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The Bob Emergency: a study of athletes named Bob, Part I | Chart Party

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I’m about to show you the worst baseball
card ever made. Some of you already know which card this is
gonna be. And if you’ve never seen it before, take
it in. You only see it for the first time once. I hope it’s as bad as you imagined. 1996 Pinnacle, #289. This is Bob Hamelin. We know this because he’s holding up a card
that says “Bob Hamelin.” It’s important to remember that Pinnacle
actually emphasized photography when they produced this card set. They even brought on Christie Brinkley to
take some of the photos. Here’s Chipper Jones looking cool. Ryan Klesko got to bring his surfboard to
the photo shoot. Carlos Baerga was, uh. Point being, baseball cards in this time were
all about attitude. So. What happened, Bob? How they came to choose this particular photo,
no one can really agree. But it wasn’t just this one. In seemingly every one of his baseball cards,
Bob Hamelin absolutely refused to be cool, no matter how hard the card companies tried. They embossed his card with foil. Didn’t work. They made a shiny special-edition card. It had no effect. He still looked like a dad from 1976 who was
trying to shoo a bird out of his garage. They cut out his likeness and teleported him
into a brilliant, refractive rainbow dimension. Nope. Well, maybe he’ll look cool on the back
of the card. No. He looks like a competitive putt-putt golfer. Bob Hamelin is not participating. Okay, well, let’s try an action shot. Bob, where’s your bat? Bob, you’re making this very difficult. Applying any measure of coolness to Bob Hamelin
was absolutely hopeless. It was like trying to hang your jacket on
a waterfall. Nothing stuck. His energy was just too powerful. He was determined to remain himself, and there
was nothing anyone could do about it. And he won. His mystique could not be defeated, mitigated,
or ignored. I think part of that mystique comes from his
name: Bob. This name is so generic, and yet it’s so
rare. How can it be both? Well, let’s take a little walk through history. As far as I was able to find, the first Bob
in the world of sports was Bob Thoms, an Englishman who briefly played cricket in 1850 and 1851. Since 1855, there has always been at least
one Bob athlete. By the 1880s, Bob had become a pretty common
name, and at the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 100 Bobs in sports. This number dipped during the Great War, after
which the Bobs returned in even greater numbers. It dipped again in World War II, and then
the Bobs rebounded stronger than ever before. For decades, there were consistently around
500 active athletes who shared the name Bob. It was one of the most common names an athlete
could have. In fact, some of the greatest athletes of
all time are named Bob. And then … they began to leave. I don’t think anyone noticed at first. As I built this, I kept hoping against hope
that they’d return in some way, but I knew better. They just kept leaving, and leaving. By the time I was born, there were fewer than
300 Bobs. The total continued to diminish with ruthless
consistency. Today, by my count, there are only nine Bobs
remaining in the world of sports, and many of these nine are just barely hanging on. They’re all going away. As we’ll see, Bobs are special people. And in losing them to retirement, we stand
to lose more than we might imagine. The explanation for this is an obvious one:
it’s not a sports issue. People just don’t go by the name Bob very
often anymore. That doesn’t make this any less striking
to me. This name wasn’t just a generational fad,
it was popular for more than a century. In 1890, there were a lot of Bobs. In 1990, there were a lot of Bobs. It’s been seven years since I first documented
the disappearance of athletes named Bob. Not Robert or Bobby or any other name. Specifically, Bob. I treated it like a curiosity back then. It seemed like a joke to me. But the more I researched the people within
this completely arbitrary and unasked-for cross-section, the more I realized its value. I’ve found that Bob is a name largely independent
of era, class, race, sport, and in many cases, nationality. This collection of people tugs at more threads
within the tapestry of sports than any other name I can think of. It’s a surprisingly complete documentation
of what it has meant to be an athlete. Additionally, the name itself is special. Unlike most common names, Bob is a name that’s
rarely given at birth. Usually the person is named something like
Robert on their birth certificate. It’s only after the person becomes a person
