Armour: The unexpected hero of the 1968 World Series

From SABR member Mark Armour at The National Pastime Museum on October 9, 2017:

Has there ever been a World Series in which the two biggest stars in baseball were the starting pitchers in Game 1 (and potentially Games 4 and 7)? I maintain that it happened just once—appropriately enough, in 1968. The Year of the Pitcher.

As it happens, this was my first World Series. I had become a fan that summer, and I still recall my sadness listening to the final Red Sox game on the radio and realizing that I would have six months to wait for the next one. I was nearly eight, and the pattern of my baseball life had begun. Delaying the offseason just a bit, there was this World Series thing, so I figured I might as well watch.

The 1968 World Series pitted the AL champion Tigers and the NL champion Cardinals. There were no playoffs—the regular season ended on Sunday and the Series started on Wednesday afternoon. All games took place in the afternoon. I had to rush home from third grade to see the five weekday games. I rooted for the American League.

The story of the 1968 baseball season was tremendous pitching or, if you prefer, terrible hitting. There were countless individual pitching achievements—no-hitters, shutout streaks, strikeouts—but the two biggest baseball stories, and baseball stars, were Denny McLain and Bob Gibson. The two men could not have been more different: McLain was brash and cocky, craving his newfound attention. Gibson was all glare and didn’t seem to care if anyone liked him (though his teammates did).

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Originally published: October 9, 2017. Last Updated: October 9, 2017.