PITCH BY PITCH: MY VIEW OF ONE UNFORGETTABLE GAME can be described simply — it’s Bob Gibson, unfiltered, brash, confidence still oozing with every word, walking the reader pitch by pitch through Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.
It’s a great idea for a book, and Bob Gibson and Lonnie Wheeler execute the concept with thoughtfulness, humor and an eye for detail.
The parts where Gibson walks us through the game pitch by pitch, outlining his approach to each batter, interesting as they are, aren’t even the best parts. The real juice is when Gibson is telling stories about the personalities involved, talking about his teammates or opponents, and what they were like off the field. That’s when I was most engaged, most interested in Gibson’s perspective — when i got an opportunity to glimpse what it was like to be a Major League Baseball player in 1968.
Of course, that’s not to say that the play-by-play was uninteresting. Gibson is clearly rewatching the television broadcast of the game as he relays his thoughts. As a baseball fan, it’s fascinating to hear how Gibson approached each at-bat, each hitter, as he struck out 17 batters en route to a Game 1 World Series victory. It also shows how imperfect an art it is, even for a battery as incredible as Gibson and McCarver. Gibson details how one pitch sets up the next pitch, and how the previous at-bat impacts his pitch selection. It gets especially interesting when Gibson and McCarver attempt to get into the head of the hitter, avoiding certain pitches because they know that the batter knows that Pitch #1 sets up Pitch #2, so maybe they should go with Pitch #3, though the batter may be aware of their thinking so maybe they should go back to Pitch#1.
Nonetheless, the most interesting aspect of the game is the personalities involved. From Denny McClain to Lou Brock to Curt Flood to Norm Cash to Dick McAuliffe to Roger Maris, the game is packed with talented ballplayers and curious personalities that all made their impact on the history of Major League Baseball. As someone born almost 15 years after this game was played, it was fascinating to learn more about the familiar names I’ve heard through the years.
If you’re interested in the teams or this era of baseball, and you love the idea of hearing from one of the game’s greatest legends as he walks through one of his most historic performances, you will enjoy this book. It’s well-written, thoughtful, and well-paced, and deserves its place on the bookshelves of St. Louis Cardinals fans and baseball historians alike.