- October 29, 1944
- 6' 5"
- 235 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-04-1972 with SLN
Big Jim Bibby, a hardthrowing righthander who once questioned if he was a “money pitcher,” proved to be able to stand the pressure of a pennant race and post-season in 1979. Although the victories in Game 2 of the NLCS and Game 7 of the World Series went to other pitchers, Bibby’s strong performances gave the bullpen a chance for victory. Bibby also pitched well in World Series Game 4, but that was a rare 1979 day when Kent Tekulve could not stop the opposition.
Bibby did not reach the majors until he was 27 as he had served his country in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 and missed the 1970 season due to a back injury. Originally property of the New York Mets, Bibby was traded to the Cardinals and made his major league debut for them in 1972. He was traded to Texas in 1973 and pitched the first no-hitter in Rangers history on July 30 at Oakland. Traded to the Indians for Gaylord Perry in 1975, Bibby pitched well for Cleveland the next 2 ½ years. Although not always victorious, his manager, Frank Robinson realized Bibby was developing into an all-around pitcher and not just a hard thrower, something Bibby had been accused of earlier in his career. When Cleveland erroneously did not tend Bibby a contract by the deadline following the 1977 season, the pitcher with an impressive fastball and slider was awarded free agency. Robinson, who was at the time coaching for the Baltimore Orioles, encouraged his new team to sign Bibby, but Pete Peterson submitted a better offer and Bibby became a Pirate. A year-and-a-half later, the Orioles would regret their not having been more aggressive in their pursuit of the 6’5” righthander.
Bibby started and relieved in 1978. He pitched well out of the bullpen down the stretch to help the Pirates in their chase of the Phillies for the Eastern Division crown. In 1979, Bibby began the year as a reliever, but Chuck Tanner moved him into a fulltime starter’s role in July and he won six strait games. Jim finished with a 12-4 record, good for the top winning percentage (.750) in the National League. Bibby, who could drive a ball a long way when he connected, also hit two homers that year. Tanner started him in Game 2 of the NLCS and Bibby allowed only one run in seven innings. The Bucs won the game in ten after Bibby had left the game in the hands of the bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Facing the Orioles in Game 4 of the World Series, Bibby fanned seven in six innings, but appeared to tire and Tanner went to his bullpen with the Bucs up 5-3. Baltimore rallied against Tekulve to win the game to put the Birds up three games to one in the Series and it looked as though Bibby might not get another shot in 1979. But the Pirates took the next two games and Tanner announced Bibby would start Game 7. Big Jim allowed only one run in four innings, but trailing in the fifth, Tanner elected to hit for him. Stargell’s homerun in the sixth made a winner out of reliever Grant Jackson, but Bibby, who earlier had admitted he had wondered what type of big game pitcher he would be when he pitched for losing teams, helped make Pittsburgh World Champions.
Bibby parlayed his success into an excellent 1980 campaign. He again led the NL in winning percentage (.760) based on his 19-6 record and was picked for the All-Star Team on the strength of his 11-1 first half record. His 11th win was a memorable relief performance as he finished off the Pirate’s 7-6 20 inning win on July 6. Of his first three losses, he was beaten 2-0 on May 18 and 1-0 on August 1. His last victory of the season was the 100th of his career and he finished third in the Cy Young balloting behind lefthanders Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss. The Sporting News selected him as its righthanded pitcher on the publication’s post-season All-Star Team.
Bibby’s presence on the mound was one of the good memories from a disappointing 1980 season. His large frame made for a formidable appearance. He worked slowly and would sweat profusely and on hot days would lose several pounds of water weight when he took the mound.
Bibby continued to pitch well in 1981 until a shoulder injury sidelined him. The highlight of his season came on May 19 when after allowing a leadoff single to Terry Harper, he retired 27 men in a row against the Braves. The arm problems began acting up following player’s strike and Bibby made only four starts the second half of the season.
The next spring, Bibby was diagnosed as suffering from a torn rotator cuff and also had bone fragments removed from his shoulder as well. He missed the entire 1982 season. Trying a comeback in 1983, Bibby’s control was off and he did not pitch well. He caught on with Texas for 1984, but his effectiveness was gone and he was released during the season. Bibby unfortunately passed away in 2010 at the age of 65.
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