Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 1971 - The Bob Gibson No-Hitter

Saturday, August 14, 1971 - At Three Rivers Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Johnson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  30,678

Bob Gibson had never given much thought to his prospects of pitching a no-hitter.  It didn't happen in '68 - when he had one of the most dominant seasons by a starting pitcher in baseball history.  Now, three years later - at the age of thirty-five - he was still a very good pitcher, but well past his prime.  His only concern was trying to catch the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates - a team loaded with talent and holding a 5.5 game lead over St Louis prior to this game.

The Cardinals jumped all over Pirates starter Bob Johnson for five runs on four hits in just one-third of an inning - knocking him out of the game after Joe Hague knocked a three-run home run out of the park.  In that small sample size, Johnson's earned run average was 135.00 - in case you were wondering.

The next pitcher for Pittsburgh - Bob Moose - made it through the the fourth-inning before running into more trouble in the fifth.  Ted Kubiak's two-run double scored Torre and Simmons - and Kubiak eventually scored from third on Gibson's sacrifice fly.

The next "Bob" to enter the game - Bob Veale - made it through eight innings - and like Moose, gave up three runs in his last inning of work.  A bases loaded walk to Dal Maxvill preceded Gibson's two-run single - padding the lead to 11-0.

All those unnecessary runs weren't the big story in this game.  By the time the Cardinals had scored their final run of the game, Gibson still hadn't allowed a hit.  The first batter to reach base was Milt May - who stuck out on a wild pitch in the second-inning - then reached first before Simmons could even make a throw.  Gibson would strike out two other batters in the inning - en route to a ten strikeout game.

The only other base runners for Pittsburgh came via the base on balls:  Jackie Hernandez in the third-inning - Willie Stargell in the fourth - and Bob Robertson in the seventh.

The strikeout victims:  Stargell (three times) - Robertson (twice) - May, Hernandez, Moose, Sands and Clines (one apiece).

The only "non-Bob" to pitch in this game was Gibson's former teammate - Nelson Briles - who was the pitcher the Cardinals added to the starting rotation back in '67 - when Gibson suffered a broken leg on a vicious line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente.  Briles pitched a scoreless ninth, then watched in admiration from the Pirates' dugout as his former mentor - Gibby - got the final three outs to get that elusive no-hitter.

Gibson's final pitch of the game was a called third strike to Willie Stargell - who may not have liked the call -  but deep down inside, was happy to see his fierce rival make history.

For the joyous Cardinals, they would close out the four game series sweep on Sunday - with a come-from-behind 6-4 win - to close within 3.5 games of first in the NL East.  But that would be as close as they'd get, as the Pirates regrouped from this temporary setback to easily take the division title - then went on to win a classic seven-game World Series over Baltimore.

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