Bob Gibson starred at Omaha Tech and Creighton in both baseball and basketball before embarking upon a Hall of Fame career for the St. Louis Cardinals, a journey that included spending parts of three seasons with the Omaha Cardinals minor league team. He also played basketball briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters. With St. Louis, Gibson won 251 games, struck out 3,117 batters, won an MVP Award (1968), two Cy Young Awards (1968 and 1970) and nine Gold Gloves. And he was perhaps the best World Series pitcher ever, with a 7-2 record, 1.89 ERA, eight complete games in nine starts, and a single-game record of 17 strikeouts. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981, the long-time Sarpy County resident has been honored with a statue outside Werner Park, which was unveiled Thursday.
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Q: Does that do something to you, to see yourself in bronze?
A: More so than just seeing me in bronze, the fact that I've been honored like this, it seems like a little more to me. Of course, looking at the statue, that's wonderful. But the gift has been the support I've gotten from the people in Omaha. That's wonderful.
Q: What does it mean to have (former Cardinals teammates) Tim McCarver, Bill White and Joe Torre here?
A: These ballplayers who came here, they were more than teammates. They came to be kind of family. And I still look at them now as family.
Q: What got you started to professional success?
A: The steppingstone to the success I had as a professional was getting the opportunity to go to Creighton University. I was trying to get into Indiana University at the time, and they had their quota (of black players), which was one — and after watching them play, they got the wrong one. Creighton gave me a scholarship, and that was the thing that got me going. Four years at Creighton, basketball, baseball. More than anything I think it taught me how to be a decent human being, and hopefully I am one.
Q: If you had grown up in this era of specialization, do you think you would have become a basketball player or a baseball player?
A: These guys keep getting bigger, so I doubt I would have made it (in basketball). Too short. They've got guys 6-8 now bringing it down the floor. I would have loved to have had the chance to play professional basketball, other than with the Globetrotters, but I think I did OK with what I did.
Q: What memories stand out to you from your younger days in sports?
A: My brother, Josh, was our coach, and he had all us kids from the housing projects playing on a team, and we used to travel from Omaha to Woodbine, Iowa, and several little places in Iowa and Nebraska. To me, getting a chance to get out and see how people lived other than the housing projects was an experience. To me, that was probably the most exciting thing that ever happened. We were 10, 11, 12, 13.
Q: What do you think of Werner Park?
A: It's a replica of what they're doing all over the country. There's parks just like this everywhere. ... Nice park. Holds like 8,000. They don't need any more than that.
Q: Is there anybody (playing) today who has some of the same approach that you did?
A: I think the worst thing you can do is to try to compare people and players. I don't look for somebody who I think pitches like I did, or hit like Bill (White) or caught like Tim (McCarver). I enjoy seeing good athletes going out and doing what they do best.
Q: What is your opinion on pitch counts?
A: Pitch count (stinks). You're tired after four innings, so what difference does it make how many pitches you throw? I had a game where I threw 196 pitches, but I pitched 14 innings, so what's the difference? They counted the pitches (then), but they just wouldn't take you out when you were tired. (Cardinals manager) Red (Schoendienst) came to the mound sometimes and asked, “How do you feel?” And I'd say, “Well, that depends on who's in the bullpen.” I'd look down there and say, “No, I'm OK.”
Q: Which hitters gave you the most trouble?
A: Everyone thinks it's (Willie) Mays or (Hank) Aaron ... (but) when Aaron came up and there were guys on in scoring position, I'd look past him and pitch to somebody else. He hit home runs off me, but very seldom would he do it when it was time to win a ball game, because I wouldn't let him and I'd pitch to somebody else. The (type of) guy who gave me the toughest time was probably a left-handed hitter, a guy who didn't hit many home runs and didn't swing a lot, took a lot of pitches and worked the count and got it to the point where I eventually had to make them hit it. They were tougher. The big guys who could hit a lot of home runs, they swing at a lot of bad pitches, so they were a little easier to pitch to ... even though you sometimes pitched around them.
— Rob White