Q&A: Pete LaCock vs Bob Gibson [and Japan]

Pete LaCock is a good storyteller. The former first baseman is prone to embellishment — Retrosheet doesn’t see eye-to-eye to with some of his recollections — but his tales are certainly entertaining. The son of long-time Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall, LaCock played for the Chicago Cubs (1972-1976), for the Kansas City Royals (1977-1980) and for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales, in Japan (1981).


LaCock on battling Bob Gibson:

Billy Williams had broken his ankle, so the team was looking for a left-handed hitter. I had been hitting the ball pretty well, so they brought me up from Double-A. I was 19 years old. The game was in Chicago, and Bob Gibson was pitching for the Cardinals.

“It was 3-2, bottom of the ninth, and we had runners on second and third with two outs. Our pitcher was due up and Don Kessinger was the next hitter. He wasn’t a very good left-handed hitter — he was a better right-handed hitter — and Gibson had already struck him out a few times.

“I figured they were going to walk me. My run didn’t mean anything and putting me on meant they could get an out an any base. They had a meeting on the mound and somebody said, ‘Does anybody know this guy?’ Gibson said, ‘If they’re bringing in a rookie, I’m pitching to him.’ Ted Simmons was the catcher, and he told me this. When he comes back behind the plate, he goes, ‘They’re going to pitch to you, kid.’ I said, ‘Great.’

“First pitch, base hit, game over. I’m out there giving high fives.

“About three weeks later we go to St. Louis. I’m hitting third and Gibson is pitching again. I’m looking for my bats and all they’re gone. I was panicking. Billy Williams is sitting there with a cast on his ankle and he’s got them. He goes, ‘Pete, there are two outs and nobody on. You’ll make baseball history. Go to the plate without a bat and just stand there.’ I said, ‘You’re crazy, man. Just give me the bat.’ He said, ‘Gibson is going to hit you.’ I said, ‘No he‘s not. He forgot about it.’

“First pitch, Wham! He nailed me.

“Next time up, I’m thinking he figures I’m going to be scared, but I’m not. I’m just looking for a pitch to hit. Well, he gets me about two inches below where he hit me the first time.

“[In 1975], they had a Bob Gibson Day, in St. Louis. They gave him a big parade, a motor home, a bust of his head. The whole nine yards. He didn’t start that game — he was pitching out of the bullpen at the time — but in a 6-6 tie, they started warming him up.

“The bases were loaded with nobody out. Gibson comes in. First guy pops up, second guy strikes out. I’m the next hitter. The count runs to 3-2 and I hit a grand slam home run to beat him. It was the last pitch he ever threw.

“He comes off the mound and is calling me everything you can imagine. He’s following me around the bases, and by the time I get to third, I’m almost walking. I thought we were going to fight. I had charged the mound against him before. Twice, actually.

“The surface was Astroturf, and my home run hit the mezzanine and rolled back to the infield. Ted Sizemore was the second baseman, and he got the ball and flipped it over to Gibson. As I was walking into to the dugout, he threw it at me.

“About 15 years later, we’re doing an old-timer’s game in Royals Stadium. Bob Feller is pitching. I walk up to hit, and when I get up to the plate, Gibson comes out of the dugout. He goes to the mound and starts warming up. I’m wondering what in the Sam Hill? First pitch, he drills me.

“I ended up coaching with the Cardinals. Buddy Bates was the clubhouse guy, and when I go into the coaches room, I see that I’m lockering right next to Gibson. I’m going, ‘Buddy, this ain’t going to work.’ He’s saying, `Yeah, yeah, this is going to be good.’ The whole time I was there, I don’t think Gibson said one word to me.

“Anyway, the first time I charged him, I didn’t get halfway there. Ted Simmons jumped on my back. I ended up on the bottom of the pile and got my ass kicked. The other time, I figured I’d walk half way to first, then take a left. I started to, but Shag Crawford — he was the umpire — was right behind me. He knew I was planning to go after him. I knew [Gibson’s reputation] but in baseball you get brave and you get stupid.”


On bean balls and brawling in Japan:

Charlie Manuel and I both played in Japan. Charlie was getting ready to break Sadaharu Oh’s record, and they hit him in the face [with a pitch] and broke his jaw. He had surgery and a few days later he was back at the stadium. He had a football helmet with a face mask.

“The interpreter came over with the kid who hit him. He walked up to Charlie, and Charlie thought maybe they were there so the kid could apologize. The interpreter said, ‘Charlie, you can hit him.’ Charlie said, ‘What do you mean I can hit him? Get the [expletive] out of here; I don’t want to do that.’

