In 1972, at age 36, Bob Gibson lost his first five decisions, causing some to wonder whether he was finished as an effective player for the Cardinals. Instead, Gibson put together a remarkable season, leading Cardinals pitchers in wins and placing among the top five Cardinals hitters in home runs.
Gibson had 19 wins and five home runs for the 1972 Cardinals. He tied outfielder Luis Melendez for fourth on the club in home runs. The only Cardinals to hit more home runs than Gibson that season were catcher Ted Simmons (16), third baseman Joe Torre (11) and right fielder Bernie Carbo (seven).
Gibson, though, had far fewer at-bats (103) than Simmons (594), Torre (544), Melendez (332) and Carbo (302). It’s not a stretch to think Gibson would have led the 1972 Cardinals in home runs if he had gotten as many at-bats as an everyday player.
Gibson holds the Cardinals record for most home runs in a season by a pitcher. He hit five twice _ in 1965 and 1972.
During a Cardinals career from 1959-75, Gibson hit 24 regular-season home runs and two World Series home runs.
Here is a look at Gibson’s two five-home run seasons:
5 in 1965
_ May 16, Cardinals 6, Pirates 3, at Pittsburgh: In the ninth, with the Cardinals ahead, 5-3, Gibson hit a solo home run off Tommie Sisk. Gibson got a complete-game win even though he yielded 10 hits. Boxscore
_ June 27, Cardinals 8, Cubs 0, at St. Louis: In the second, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Gibson hit a two-run home run off former teammate Ernie Broglio. In pitching the shutout, Gibson struck out 12, including Ron Santo twice. Boxscore
_ Aug. 15, Cardinals 12, Reds 7, at St. Louis: In the second, with the Reds ahead, 3-1, Gibson hit a three-run home run off Sammy Ellis. Gibson yielded seven runs in seven innings, but the Cardinals scored eight in the eighth. Reliever Ray Washburn got the win. Boxscore
_ Aug. 31, Cardinals 3, Cubs 0, at Chicago: In the fifth, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Gibson hit a solo home run off Dick Ellsworth. Gibson pitched a two-hit shutout. The Cubs got back-to-back singles by Don Landrum and Joey Amalfitano with two outs in the sixth. Boxscore
_ Sept. 29, Cardinals 8, Giants 6, at San Francisco: In the eighth, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-0, Gibson hit a grand slam off Gaylord Perry. Gibson gave up five runs in 8.1 innings and got the win. Boxscore
Much ado in ’72
_ June 4, Cardinals 4, Dodgers 0, at Los Angeles: In the ninth, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Dal Maxvill singled with two outs and Gibson followed with a home run off Pete Richert. Gibson pitched a five-hit shutout. Bill Buckner and Wes Parker each singled twice for the Dodgers. Boxscore
_ June 21, Cardinals 14, Padres 3, at St. Louis: In the seventh, with the Cardinals ahead, 10-1, Carbo walked, Maxvill singled and Gibson hit a three-run home run off Mark Schaeffer. Boxscore
The win was Gibson’s 211th, moving him ahead of Jesse Haines and into first place all-time among Cardinals pitchers.
“What I enjoy most about the record is being able to stay with one club long enough to win that many games,” Gibson said to Dave Johnson of the Burlington (Iowa) Hawk Eye. “The longevity factor means more to me than breaking some guy’s record.”
According to the book “Gibson’s Last Stand,” the Cardinals’ ace “pitched most of the game with a pulled hamstring” after scoring on a Lou Brock triple in the second inning.
Stan Landes was the home plate umpire for Gibson’s record-setting win. Landes also was the home plate umpire when Gibson got his first career win on July 30, 1959, at Cincinnati.
_ July 12, Cardinals 7, Braves 0, at St. Louis: In the fourth, with the Cardinals ahead, 3-0, Gibson and Brock hit back-to-back solo home runs off Ron Schueler. Gibson pitched a six-hit shutout in a game played in less than two hours.
“It doesn’t take Gibson long to embarrass you,” Braves manager Lum Harris told the Associated Press.
Said Braves pinch-hitter Jim Breazeale, who struck out against Gibson: “I didn’t even need to carry a bat up there.” Boxscore
_ July 21, Cardinals 2, Braves 1, at Atlanta: With the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Gibson led off the sixth with a home run off George Stone for the decisive run. Gibson pitched a complete game and earned his 11th consecutive win. Darrell Evans hit a home run in the seventh for the run off Gibson. Boxscore
_ Aug. 30, Giants 3, Cardinals 2, at St. Louis: Gibson led off the sixth with a home run against Jim Willoughby, tying the score at 1-1. The Giants rallied with two runs in the ninth. Gibson struck out 14, including Dave Kingman twice. Boxscore
Previously: Cardinals pitchers enjoy grand slam streak