A terrific profile on the great Bob Gibson – one of the most intense competitors of all time – from the New Yorker back in 1980.
“He was tough and uncompromising,” White told me. “Koufax and Don Drysdale were just the same, with variations for their personalities—they had that same hard state of mind. But I think a great black athlete is sometimes tougher in a game, because every black has had it tough on the way up. Any black player who has a sense of himself, who wants to make something of himself, has something of Bob Gibson’s attitude. Gibson had a chip on his shoulder out there—which was good. He was mean enough. He had no remorse. I remember when he hit Jim Ray Hart on the shoulder—he was bending away from a pitch—and broke his collarbone. Bob didn’t say anything to him. I’d been his roomie for a while on the Cards, but the first time I batted against him, when I went over to the Phillies, he hit me in the arm. It didn’t surprise me at all.”
I had been wondering how to bring up the business of his knocking down his old roommate Bill White, but now Gibson offered the story of his own accord. “Even before Bill was traded, I used to tell him that if he ever dived across the plate to swing at an outside pitch, the way he liked to, I’d have to hit him,” he said. “And then, the very first time, he went for a pitch that was this far outside and swung at it, and so I hit him on the elbow with the next pitch. [Some years earlier, Gibson hit Duke Snider after similar provocation, and broke his elbow.] Bill saw it coming, and he yelled ‘Yaah!’ even before it got him. And I yelled over to him, ‘You son of a bitch, you went for that outside ball! That pitch, that part of the plate, belongs to me! If I make a mistake inside, all right, but the outside is mine and don’t you forget it.’ He said, ‘You’re crazy,’ but he understood me.”