August 1, 2019
I just read an article on Larry Brown Sports that related Bob Gibson’s thoughts about hitters who crowd the plate (“it’s your plate, not his!”) and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo in particular. Rizzo stands almost on top of the plate, and has led the league in HBP (hit-by-pitch). Yet he refuses to back off, daring pitchers to throw inside. Hell, he could get hit by inner-half strikes, he’s so close.
Gibson was texting with Cardinals announcer Dan McLaughlin (“don’t let him hover over the plate”) and all I can say is, you gotta love it. I would have loved to have seen Gibson deal with Derek Dietrich, another guy who intentionally stands close and refuses to get out of the way (and who has also led the league in HBP). Imagine what would happen if Dietrich tried his posing, bat-flip act against Gibson!
I wonder if Gibson and Don Drysdale and others who pitched inside could do so in today’s game, where any remotely close pitch incites entire teams and gets a rebuke/fine/suspension from Gibson’s old teammate Joe Torre, who should know better. Lord knows, we can’t make a hitter feel uncomfortable at the plate anymore. Let them stand on top of the plate, take 15 seconds to dig in, and cry like babies if the ball comes anywhere close to them.
And lest you think I am some wuss who doesn’t know what he’s talking about:
I played semipro ball for a season in the late 1970s. In my first at-bat in the league, the first pitch was a fastball, right at my left ear. “Welcome to the league, kid!”
It was a perfect knockdown pitch, and it had an unmistakable message behind it. My helmet flew off, and I ate some dirt.
Did I charge the mound or scream at the pitcher? No. I put my helmet back on and thought, “boy, they don’t mess around in this league!” And as I recall, I made an out, as I usually did, and thought nothing more of it. Message delivered.
One of my old-school baseball beliefs is that I believe in frontier justice on the baseball field. Stand too close? You might get hit. Admire a home run? You’re going to get a message sent to you. Dive across the plate? You might get straightened up.
All of those things were fundamental to Bob Gibson. There was no BS when he pitched. It was going to be a battle from first pitch to last.
For more than 100 years, those principles — the same ones so many lightweights whine about today — have stood the game in good stead. Let the players take care of “issues” between the lines.
I’m glad to see that Bob Gibson is still speaking his mind. I just wish more people in the game would listen to him.
He remains the gold standard for what a fierce, intense competitor should be in baseball.
You gotta love that man — even at age 83 and battling pancreatic cancer, he is still “bringin’ it” with the best of them.
Long may he wave!