Tuesday, April 9, 2013

JIM BIBBY: A BASEBALL GIANT


I first met Jim Bibby in spring training with the Boston Red Sox organization nearly 25
years ago. He's one of the biggest human beings I've ever come across. He stood 6'5" and
God supersized nearly everything on his physique. His legs, back, arms, and shoulders
were massive. Bibby looked more like a current NFL defensive end than a former major
league pitcher. His smile, laugh, and personality matched the size of his physical gifts,
making him a person you couldn't soon forget.

I'll never forget shaking hands with Bibby at our first introduction. His hands were the
size of lobster traps, making mine appear to be those of a two-month old baby. Bibby
was one of the few people on this planet who could hold eight baseballs in one hand. I
can hold three. A man  with extra large hands can hold five. The sight of Bibby cradling
eight is mind-boggling.


Bibby used those hands and a right-arm that could fire 95-mph fastballs to put together an
11-year career in the major leagues. He tossed a no-hitter and recorded 111 victories playing
for four different teams. Bibby pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates
during the late 70's and, unfortunately, is pictured in two of the worst uniforms in the history
of the game.

In 1976, Bibby toed the rubber for the Tribe in those hideous all-rust colored uniforms. After
getting traded to the Pirates a year later, Bibby pitched in either all-gold, all-black, or half and
half. Imagine seeing a guy that big in those uniforms, throwing darts in the mid-90's? Scary.
The baseball must've looked like a Tic Tac coming out of those monster hands, rearing back
in attire better suited for Halloween than major league baseball games.





There was a lot of little boy in this mountain of a man. When I played in Lynchburg of the
Carolina League, Bibby was our pitching coach. He appeared as if he never had a bad day in
his life. He was loud, funny, and still ultra-competitive. Bibby threw batting practice to us nearly every day and  always made it like he was on the mound in the 1979 World Series for the Pirates.

He moved up in  front of the pitching rubber, making the distance to the plate about 50 feet. Bibby would grunt, groan, and try to turn your bat into kindling wood. He always had a big grin on his
face and roared with laughter every time he blew one past a hitter, who was nearly half his age.


When we would be at the mound for a conference with the pitcher, I'd flash back to his days
in the major leagues and laugh at an experience that seemed so surreal. As I kid growing up,
I was a baseball junkie. On Saturday afternoons, I'd always have to find a television to watch
NBC's Game of the Week with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. I vividly remember a game on
a hot summer afternoon in Pittsburgh back in 1979.

Bibby was on the mound and I recall Gowdy saying, "Bibby is really laboring out there. Just look
at the sweat dripping off the brim of his cap." It wasn't dripping. It was more like a torrential downpour. I had never seen anything like it. I couldn't believe a human being could possibly sweat that much.

I saw first hand just how much Bibby could sweat. It was like a tsunami rolling through the
hills of Virginia. Forget about towels, he needed blankets to dry the sweat off his brow. Ah, but it didn't matter to Bibby, he just had that big 'ole grin on his face, as if he was having the most fun
of anybody that walked the face of this great earth.


That was Bibby, he loved life and never spent a day worrying about the past. That was gone
and he seemed like a guy who always set his alarm early because he didn't want to miss out on what  the day would have to offer.

Bibby died in 2010 of bone cancer. He was just 65 years old, yet still just a kid in a large man's
body. In the journey through baseball and life, you meet a million different people, but only a few that you remember or can say had an impact on your life. Bibby was a special man, so large, so
humble, and so full of life. He was a fun-loving guy who just never  seemed to want to grow up.

But that was OK. He was Bibby and everybody loved him.

                                      
                                          PITCHER BART HALEY AND JIM BIBBY


2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading about Jim; thanks.

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  2. He is such an inspiration! He's a big man with a big heart. And he definitely had a huge contribution in the world of baseball. Anyway, one thing that interests me is the uniform. It's good to see how the evolution of uniforms through the years.

    Jennine Stalder @ UESports.com

    ReplyDelete