Bob Gibson, Basketball Star

Bob Gibson in his college days

Hall of Famer Bob Gibson’s baseball credentials are, of course, well known: the 1.12 ERA in 1968, the record 17 strikeouts in game one of that year’s World Series, more than 3,000 career strikeouts and 251 career victories, two-time Cy Young Award winner, National League MVP, a dominating and fierce competitor. In honor of this year’s NCAA tournament and the focus on March Madness, here’s a look at another side of Bob Gibson perhaps you didn’t know about: the basketball star.

During his high school days in Omaha, Neb., Gibson played baseball and basketball and was on the track team. He was named to the All-State basketball team by two Nebraska newspapers and earned a basketball scholarship to Creighton University.

White and Blue Review, a website about Creighton sports, has an amazingly researched and detailed account of Gibson’s career at the school as part of its “What’s in a Number” series. As with the Cardinals, Gibson wore No. 45 at Creighton and also had his number retired by the school — one of only three numbers that have been retired by the men’s basketball team.

Gibson majored in sociology at Creighton and played basketball his entire time there. During his junior season, he averaged 22 points per game. He was the inaugural member of the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame. During the spring of 1957, Gibson attracted attention for both his basketball and baseball skills. He received a $3,000 bonus to sign with the Cardinals and made his minor league debut that season. During baseball’s off-season, he signed with the Harlem Globetrotters. He roomed with famed Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon and became famous for his backhanded dunks.

White and Blue Review has more on Gibson’s basketball career:

“I thought Bob was a better basketball player than a baseball player,” Lemon told the World-Herald in 2005. “I think Bob could have played with any NBA team. He was that good.”

Gibson, confident as always, agreed with that assessment. “I don’t know about being an All-Star,” he said in the same article. “But I would have played in the NBA.”

In a little-known story, before signing with the Globetrotters for the 1957-58 season, the Minneapolis Lakers had sent Gibson a detailed questionnaire — a  job application, in essence — which he “meticulously filled out and submitted. I was excited as hell, but I never heard from them.”

Gibson only played for the Globetrotters for one season. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine offered Gibson $4,000 to stop playing basketball, which he accepted and reported to spring training in 1958. Gibson made his major league debut in 1959.

Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or e-mail Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

2 thoughts on “Bob Gibson, Basketball Star

  1. Bob Gibson now lives in the same town I do, Bellevue, Nebraska. Except his house in the Fontenelle neighborhood is a lot nicer than mine. Someday I might stroll by his house to see if he’s outside and could sign an autograph … but I’d be a little intimidated. I don’t care if he’s in his 70s, he’d probably fire a dirt clod at my head or something.

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