Bob Gibson becomes the second pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts

Written by: Andrew Kivette

He went in history down as one of the most decorated pitchers in Major League Baseball. On July 17, 1974, however, Bob Gibson joined a club that had previously only included one man when he recorded his 3,000th career strikeout.

Getting to 3,000 strikeouts for a pitcher is almost a lifetime achieve award in itself. Only 16 pitchers have reached the plateau of 3,000 Ks. A list of all-stars and Hall of Famers make up the 3,000-strikeout club, with John Smoltz most recently achieving the feat in 2008.

Almost 51 years separated the first two pitchers who racked up 3,000 strikeouts. Walter Johnson achieved the feat in July of 1923, while Gibson set down his 3,000th batter five decades later.

Gibson entered the July 17 night game at Busch Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds stuck on 2,999 strikeouts – one away from the career milestone. He didn’t have to wait long. With two out in the bottom of the second, Reds leadoff man Cesar Geronimo stepped to the plate. Gibson got Geronimo swinging, and like the 2,999 before him, Geronimo made the long walk back to the dugout.

In Gibson’s 17-year major league career, he tallied 3,117 strikeouts – all with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a major contributor in two world championships during his time in the Gateway to the West, winning the World Series Most Valuable Player award in both 1964 and 1967.

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“Gibby is one of baseball’s greatest competitors,” said former St. Louis teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member Stan Musial.

Gibson put together one of the best single season pitching performances ever in 1968, going 22-9 with a 1.12 earned run average. He struck out 268 batters in 1968 and in the process became the first National League pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1963 to win NL MVP honors and the NL Cy Young Award in the same season. Gibson would add one more Cy Young to his trophy case in 1970, the final year in a three-year stretch in which he won at least 20 games each season.

Spanning three decades of play, Gibson was a nine-time National League All-Star, and starting in 1965, he won nine straight Gold Glove Awards. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, appearing on 84 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballots.

“Bob was as good as any pitcher of his era. I always said he was the toughest pitcher I ever faced when I came into the league,” said former major leaguer Bobby Bonds. “If you need[ed] a man to win a big game, just hand the ball to Bob.”


Andrew Kivette was the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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