On August 24, 1964, Bob Gibson would start a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a modest 10-10 record. After getting off to a 4-0 start, Gibson had struggled a bit, often being used in short rest out of the bullpen. It is what happened from the first pitch of this game until the end of the 1964 World Series that earns Gibson the first Atlas award. Forget Curt Schilling and the bloody sock, this is the greatest example of clutch pitching in my lifetime.
The Cardinals were in the middle of one of the most exciting pennant races in baseball history. Three teams were fighting for the title and every game from this point on would be important. Manager Johnny Keane would hand the ball to Bob Gibson 10 more times as a starter, including this game. Gibson would pitch on 4 days rest only three times and 3 days rest for the others. His record during this stretch was an amazing 8-2, surrendering more than 2 runs only once. One of those games, Gibson’s last start, was a heartbreaking 1-0 complete game loss to the Mets. During these 10 games, Gibson pitched all but 1/3 of an inning, saving an aging and weary bullpen for the other starters. If that was not enough, Gibson’s greatest performance would come on the last game of the season, and with only one day of rest. With the Cardinals, Reds and Phillies in a three way tie for first, Gibson would pitch 4 innings in relief and earn his 19th victory of the season and the Cardinals their first pennant since 1946. That’s right, with only one day rest, Gibson came back and pitched nearly half of another game. Unbelievable.
In the 1964 World Series, Bob Gibson would start games 2, 5 and 7, pitching 27 of the possible 28 innings, compiling a 2-1 record, striking out 31 Yankees in the process. Gibson would lose a close one in game 2, being let down by the Cardinals bullpen in the 9th inning. On three days rest, Gibson would pitch a masterful 10 inning complete game, winning 5-2. He would follow that with a dominating win on only 2 days rest in game 7, pitching on fumes the last inning.
This was the beginning of the legend of Bob Gibson. He would earn the World Series MVP, which he would do again in 1967. For picking up the 1964 team and carrying them all the way to a World Championship, Gibson also earns the first Atlas Award.