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The Year of the Pitcher

Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age

Sridhar Pappu


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (10/29/2018)
Paperback (9/4/2018)
MP3 CD (10/30/2018)
Compact Disc (10/30/2018)
MP3 CD (10/30/2018)
Compact Disc (10/30/2018)


The Year of the Pitcher is the story of the remarkable 1968 baseball season, which culminated in one of the greatest World Series contests ever, with the Detroit Tigers coming back from a 3–1 deficit to beat the Cardinals in Game Seven of the World Series.

In 1968, two remarkable pitchers would dominate the game as well as the broadsheets. One was black, the other white. Bob Gibson, together with the St. Louis Cardinals, embodied an entire generation's hope for integration at a heated moment in American history. Denny McLain, his adversary, was a crass self-promoter who eschewed the team charter and his Detroit Tigers teammates to zip cross-country in his own plane. For one season, the nation watched as these two men and their teams swept their respective league championships to meet at the World Series. Gibson set a major league record that year with a 1.12 ERA. McLain won more than 30 games in 1968, a feat not achieved since 1934 and untouched since. Together, the two have come to stand as iconic symbols, giving the fans “The Year of the Pitcher” and changing the game. Evoking a nostalgic season and its incredible characters, this is the story of one of the great rivalries in sports and an indelible portrait of the national pastime during a turbulent year—and the two men who electrified fans from all walks of life.

Praise For The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age

"Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, a transformative season, a fabulous World Series, and a nation undergoing its own radical change - they've all found their perfect chronicler in Sridhar Pappu. His book is both a pleasure and a revelation."Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

"I covered Gibson and McClain in the 1968 World Series, but I never grasped what it all meant to the nation and its pastime until I read Pappu's rich, insightful, lively book."—Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter

“Here’s the rare baseball book that succeeds as first-rate sports-writing and dramatic history. Sridhar Pappu tells the story of Bob Gibson and Denny McLain brilliantly, with prodigious reporting and beautiful writing.” —Jonathan Eig, NYT bestselling author ofLuckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season 

"'The Year of the Pitcher' stands up and stands out . . . Seldom does an era, and do sports personalities, come alive so vividly, and so unforgettably."Boston Globe

"Explores so much more than the battle between two pitchers and their teams . . .Pappu is especially insightful in his discussions of issues of race that pervaded baseball and American society . . . A fine history of a vital period in the history of not only baseball, but America."Kirkus Reviews

"This exciting work by New York Times columnist Pappu is a sophisticated look at the 1968 baseball season . . .  Pappu gives a comprehensive look at the careers of the two superstars of that year, Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers. As Pappu moves from their early years to the final legendary World Series battle between their two teams, he skillfully weaves the two players’ contrasting styles—McLain’s brazenness and “visions of grandeur” and Gibson’s steely gaze and “fierce persona”—into a larger story about the pitchers’ effect on baseball; changing attitudes about players’ rights; and the shadow of politics and race cast over the sport during the year of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. With skillful writing, Pappu also illuminates the ongoing role of Jackie Robinson as he brings to life the events of this tumultuous year."Publishers Weekly

"New York Times columnist Pappu offers an exciting look into that legendary season, beautifully capturing both pitchers' fascinating journeys throughout their careers. The author effectively interweaves the stories of McLain and Gibson in an engaging fashion, engrossing readers with the rivalry of Detroit and St. Louis. Enjoyable chapters describe the lead up to one of the most exciting World Series in baseball history, in which Detroit came back to win the championship from a 3–1 deficit. VERDICT: Devoted baseball fans will appreciate this story from one of major league's best years."Library Journal

"I didn’t think there was any more I could learn on the subject that I didn’t already know, but 'The Year of the Pitcher,' by Sridhar Pappu, due Oct. 3, is a compelling tale of all that America was in the turbulent year of 1968, told through a (mostly) baseball prism."—Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

"[Pappu] brings historical context and fine biographical narrative to baseball’s place in society in 1968." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547719276, 400pp.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

About the Author

Sridhar Pappu writes “The Male Animal” column forthe New York Times. He began his award-winning career as a feature writer for the Chicago Reader and has served as a columnist at The New York Observer and as a correspondent for The Atlantic. In addition he worked as a staff writer at Sports Illustrated and The Washington Post. A native of Oxford, Ohio, and graduate of Northwestern University, he currently lives in Brooklyn.