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RIP, Bob Gibson

Sometimes I got lucky in life. The times I saw Bob Gibson pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, I count that as luck. I think I saw him pitch about three times in the very early 1970s. The games were really good when it was Gibson going up against the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins. Like the grey-beard rock-and-rollers I grew up listening to, the athletes from my youth are starting to kick the bucket as well, only making me feel older in the process. Earlier this month, the great Gibson died from pancreatic cancer. Not only a pitcher of the highest caliber (9x All-Star, 2x World Series champ, 2x NL Cy Young winner, etc.) Gibson led the way toward more integration in baseball, 1960, when blacks were forced to sleep in different motels than their white teammates. Guys like Gibson, Curt Flood, were instrumental in making the Cardinals the first team in the MLB to fully integrate its clubhouse and end segregation. Compared to back then, the multi-million-dollar black players have nothing to complain about, but they do. It is tragic when a rogue cop (or cops) kills an innocent, unarmed black guy; but those same rogue cops are actually killing more whites per year than blacks. Per capita, the blacks’ numbers are higher, however, and some surveys show that a black guy is about 3.5 more times likely to be shot dead by a cop than a white guy. The real tragedy for blacks, though, are the number of kids born into singlefamily homes these days (approximately 75 percent). The other tragedy are the number of blacks killing other blacks, but the politicians, or so it seems, don’t want to talk about that and what can be done to stem the tide. “Cop killings” make for more sensational headlines, news coverage, even though both are tragic affairs. Point is, guys like Gibson were indeed treated like second-class citizens until he and a few others managed to turn around the team. Gibson was fast, had great control, and he knocked hitters off the plate when they tried to dig in against his coming onslaught. An ex-Harlem Globetrotter, Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA in ’68, which was the best number posted since 1914. That ERA number, in fact, force Major League Baseball to lower the pitching mound the following year. Quotes made by Bob Gibson – some of the best ones – are included below,

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