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Gibson's Last Stand

The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975

Doug Feldmann

Publication Year: 2011

 
During star-pitcher Bob Gibson’s most brilliant season, the turbulent summer of 1968, he started thirty-four games and pitched every inning in twenty-eight of them, shutting out the opponents in almost half of those complete games. After their record-breaking season, Gibson and his teammates were stunned to lose the 1968 World Series to the Detroit Tigers. For the next six years, as Bob Gibson struggled to maintain his pitching excellence at the end of his career, changes in American culture ultimately changed the St. Louis Cardinals and the business and pastime of baseball itself.

 

Set against the backdrop of American history and popular culture, from the protests of the Vietnam War to the breakup of the Beatles, the story of the Cardinals takes on new meaning as another aspect of the changes happening at that time. In the late 1960s, exorbitant salaries and free agency was threatening to change America’s game forever and negatively impact the smaller-market teams in Major League Baseball. As the Cardinals’ owner August A. Busch Jr. and manager Albert “Red” Schoendienst attempted to reinvent the team, restore its cohesiveness, and bring new blood in to propel the team back to contention for the pennant, Gibson remained the one constant on the team.

 

In looking back on his career, Gibson mourned the end of the Golden Era of baseball and believed that the changes in the game would be partially blamed on him, as his pitching success caused team owners to believe that cash-paying customers only wanted base hits and home runs. Yet, he contended, the shrinking of the strike zone, the lowering of the mound, and the softening of the traditional rancor between the hitter and pitcher forever changed the role of the pitcher in the game and created a more politically correct version of the sport.

 

Throughout Gibson’s Last Stand, Doug Feldmann captivates readers with the action of the game, both on and off the field, and interjects interesting and detailed tidbits on players’ backgrounds that often tie them to famous players of the past, current stars, and well-known contemporary places. Feldmann also entwines the teams history with Missouri history: President Truman and the funeral procession for President Eisenhower through St. Louis; Missouri sports legends Dizzy Dean, Mark McGwire, and Stan “the Man” Musial; and legendary announcers Harry Caray and Jack Buck. Additionally, a helpful appendix provides National League East standings from 1969 to 1975.

 

Bob Gibson remains one of the most unique, complex, and beloved players in Cardinals history. In this story of one of the least examined parts of his career—his final years on the team—Feldmann takes readers into the heart of his complexity and the changes that swirled around him.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. 8-9

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

With little knowledge of what it would launch in the subsequent years of my life, I attended my first St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on June 19, 1974, at the age of four. After scurrying my legs as quickly as possible to stay with my family up the ...

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Acknowledgments

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p. xiii-xiii

The author wishes to thank all the talented newspaper writers who have covered the Cardinals over the years, especially those whose resources contributed the most to this book—Neal Russo, Ed Wilks, Mike Eisenbath, and of ...

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1. Like Family

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pp. 1-7

The Cardinal players were uncommonly proud to be part of those [1960s] teams. . . . [T]hey won through intelligence, playing hard and aggressively, and because they had a sense of purpose that cut across racial lines in a way that was still extremely unusual in the ...

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2. Becoming a Business

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pp. 8-34

A few weeks after the Cardinals’ World Series loss, a cold, rainy evening blanketed the St. Louis area on November 3, 1968. Harry Caray, owner of the team’s beloved radio voice since World War II, was taking a nighttime stroll along ...

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3. “A Well-Paid Slave Is Still a Slave”

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pp. 35-64

the Cardinals on top, as Devine was ordered by Busch to continue the overhaul, and in no uncertain terms, the message was sent that no one’s job was ...

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4. Nephritis

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pp. 65-101

Just over a week after Shannon’s return to the lineup, Allen on May 23 was challenging for the National League lead with a .317 batting average. In addition, in returning across the diamond to the first base bag with Shannon resuming his duties at third ...

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5. “I’ll Never Throw a No-Hitter”

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pp. 102-136

Part of Devine’s plan to return the Cardinals to glory was to also return “small ball” as the team’s offensive core and to discard the experiment of home run baseball in St. Louis. Thus, four days after the close of the 1970 regular season on ...

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6. Loss of the Lefties

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pp. 137-169

Capped by his twenty-win season in 1971, Steve Carlton was indeed riding high by early 1972. He had invested ten years in the Cardinals’ organization, signing as a nineteen-year-old in 1963 and working for the last five full seasons ...

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7. Close to the Top Once Again

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pp. 170-196

By 1973, it had been nearly ten years since the Cardinals had faced the New York Yankees in their tremendous World Series clash, the last hurrah for the proud Yankee teams led by Mantle and Whitey Ford. As the Cardinals continued to ...

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8. Finished

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pp. 197-205

The winterlike conditions would make Jarry Park unplayable on Wednesday, October 2, 1974, the final day of the regular season. With club executives not wishing to pay for an extra night in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal if unnecessary, the team ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 206-210

After falling short of the division title once again, Busch felt it was time to make a more drastic move. “There are times, regardless of one’s capabilities, when a different perspective is in order,” Gussie would say on October 5, 1976, three days after the ...

Notes

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pp. 211-221

Bibliography

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pp. 223-224

Appendix: National League East Standings, 1969–1975

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pp. 225-226

Index

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pp. 227-237


E-ISBN-13: 9780826272607
E-ISBN-10: 0826272606
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219503
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219500

Page Count: 254
Illustrations: 14 illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1
Series Title: SPORTS & AMERICAN CULTURE