On October 2, 1968, Bob Gibson did what no man had done before, and no man has done since, by striking out 17 men in one World Series contest. The performance came in Game 1 of the Fall Classic against the Tigers, and helped lead the Cardinals to a 4-0 victory.
It had instant classic stamped on it before a pitch was thrown. The Tigers countered the National League MVP who had posted a regular season E.R.A. of 1.12 with Denny McLain who had won 31 games during the regular season. However, the Cardinals did not get the same McLain that had led the way to 31 wins. He surrendered three runs in the fourth, and was a victim of his wildness, which helped put the Birds on the board.
McLain did look like he was cruising as well until that fourth inning, which began with a four pitch walk to Roger Maris. Orlando Cepeda popped out, then McLain issued his second four pitch free pass of the inning to Tim McCarver. He was in trouble. The Cards had him on the ropes, and they were not about to let up. Mike Shannon ripped one into left, that Willie Horton could not handle, which led to Maris scoring the first run of the ballgame, and McCarver made the most of it by moving over to third, while Shannon stood on second. One batter later Julian Javier padded the lead by knocking in both runners with a single to right. The Cardinals would not need any more runs on this day. Although, Lou Brock did add to the total by crushing a homer deep to center in the seventh. Brock had stolen a base earlier in the contest as well. With all of that said the story of the day was a strikeout machine who wore the number 45.
Gibby struck seven men out in the first three innings. He would later say that he did not have his best stuff, but he had great control. He only allowed five hits in the contest, and the only true threat that he faced came in the sixth when Dick Mcauliffe picked up a one out single, then Al Kaline came through with a two out double. Gibson put that fire out by striking out Norm Cash. All the while he was not even focused on the Ks, he was focused on the task at hand, which was the next man he would have to face.
When the ninth rolled around Gibson was just one strikeout away from the tying Sandy Koufax's World Series strikeout record of 15 strikeouts that had been set in 1963. He would equal the mark quickly, but it did not come before allowing a leadoff single to Mickey Stanley. Ultimately, that did not matter, as he sat down Kaline with a K to equal the mark. He followed it up by fanning Norm Cash once again, and that was when he realized he made history. He was so locked in that he did not even know McCarver was running out to the mound, as the cheers of the St. Louis faithful rained upon him. McCarver told him to look at the scoreboard, and when he did he saw the words "NEW WORLD SERIES RECORD 16 Ks!!!" What did Gibson do? He went back to work. There was one more batter that would become his 17th strikeout victim of the day. That batter was Willie Horton, who worked the count to two and two, before Gibson fired his 144th pitch over the plate and struck him out. The pitcher had painted a World Series masterpiece.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN196810020.shtml
You can watch the record setting performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR7mFvbd1XM