Author Topic: Bob Gibson slider  (Read 861 times)

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Offline tomterp

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Re: Bob Gibson slider
« Topic Start: June 12, 2012, 05:35:49 PM »
I'm trying to figure out who the batter is.  My guess is this is a video from the 1968 World Series -- the Cards are obviously home team.  The uniform, hard to make out in the black and white and slightly out of focus video, could very well be a Tiger road uniform from 1968.  If so, this would be Bill Freehan, who wore No. 11 for the Tigers in those days.

1. Bob Gibson, slider (?) against Bill Freehan, Oct. 2, 1968
 I have a friend who runs marathons. He's really fast. He's really fast, but he's not an Olympian, and he doesn't win the Boston Marathon or anything like that. Just a guy who is fast. He told me his marathon time once, and I looked it up, and I figured out that it would have been the world record marathon time as recently as 1960. In 50 years, the greatest marathoner in the world became just a guy I know who is fast. So it's hard to know what to make of things like Bob Gibson. Was he just good for his time, or would you be impressed if you saw him pitching today? Are you impressed by this?
This is from the time that Gibson struck out 17 in a World Series game. I love this camera angle. Modern broadcasts show pitches from behind home plate now and then, but I guess it's never quite this close, and it's never from this angle. This is an entirely new angle, and it gives us a beautiful look at the break. I sent this to a friend, whose immediate reaction was: "The umpire called that a strike?" The pitch is so sexy that he didn't even notice the batter swing.
Kevin Goldstein showed this pitch to an NL scout. "It's a 70, maybe an 80. It's a terrific pitch with filthy late break," the scout said. Is it a slider? Gibson threw two different sliders, and describes one as "my hardest one and it would just break abruptly and mostly downward," which seems to fit the picture. Goldstein says it's not a slider, but he's not sure what it is. Ian Miller wonders if it's got spit on it, but no spitball is listed in the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. I saw a very poorly sourced message board comment that called it a curve, and quoted the batter as saying "it went behind me, and then across the plate."
Bill Freehan, the batter, had a 145 OPS+ that year. He struck out in his first five official at-bats against Gibson that World Series, and later in the series he walked over to Gibson during batting practice and gave him his bat as a gift. "He hasn't hit the thing yet. It's his."
I've watched this pitch at least 300 times.