that they assume the name Bob, usually affectionately given to them by their parents or peers once
they’ve gotten to know them. It’s what’s known as a hypocorism, a term
of endearment. If someone is named Bob, it’s a safe bet
that someone out there really loves them. These beloved people went on to play almost
every sport you can imagine. After scouring dozens of databases, I was
able to find 11,612 athletes who went primarily by the name Bob. This total includes 5,223 boxers, 1,599 from
college basketball, 1,239 from college football, 911 from minor league baseball, 447 from the
NFL, 377 from the Canadian Football League, 339 from Major League Baseball, 295 from auto
racing, 213 Olympians, 212 Aussie rules footballers, 168 soccer players, 136 from the NHL, 128
rugby players, 89 from the NBA, 61 mixed martial artists, 61 cricketers, 34 PGA golfers, 30
tennis players, 22 from Negro League baseball, 16 pro wrestlers, 9 cyclists, and 3 X games
competitors. This chart shows us a few interesting trends. For instance, that the Eastern hemisphere
saw the Bob exodus coming before we in the States did. For the NFL, the most exclusively American
of sports leagues, the Bob heyday arrived in the 1970s and early ‘80s. By that time, Bobs had almost completely disappeared
from Aussie rules football. Like the NFL, Australia had enjoyed a consistent
presence of Bobs for decades upon decades before they disappeared into the horizon. It’s just that the Aussie Bob era ended
in the 1980s, whereas NFL Bobs left about 25 years later. We’re about to take a look at who I consider
to be the most noteworthy Bobs in the history of sports. There’s a certain moment in this history
that stands apart as the pinnacle of Bob achievement, and I want to take an express train to that
point. But some of those in the early days there
are just too important to ignore. This is boxer Bob Fitzsimmons, still regarded
today as one of the best strikers of all time. In this era, middleweights were limited to
160 pounds, light heavyweights to 175, and heavyweights above that. Bob won the world championships in all three
classes, despite weighing only about 155 pounds throughout his whole career. It seems crazy to challenge for the heavier
belts without bulking up, but Bob never bothered. He relied instead on his trademark “solar
plexus punch.” This wasn’t just a straight-ahead punch
to the solar plexus. It was an uppercut, placed as though Bob was
trying to punch around his opponent’s ribcage and upwards into his chest cavity. Please, no. Just knock me out instead. Bob applied this punch during what was arguably
his most famous fight, in 1896 against Tom Sharkey. There are differing accounts of what exactly
happened here, but it seems as though Sharkey took one to the solar plexus, faked like he’d
suffered an illegal strike to the groin, and fell down. The ref then disqualified Bob and gave Sharkey
the win. Immediately, the press accused referee Wyatt
Earp of being on the take. Yeah, that Wyatt Earp, the famous one. Earp, by the way, was arrested afterwards
because he tried to officiate the fight in the ring while packing heat. Everything was a mess back then. Anyway. The man seen here with Fitzsimmons is another
Bob — his frequent sparring partner, Bob Armstrong. Bob won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship,
which he had to settle for, because at the time, black boxers were prohibited from challenging
white boxers for the so-called “world heavyweight title.” Armstrong emerged from the world of battle
royal. Modern cultural artifacts, such as the WWE
Royal Rumble, the film Battle Royale, and the game Fortnite all trace their roots directly
through this racist and exploitative promotion, in which up to ten men were sent into a ring
designed for two men, and expected to fight until one was left standing. It was essential a farce: while a boxer in
a conventional match would have plenty of room, a battle royal fighter would have barely
any  space to work. For the amusement of the crowd, they were
often blindfolded, or had a hand tied behind their back. These poorly-paid fighters were almost always
black, and the spectators were almost always white. But Armstrong eventually worked his way into
legitimate fight cards, and in the end, he would be regarded as one of the best boxers
of his era. He retired at the relatively young age of
31, focusing instead on training fighters such as Jack Johnson, who would soon become
one of the most feared fighters in history. In 1907, most white heavyweights were too
scared to fight Johnson. But there was one white boxer who refused
to cower behind the color barrier: our buddy Bob Fitzsimmons. Bob was much older now, a 43-year-old man
