Bob Gibson Display at the Baseball Hall of Fame

The Intriguing 1968 World Series

The 1968 World Series is an interesting one for the fact that, while it wasn’t loaded with classics, it’s still filled with story lines and moments that make this feel like a great World Series.

For starters this is the last World Series where the first place teams from each league play automatically in the World Series. Every year after there is a play off before the championship round.

This is the first time Hall of Fame Tigers player Al Kaline got to play in the series after starting his MLB and Tigers career in 1953. This was the season that Bob Gibson set the ERA record in the modern era and on the other end was Denny McLain won 30 games and a Cy Young. The two matched up in the first game of the series. In this game Gibson struck out 17 batters which is still a single game record for a World Series game. (I have to add that I really like watching Gibson pitch. A lot of pitchers have a focused, dead eye stare when they’re on the mound but Gibson looked ready to fight on the mound. It was very clear the competitor he was as he looked ready to just beat his opponent. He pitched that way too, in watching game 1, Harry Caray (THAT Harry Caray) states that Gibson hasn’t thrown an off-speed pitch all game.

Now, I’m not sure if that’s true but Harry was well before his WGN not so sober days and he is very knowledgeable in his play by play. Plus in just watching watching him throw his wind up is so violent.

It’s a series in which the Cardinals held a 3-1 series lead before being forced into a game 7 (this happened the year before but St. Louis was able to outlast the Red Sox) In game 7 it featured Bob Gibson pitching the most important game of the season in his best year. Gibson, pitches what had to have been one of his worst games of the season and they end up losing. But one could argue that Gibson’s line looked worse than it was as there are some who feel that Curt Flood should have made the catch on a Jim Northrup triple. Flood does clearly misjudge the flyball and it definitely seems like he could have made the play if read perfectly but the ball is hit hard and any ball hit on a line straight at the fielder is going to be challenging to read. I don’t quite think it’s worthy of being considered on of the classic World Series mistakes (Your Bucker play, your Pesky hesitation, your $30,000 muff) It was this play, however, that led to issues between Flood and the Cardinals owner and kind of, sort of, got the ball rolling on free agency which is something that’s completely changed the sport.

In his first series ever after years of trying, Kaline made the most of it as he posted an OPS over 1.000. He knocked in 8 and hit .374. He took advantage in his one chance so it’s a great “climb to the mountaintop” kind of story. The matchup was one involving a team that hadn’t won a championship since 1945, and really one could argue that series has some taint to it as the league was somewhat watered down due to the War. (Members of the Chicago Cubs, the National League competitor in that series even stated they would have lost out to the Cardinals if it weren’t for the war) The other series win was in 1935 so and that was their only other championship. The Cardinals were going for their 3rd of the decade (the Cards won in 64 and 67) and their first ever time repeating as champions (the Cardinals have never repeated as champion which is somewhat surprising as they’ve had multiple famous eras and are the team with the second most World Series titles)

It’s one of my favorite story lines as it just kind of feels like a meaningful series for different reasons than a lot other series. It’s such a story line series as in a culmination of the past with ramifications on the future.

(As an aside, I’m a massive Chicago Cubs fan but, ugh, I can’t help but watch Lou Brock and Bob Gibson in this series and call myself a fan of theirs. Those guys could play)

Bob Gibson Display at the Baseball Hall of Fame

 

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