HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Baseball Hall of Fame pitchers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton will be the headline guests October 11 and 12 when Hot Springs celebrates its Second Annual Baseball Weekend.
They will be joined by a fellow pitching legend, Al Hrabosky, as the city celebrates baseball and Hot Springs’ historic connection to the sport as The Birthplace of Major League Spring Training.
Other guests will include past Major League players from the state of Arkansas, according to Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs
“Hot Springs’ documented history as the place where Major League Baseball’s spring training began has gained worldwide credence,” Arrison said, “and the annual Baseball Weekend focuses the attention of baseball lovers and historians on our city. Our Historic Baseball Trail makes it easy for fans to visit the spots throughout Hot Springs where legends such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Honus Wagner came to take the thermal baths, work out on our mountain trails and play teams from other Major League cities in spring practice games.
“Our newly unveiled historic baseball mural on the side of the Craighead Laundry Building at Convention Boulevard and Broadway adds still another attraction to the sites on the Baseball Trail.”
Arrison said more details of Baseball Weekend would be forthcoming.
The weekend’s activities will be free and open to the public.
Bob Gibson, known as Gibby, may well have been the most intimidating pitcher in history. He was certainly one of the most successful. The Omaha native excelled at baseball and basketball in high school and played college hoops for Creighton University before a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters.
In 1957, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, and made his big-league debut in 1959.
A 15-game winner by 1962, Gibson began to take flight soon after. He won 18 games in 1963, and 19 in the Cardinals’ pennant winning season of 1964, when he went 9-2 down the stretch to lead the Redbirds. In the World Series against the Yankees, he went 2-1, winning Game Five at Yankee Stadium and then Game Seven at home on two days’ rest. He was named World Series MVP.
He was a 20-game winner in 1965 and ’66, winning the first of nine consecutive gold gloves in ’65. A broken ankle in July of 1967 slowed him down to a 13-7 record, including three wins late in the season to help the Cards clinch another pennant. He went 3-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in the Cardinals’ victory over the Red Sox, winning games 1, 4, and 7, and picking up his second World Series MVP award in two tries.
The year 1968 has come to be known as “The Year of the Pitcher,” and Bob Gibson was certainly the pitcher of the year. He went 22-9 with a sparkling ERA of 1.12, to go along with 268 strikeouts, 13 shutouts, 15 consecutive wins and a stretch of 92 innings in which he gave up just two runs. He was again 2-1 in the World Series, beating the Tigers in Games One and Four before going the distance in a Game Seven loss.
Gibson brought home both the 1968 Cy Young Award and the NL Most Valuable Player Awards, and, in the ultimate compliment, baseball actually lowered the mound the following season, because pitchers, led by Gibson, were dominating hitters and games were historically low-scoring.
Gibson bagged a second Cy Young Award in 1970 and pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates in 1971. Injuries were beginning to take their toll, however, and Gibson wound down with double figure victory totals in 1973 and ’74, before retiring in 1975. Gibson’s 17 years with the Cardinals netted 251 victories, 3,117 strikeouts, 56 shutouts, and an ERA of 2.91. He has served as a pitching coach for the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981, and the MLB All-Century Team in 1999.
Baseball players, especially pitchers, work hard to stay in shape during the off-season with cardio conditioning. But running just wasn’t for Steve Carlton.
Instead, Carlton, nicknamed “Lefty,” used martial arts and weightlifting as part of his conditioning program and got himself to a fitness level that allowed him to throw for 24 seasons in the big leagues. A focused competitor, Carlton used his biting slider and a great fastball to achieve excellence on the mound.
“Lefty was a craftsman, an artist,” said Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn. “He was a perfectionist. He painted a ballgame. Stroke, stroke, stroke, and when he got through it was a masterpiece.”
Born on Dec. 22, 1944, in Miami, Carlton signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963. He made the big league club in 1965. He appeared in both World Series appearances for the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968, earning a ring in 1967. In 1971, he had his first 20-win season and requested a contract of $60,000 for the following year.
"Auggie Busch traded me to the last-place Phillies over a salary dispute,” said Carlton. “I was mentally committed to winning 25 games with the Cardinals and now I had to rethink my goals. I decided to stay with the 25-win goal and won 27 of the Phillies 59 victories. I consider that season my finest individual achievement."
His first season in Philadelphia, Carlton led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts. It earned him his first Cy Young Award.
In 14-plus seasons with the Phillies, Carlton led the league in wins four times, winning 20 or more games four times. The 10-time All-Star would go on to win three more Cy Young Awards and a Gold Glove in 1981. On Sept. 24, 1983, he became just the 16th pitcher to win 300 games.
“Lefty has a hard time being human as a pitcher, so he became superhuman, and did things that were superhuman,” said his long-time Philadelphia battery-mate Tim McCarver.
He signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1986 and finished out his career with the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. He finished his career with 329 wins – second to only Warren Spahn among lefties – and 4,136 strikeouts.
He broke a record with 19 strikeouts in a game in 1969 and was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards. Carlton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Al Hrabosky played from 1970–1982 for the Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves. He currently the color commentator on Cardinals regular season broadcasts on FSN Midwest.
Hrabosky's nickname is The Mad Hungarian because of his unusual last name and colorful character.
Hrabosky was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 11th round of the 1967 amateur draft, but did not sign with the club. Two years later the Cardinals made him their first-round choice. Within a year, at the age of 20, he made his Major League debut, pitching a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres.
During his time with the Cardinals, Hrabosky became a fan favorite for his antics on the mound. Between each pitch he would turn his back to the batter, walk toward second base, vigorously rub the ball between his palms several times, take a deep breath and pound the ball into his mitt. He would then storm back to the mound, staring down the batter. Although the crowd would roar in delight, most batters were not fond of the pitcher's routine.
Hrabosky's best year was 1975 when he led the National League in saves with 22 (a career best) en route to winning the Sporting News "NL Fireman of the Year" award.
After eight seasons in St. Louis the Cardinals traded Hrabosky to the Kansas City Royals. Following just two years with the Royals, he was released and signed with the Atlanta Braves.
Early in his career with the Cardinals, Hrabosky enhanced his menacing appearance with long hair and a horseshoe mustache. However, when Vern Rapp became the Cardinals manager in 1977, Hrabosky had to cut his hair and shave the mustache.
Perhaps Hrabosky's most memorable performance came during an ABC Monday Night Baseball game on May 9, 1977, against the Cincinnati Reds. In the top of the ninth with the game tied at 5-5, Hrabosky allowed the first three hitters (all left-handed), Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen, to reach base and load the bases. As the Redbirds home crowd roared, Hrabosky went into his "Mad Hungarian" routine and proceeded to strike out right-handed power hitters George Foster, Johnny Bench and Bob Bailey. The Cardinals went on to win 6-5 on a Ted Simmons home run in the 10th inning.