In 17 years with the Cardinals, Bob Gibson hit 102 batters with pitches. In 1,489 plate appearances, Gibson was hit by a pitch just eight times.
Three of those times, Gibson was hit by Phillies pitchers playing for manager Gene Mauch. Two of those incidents involved left-hander Dennis Bennett. The last one, 50 years ago, led to Gibson being ejected and Bennett calling the Cardinals ace a “chicken” and a “coward.”
Mauch and Gibson were intense competitors. In a June 1962 game, Gibson was hit by a pitch from Bennett, then a Phillies rookie. Three months later, the Phillies’ Art Mahaffey plunked Gibson with a pitch. Mauch, then in his third season as Phillies manager, was trying to instill toughness and a winning attitude in a team that had lost 107 of 154 games in 1961. Gibson, in his second full season in the Cardinals’ rotation in 1962, was establishing himself as a consistent winner.
By 1964, both the Cardinals and Phillies were contenders. On May 4, 1964, the Phillies went into St. Louis tied with the Giants for first place in the National League. The Cardinals were 2.5 games behind.
Bennett was matched against Gibson in the series opener. In the second inning, Curt Flood led off with a home run. The next batter was Julian Javier. Bennett delivered a knockdown pitch that forced Javier to drop to the ground.
“They were digging in on me and I had to protect myself,” Bennett said to The Sporting News. “… I missed Javier by just a couple of inches or they might have had to carry him out.”
First up for the Phillies in the third was Bennett. Gibson’s first pitch to him was high and tight. Bennett didn’t move but glared at Gibson, according to United Press International. Gibson’s second delivery, another high fastball, backed Bennett away from the plate. Bennett moved toward the mound before he was intercepted by home plate umpire Doug Harvey, who issued a warning to Gibson.
“Sure, I dusted him off,” Gibson later told the Associated Press. “But he threw right at Javier’s head. Bennett doesn’t have that bad control. I just wanted to let Bennett know I had to protect our batters.”
Gibson also told United Press International that Mauch “is always telling his pitchers to throw at the hitters. They deserve to get some of their own medicine once in a while.”
In the bottom half of the third, Ken Boyer hit a two-run triple off Bennett. Jack Baldschun relieved and yielded a RBI-single to Flood, increasing the Cardinals’ lead to 5-1.
An inning later, Gibson batted with one out and the bases empty. Baldschun’s first pitch nearly clipped Gibson’s ankle.
In his book “Stranger to the Game” (1994, Viking), Gibson wrote that Mauch “knew that I was at the boiling point. He had been agitating me all night from the bench, trying his best to get me angrier and angrier.”
Aiming higher, Baldschun hit Gibson in the thigh with the next pitch. Gibson flipped the bat underhanded toward the pitcher. Baldschun caught it with his glove hand. Harvey immediately ejected Gibson.
Said Harvey to The Sporting News: “He had a lethal weapon out there. I’m happy to say Gibson did not throw the bat violently. But he did throw it to the mound.”
“I wasn’t trying to hit him with the bat, but I was mad, hurt and just plain disgusted with the whole business,” Gibson said to the Associated Press. “I tossed the bat just the way hitters do when they’re disgusted after striking out.”
In his book, Gibson wrote, “Without thinking, I flung my bat in Baldschun’s direction … Naturally, I was ejected, which is exactly what Mauch was counting on.”
Bennett told United Press International, “Gibson’s nothing but a chicken … If he wants to fight, he ought to put up his fists instead of throwing the bat … That’s a coward’s way out if I ever saw one.”
Said Baldschun of his pitch to Gibson: “I figure he had one brush coming.”
Mauch told The Sporting News, “I’ve been popping off all over the country about how great a competitor Gibson is, but he didn’t show me much this time.”
The Cardinals responded quickly and effectively.
On the first pitch Baldschun threw after Gibson was ejected, Carl Warwick homered, scoring Jerry Buchek, who pinch ran for Gibson, and extending the St. Louis lead to 7-1.
The Cardinals cruised to a 9-2 victory. Roger Craig got the win, pitching five innings in relief of Gibson. The ejection was costly to Gibson _ and not for the $100 he was fined. He finished the regular season with 19 wins. If he hadn’t flipped the bat, he would have remained in the game and qualified for the win with another inning pitched. Adding that win would have given him his first 20-win season. Boxscore
“Six pitchers reached for their gloves in the dugout when Gibson was thrown out with that lead,” Cardinals left-hander Curt Simmons told The Sporting News.
Gibson and the Cardinals, though, got their revenge against Mauch and the Phillies.
In first place on Sept. 20, 1964, and leading the Cardinals and Reds by 6.5 games with 12 to play, the Phillies went into a 10-game losing streak. St. Louis clinched the pennant by beating the Mets on the last day of the season, with Gibson getting the win in relief.
Gibson went on to win Games 5 and 7 of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees and was named winner of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Mauch managed for 26 seasons in the big leagues, never winning a pennant and, therefore, never getting a chance to experience a World Series championship.
Previously: 1964 Cardinals were menace to Dennis Bennett