The mantle of the best pitcher in baseball is a title that is exchanged between a number of pitchers through the course of generations. With the game ever-changing, pitchers are forced to adapt and the only way to pinpoint the elite is through private recollections of those who faced them. Players of the 70s will nominate Nolan Ryan as the best pitcher of all time; while modern-day players will draw upon personal experience in naming the gritty Roger Clemens as the best ever. However, in the 60s, despite the fleeting star of Sandy Koufax, there was no pitcher a batter wanted to face less than the St. Louis Cardinals' Bob "Hoot" Gibson.
Famed for pitching 98-mph fastballs that painted the inside corners and the briskly beating hearts of batters cringing in fear as they stepped to the plate, Gibson, also famed for his frankness, wrote his equally candid memoirs in his autobiography, Stranger to the Game.
“Bob Gibson had five pitches: fastball, slider, curve, changeup and knockdown.”
While some claimed Gibson was a headhunter, you can't argue with the statistics. Winner of the Cy Young in 1968 and 1970, National League MVP in 1968, World Series MVP twice, Gold Glove winner nine times; the list of accolades speak for Gibson's themselves. But behind the glory and the Hall of Fame career, he was a man shaped by the racism that was so abundant in his youth.
Indeed, while the autobiography seems initially to dedicate itself to the glorification, deserved or not, of Gibson, it has a deeper meaning that is stated near the beginning of the book and reiterated throughout as he recollects memories from his childhood in the slums of Omaha, Nebraska.
This was a time when blacks were forced to drink from different fountains, sit in different parts of the bus, and were relegated to second-class citizens in a nation where all are supposed to be equal, wind blowing through their hair as they st…