“Get back behind the plate where you belong! The only thing you know about pitching is that you can’t hit it!!”
This invective-laced remark spewed from Bob Gibson’s lips when catcher Tim McCarver went to the mound to try and calm him down.
Gibby was tough.
Also known as “Hoot,” he was one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball history, more than willing to attack the hitter with a pitch, literally, if he deemed it necessary.
Or if he simply felt like it.
Marking the territory he believed he owned.
He didn’t like hitters, period.
In fact, he once said this to venerable New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson:
“Pitchers ought to stay away from hitters.
There’s no way Orlando Cepeda would have hit Juan Marichal as well as he did if Marichal hadn’t talked to him so much.”
He meant it.
The only hitter he had respect for was the late, great Frank Robinson who was Gibson in a hitter’s clothing.
“Frank Robinson…challenged you physically as soon as he stepped into the batter’s box, with half his body hanging over the plate…
His fearlessness played a tremendous part in making him the hitter he was…
He practically dared you to clip him or knock him down and, when you did, he’d use it as intensity…
He seemed to gain strength from it…
As a rule, I’m reluctant to express admiration for hitters, but I make an exception for Frank Robinson.”
Two peas in a pod.
Robinson died in 2019.
Gibson died in 2020.
McCarver died on February 16th.
He was 81.
The Memphis-born McCarver was a 2-time All-Star catcher and 2-time World Series champion, who became a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster.
His folksy, down-home humor blended nicely with a very deep understanding of the game.
And apparently, he could sing too.
Maybe that’s why Gibson deigned to tolerate him.
In spite of criticism–after all, nobody’s perfect–Tim McCarver was about as good as it gets in terms of being well-rounded, and in terms of being himself.
We’ll miss him.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in February 2023.]