You can’t see me. I’m on the other side of the camera. About two hours after I took this shot of Bob Gibson, I was behind the wheel, driving him to his hotel. For those of you who don’t have any clue what a big deal this is, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is ranked as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. It was because of his skill and power and overwhelming success (recording a 1.12 ERA in 1968) that Major League Baseball instituted what’s casually known as the Gibson Rule, lowering the height of the pitching mound from 15 to 10 inches. He was so tough that after Roberto Clemente slugged a line drive that broke his leg, Gibby faced three more batters before leaving the game. And he was always one of the most intimidating players in baseball.
He’s smart, too. When I was driving him back from the event where he spoke about his new book, PITCH BY PITCH (and I’m getting to it), he told me about the next one he’s currently writing. This, on motor-homing (RVing in today’s lingo), another of his passions, will chronicle his exploits on the road over the course of many years. “Have you kept a journal of all these adventures?” I asked him. “No,” he said, “so I need to write it fast before I forget even more.” The man just turned 80, and even with a personality that seems to seek privacy and a quiet lifestyle, he has more power and vibrancy and energy of anyone I’ve ever met.
Which brings us to the book review. In PITCH BY PITCH: My View of One Unforgettable Game (Flatiron Books, 2015), Gibson recounts every single pitch of Game One in the 1968 World Series (St. Louis Cardinals v. Detroit Tigers), during which he struck out a record 17 batters. On the surface, I found it amazing that anyone would remember every pitch of a game played in 1968. I was thinking that, perhaps, Bob Gibson had referred to the history books on that. No. When you dive into his thought process and learn how he analyzed every batter he faced and feel his connection with catcher Tim McCarver and get a look into his relationships with other icons of baseball, you’ll understand how such an athlete lives and breathes and remembers the details, especially of one of the greatest game in baseball.
I highly recommend PITCH BY PITCH to anyone who either loves baseball or loves the thought processes of professionals who work in the spotlight under such pressure. And yes, this would be a great read for aspiring professional athletes of all ages. Gibson is a natural-born storyteller.
After I typed the previous paragraph, I sat back for a moment to decide if I’d offered such a high praise because I’ve long admired the man. But no. Those factors did put PITCH BY PITCH on my radar, but the read is definitely worth it. And so was my time driving Mr. Gibson,even with that awkward 2 minutes I previously failed to mention. Ask me about it sometime.
A quick note on how I came to drive such a legend.
I’m on the board of Meet Me St. Louis, a new not-for-profit that creates events around authors and their books. A portion of proceeds from each event are donated to area non-profit groups while also giving voice to speakers’ national causes and foundations. If you’re in the St. Louis vicinity, please watch for upcoming programs.
This review is part of Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.