Born on November 9, 1935 during the time of the Great Depression and World War II, Bob Gibson was the youngest amongst seven siblings whose father had died of tuberculosis before Bob Gibson’s birth. Even though Gibson was born in Nebraska’s biggest city, Omaha, the family was struck by poverty and resided in a small inner-city slum where the mother supported Gibson and his siblings by working at a laundry.
Financial issues were not the only ones that Gibson had to face in the early years of his life. He contracted rickets at a young age and pneumonia put him up in a battle against death. Along with asthma, Gibson suffered from hay fever and heart murmur as well. However, ill health did not seem to be an obstacle for Gibson when it came to sports and he turned into a star athlete at Omaha Technical High School, excelling in track, baseball and basketball.
Applying to the University of Indiana, Gibson got rejected for being black for whom the university had a limited number of seats. Gibson, instead, attended Creighton University in Omaha where the black athlete earned himself a basketball scholarship and starred as a shortstop and outfielder.
In 1957, St. Louis Cardinals signed Gibson to a professional baseball contract, assigning him the position of a pitcher. After playing one more season of basketball, Gibson turned his attention to baseball completely and remained involved in it till the end of his athletic career.
For three seasons, Bob Gibson worked on his pitching skills playing in the minor leagues before finally making it to the Cardinals roster in 1959. A rough start awaited him here as well and the pitcher failed to make a good impression in his first two seasons, losing 11 out of 17 games. He was sent down to the minors twice during the same period. However, Gibson made an impressive comeback in the following major leagues, winning thirteen consecutive seasons.
At the 1964 World Series, Gibson won the honor of Most Valuable Player by bringing complete-game victories to the Cardinals. Gibson earned himself the same title again in the 1967 World Series in which he won all three of his starts. However, the player’s finest series took place in the 1968 season where Gibson completed 28 of his 34 starts, led the league in 13 shutouts and 268 strikeouts and had the lowest single-season Earned Run Average of 1.12. In addition to these victories, Gibson also won the National League Cy Young Award and World Series’ award for Most Valuable Player in the same year.
A second Cy Young Award awaited for Gibson two years later when he scored the highest strikeouts of his career with a total of 274 strikeouts. Amongst his best pitches were a fastball and a slider and had a reputation as one of the most intimidating pitchers.
Gibson’s arthritis and injuries which he had received in previous matches lowered his stamina and pushed down his record to 3-10, forcing him to retire from the game altogether in 1975 with a total of 3117 strikeouts.
Gibson was also a tremendous fielder and won nine Gold Glove awards over the course of his 17 years career. In 1981, the eight time NL all-star was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Over the years following his retirement, Bob Gibson continued to be connected with baseball and worked as a pitching coach for the New York Mets and Atlanta Breves. In 1996, the former player became a special instructor for the cardinals.