Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 1971: Bob Gibson No-Hits The Buccos

     On August 14, 1971, 30,678 souls stood and cheered for Bob Gibson at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, as they realized they had just witnessed history when the Cardinals legend struck out their own legend,Willie Stargell for the 27th out of a no-hit performance against their hometown Pirates. The Birds offense provided plenty of punch by knocking out 11 runs, while the dominant Gibson struck out 10 men on his way to becoming the sixth man in the history of the franchise to capture a no-no.

     The no-hitter was something that Gibson had come to accept was not in his deck of cards. He said that "I'm always getting the ball high." It was something that eluded him, and it was something he accepted. When you consider that he had 200 wins under his belt before he achieved the feat, it is easy to understand why he might not think it was going to happen at the age of 35.

     While Gibby might not have believed, but that belief changed before that day he stepped on the bump. Gibson said that he had told Joe Torre that he was going to throw a no-hitter. However, he said "I've said it a thousand times before though." This time it came true. His battery mate, Ted Simmons had a premonition two nights earlier while breaking some bread with  pitcher Chris Zachary. Simmons said to him "Gibson is going to throw a no-hitter Saturday night." He would later say "I don't know why, I just said it."

     The offense did all they needed to do in the first inning, which was highlighted by a three run homer by Joe Hague. In the innings that followed Joe Torre and Ted Simmons each picked up four hits. Gibson got in on what ended up being a 16 hit parade with an RBI sac fly in the fifth, and a single that scored two in the eighth.

     While the offense provided plenty of excitement, the story of the day was Gibson's. Red Schoendienst said the performance reminded him of Gibby's 17 strikeout game in the '68 World Series. It was truly the game of a lifetime. While most would never acknowledge the thought of a no-hitter running through their brain, the fireballer said he was thinking about it in the first inning. As the game progressed he said nobody talked about it, but in his mind it did not matter. He was locked in.

     Gibby did walk three men, and had a man reach on one of his 10 strikeouts, while the defense played great behind him. There were only two balls that raised the eyebrow, with the first coming when Milt May drove one deep to center that was tracked down by Jose Cruz 400 feet away, and in the eighth Dave Cash hit a hot shot to Torre at third who gunned him down at first base for the third out of the inning.

     With the Pittsburgh crowd buzzing Gibson stepped on the mound in the ninth and retired Vic Davalillo with a ground ball to Dal Maxvill at short. Maxvill fired to Matty Alou at first. The next man up, Al Oliver hit one to second baseman Ted Kubiak who fired over to Alou for the second out of the inning, then came Stargell. If there was a man who could break up the historic event it was the man who wore the number 8 in Pittsburgh. Not today. Today was Bob Gibson's day. Bob Prince called the game for the fans in Pittsburgh, and he spoke of Stargell's pursuit of his 40th home run, Gibson was in pursuit of a no-hitter, and he was going to get it.  He got Stargell to swing at the first pitch, before throwing one inside to even the count. Stargell swung and missed at the next one, then moments later he stood there looking when strike three hit the mitt of Ted Simmons who threw his mask off and ran toward the hurler who had just painted a masterpiece. As the crowd stood and cheered, all of his teammates mobbed Gibson in celebration of one of the greatest accomplishments during his storied career.

     The no-hitter was the first one thrown in the Steel City since 1907 when Nick Maddox painted his own masterpiece against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The no-hitter by Gibson proved to be the only one he would add to a resume that is littered with greatness. That greatness included 2 Cy Young Awards,  9 All Star appearances, an NL MVP award, 2 World Championships, which were accompanied by 2 World Series MVPs, and one badass no-hitter. That resume is one that has had its place in Cooperstown since 1981. Generations to come will know the name Bob Gibson.

Check out the box score here:

Listen to Prince make the call here: STRIKE 3!! He got him!!!


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