Gibson’s Last Stand Review
Doug Feldmann’s book, Gibson’s Last Stand is a trip back through my formative years as a Cardinal fan and baseball fan. The book covers events involving the Cardinals from 1969 through 1975—the year of Bob Gibson’s retirement. The book covers things I’d forgotten about and events that didn’t register with an eight year old baseball fan.
What happened to the 1960’s Cardinals after winning consecutive National League Pennants in ’67 and ’68? Events of those years are still a good discussion subject when I get together with other Cardinal fans from that era.
As a third grader in the late winter of 1969, I was convinced that the Cardinals would win this brand new National League Eastern Division. But, a series of events after the 1968 World Series degraded the Cardinals chances. Some of the things that happened were easy for an eight year old to understand, some were not. I could understand why fans were upset about several key members of the team being late to spring training. Those holdouts, especially by a couple members of the starting rotation likely contributed to a very slow start.
Feldmann’s book brought back memories about my first trips to Busch Stadium. He writes about some of Richie Allen’s misadventures with the Phillies and with the Cardinals. Allen sat out the first Cardinal game I attended on May 3, 1969 after not showing up at the ballpark on Friday night. I knew the ’69 Cardinals started slowly. Until I read the book, I didn’t realize that they were 1 and 12 at Busch through the games of May 4. Turns out that the horrible April at home kept the Cardinals from being a very active participant in the legendary Cub collapse that September.
I could understand that Curt Flood didn’t want to leave St. Louis. Some of Flood’s other problems were things that didn’t register with me. Orlando Cepeda’s off field problems were something I didn’t learn of until many years later. Analyzing the failure of 1969 Cardinals is still something Cardinal fan friends of mine engage in every now and then. The book details the Flood trade and the fallout.
Turns out that spring training was a time of much drama with the Cardinals of that era. Injuries, holdouts and Mike Shannon’s illness were the news items out of St. Petersburg in 1970. Spring Training 1972 brought huge amounts of drama and trades of talented young lefthanders Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss. Both went on to dominant careers. Those two moves did much to keep the Cardinals out of October baseball until 1982. Feldmann’s book is a solid overview based largely on the newspaper reporting of the era. I commend him for filling in the blanks in this seamhead’s memories of his formative years as a Cardinal fan and baseball fan.
If you find yourself looking at the ’67 and ’68 Cardinals and asking why they didn’t get back to post season, this book supplies many of the answers.