“I had been hit a bunch of times, and I told Charlie I was going to charge one of these guys. Charlie stutters a little, and he goes, ‘Da-da-da don’t do that.’ I asked why. He said to come over to his house and he’d show me the replays.

“The pitch hits him high, up in the shoulder. Charlie throws his bat down and takes off running at this guy, and I swear, the pitcher kind of puts his chin out. Charlie hits him — Wham! — and knocks him back off the mound. Charlie whips around, but every player had stayed at his position. The umpires stayed in position. The players in the dugout stayed there. Charlie said, ‘I turned around and was looking for someone to fight, but there wasn’t anybody there.’ I felt like a fa-fa-fa [expletive]-ing fool. I didn’t know what to do, so I went to first base. They brought in another pitcher and the game went on.

“I never did charge the mound over there, but I did get into a fight against the Tokyo Giants. I came running around third base — I was going to be the winning run — and their catcher got the ball ahead of me. I knocked him flying — Boom! — and the ball came out. He got up and pushed me, so I hit him. All of a sudden it felt like I was fighting everybody. I was, because my team never left the dugout. The only guy to come out to help me was our other American player. Roy White and Gary Thomasson were on the other team, and they were pulling me away, saying, ‘Pete, you aren’t going to win this fight.’

“Once, I was playing first base and a ball bounced up and I caught it under my armpit, but then dropped it. The umpire called him out. The opposing manager came running out. He grabbed the umpire and slapped him, and threw him to the ground. I’m going, ‘Whoa!’ Then he goes back to the dugout and sits down. Didn’t kicked out. I saw some crazy things in Japan.”

Print This Post

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

16 Responses to “Q&A: Pete LaCock vs Bob Gibson [and Japan]”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Big Jgke says:

    This is my favourite so far. Excellent!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Synovia says:

    I know Gibson was a “toughguy”, but from this, it sounds like he was a psychopath.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Elbo says:

    I don’t understand the entertainment value in supposedly factual stories that are simply untrue. I thought this kind of thing went out with Bill Stern.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Choo says:

      Dude, you are crazy. Pete LaCock is la balls.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • mcbrown says:

      Facts are never of primary importance to a good story.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Travis L says:

      Personally, I like the Mark Twain storytelling style. It’s not like I’m going to take anecdotes as truth, anyhow (that’s what data is for).

      But sometimes things are more entertaining when they’re a tall tale.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Hurtlockertwo says:

    According to babeball reference and gamelogs and box scores the part about Bob Gibson is simpley not true.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • LaCock does misremember a few details, but he did hit a grand slam off Gibson in his final game. Per Retrosheet, Gibson faced one batter after the home run. Bob Gibson Day was held during that same series, but not on that same day.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Choo says:

      Neither was Inglourious Basterds, but damn that was a good story. The idea that Bob Gibson, at any given moment and to this very day, could walk out of a grocery store and drill Pete LaCock with a fastball, is effing hilarious.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Al Yellon says:

    I wrote up some of the real history behind LaCock’s stories. The stories are entertaining. Some of them are even sort of true.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JD says:

      Your writing probably destroys any entertainment value the stories might have had. Go gamecast some random game from 1985, baloney breath.

      You. Are. The worst, Al Yellon.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Fork says:

        Au contraire, Al is amazing.

        He can take a major league baseball player telling stories about Hall of Famers, and make it all about him.

        That takes talent.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. jj says:

    Nice stories but let’s see if they are facts:

    According to BBRef, Lacock was 3 – 10 with 1 HBP, 1 HR and 4 RBI vs Gibson, so something isn’t quite right here. The Grandslam was in 1975 it was not the last pitch he threw as Gibson retired Kessinger after the GS. But it was Gibson’s last game.

    I see no walkoff hits vs Gibson by Lacock. There was a game on 9/22/1974 where he got a hit scored a run – the Cubs would lose that one. on 9/27 he got a hit and was HBP the cubs would lose that 10 – 4.

    Lots of games pass and memories are never as good as we would like them to be.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Fiery Furnaces says:

    Yes, deeply entertaining. I don’t care if only 10% is true.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. KJOK says:

    There’s actually some truth in some of the details. Gibson did indeed get a motorhome on Bob Gibson day – he parked it in his apartment complex for the rest of the season I think, and that complex was not far from my house.

    And Simmons would usually tackle anyone who charged a Cardinal pitcher – he didn’t let many get very far towards the mound.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. KJOK says:

    Actually Simmons used more of a bearhug than a tackle, but the batter had to be pretty quick if he was going to reach the pitcher.

    Vote -1 Vote +1