Flood from first base. It was a whole new ballgame, and Ray Washburn who took over pitching duties for Gibson gave the team two perfect innings as they battled their way to victory. With Jarvis still on the mound in the ninth Dal Maxvill slapped a one out double into left that set the table for Ricketts who was called on to pinch hit for Washburn. When Red Schoendienst made the switch he also called on Dick Simpson to pinch run for Maxvill. The Braves skipper Lum Harris countered with a pitching change, bringing in Ken Johnson to face Ricketts. The Cardinals batter who recorded all of five RBIs during that '68 season came up big with RBI number one that sent the fans in the stands home happy.

     The Opening Day start was a bit unusual for Gibby since he didn't finish the ballgame. He went onto complete 28 of his 34 starts on his way to posting a 22-9 record, and that included 13 shutouts. The eye popping number that came out of the '68 season is the 1.12 earned run average that Gibson put on the back of the baseball card. It was the third lowest e.r.a. since 1900, and it still stands as the lowest e.r.a. posted in the modern era. The win by the club marked win #1 out of 97. They would lockdown the National League Pennant and fought a hard seven-game battle with the Detroit Tigers in the Fall Classic, which included Gibson's famous 17 strikeout performance in Game 1 of the Series. While the Tigers took the crown, the season was one to remember, and it began on this day with Bob Gibson on the bump.

Check out the box score:

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