taking on a legendary 29-year-old in his prime. On top of this, Johnson was 205 pounds, while
Bob still weighed in at his usual 155. The fight was nearly canceled when Bob stepped
into the ring with a broken arm, which he’d sustained while training. But for reasons known only to him and God,
he begged the crowd, insisting that he still wanted to take on Johnson. Fight watchers said there was absolutely no
chance of Bob winning this fight. And they were absolutely right. There were hardly any blows landed in the
match. Bob was unable to strike, and Johnson just
didn’t want to, seemingly because he felt bad about it. In the second round, Bob collided with Johnson,
hit the mat, and didn’t get back up. Bob Fitzsimmons was a hopelessly outmatched
old man with a broken arm who gave everything he had left, which, after decades in the ring,
was nothing at all. Bob Fitzsimmons and Bob Armstrong were legends
in their time, but there were thousands more who got clobbered in total obscurity. As you can see, boxing accounted for the vast
majority of Bobs until the late 1940s, when sports like minor league baseball and college
basketball arrived to pick up the slack. So many of these Bobs were average guys who
stepped in a ring once or twice and never fought again. But as long as we’re here, I thought it
might be nice to recognize the most obscure Bob I found. A Bob who, were it not for you and I, might
never be dwelled upon by a human being ever again. Florida’s own Bob Cyclone, also recorded
as Bob Ciccalone and Bob Ciacalone, began his boxing career in February of 1952. He lost on points to a boxer named John Chaney,
rematched him a couple weeks later, and lost on points again. Bob returned in May to face Johnny Guebara
and suffered a knockout. Just two days later, he gets another match
against Guebara, and gets dropped again. He eats another knockout punch less than a
month later, and shortly thereafter, he steps back in the ring against Johnny Catches, a
local police officer. This was the last appearance of Catches’
two-fight career, although he’d engaged in an unsanctioned brawl with a fellow cop
in which he busted his spine. Additionally, one time someone stole his pants
and the newspaper wrote about it for some reason. But this is a story about Bob, and Bob quickly
got his face busted up and then got knocked out for the fourth time in two months. After a subsequent loss on points to Don Frey,
he takes a break for a couple months, comes back, and gets knocked out again. And that it’s for Bob Cyclone. For a couple months. And then he loses five more times, four of
which are knockouts, and two of which come on back-to-back nights. And then he was never seen again. His final record: zero wins, 13 losses, nine
of them knockouts. Aside from a couple of passing mentions in
newspapers that confirmed his clobberings, I was able to dig up absolutely nothing on
Bob Cyclone, which is very unusual for a postwar fighter who made so many appearances. He left us nothing but this lonely little
fight record, hidden deep within a boxing database. Through it, he tells us two things: first,
that opponents absolutely painted the canvas with him. And second, that he came back, night after
night, to face his certain annihilation again and again. And we will never know why. But he was a Bob. He played a note in this symphony. He mattered. As we enter the 1940s, we start seeing a lot
more Bobs in the record books, thanks in part to all the Bobs entering college basketball. Now remember, I only charted all the Bobs
I could find. I suspect that I’m missing some from the
‘20s and ‘30s, documentation of which is a lot tougher to come by. But at large, this Bob boom is absolutely
real, as evidenced by the sudden spike in baseball players. There were enough Bobs, in fact, for two Hall
of Fame pitchers named Bob to pitch on the same team at the same time. First, Bob Feller, whose generational talent
was so apparent that he was rushed directly to Major League Baseball at age 17 without
playing a single game in the minor leagues. To this day, he’s only the third player
since the turn of the 20th century to pitch a complete game as a legal minor. The difference between Bob and the other two
is that he threw five of them. Bob Feller could throw a baseball faster than
almost any human being who has ever lived, before or since. According to efastball.com, his 1946 fastball,
which at the time was clocked at about 98 miles per hour, was actually 107.6 using updated
methodology. By this same methodology, only Nolan Ryan,
who once threw an estimated 108.1, has surpassed him. Today, pitchers benefit from a much lighter
workload, advanced medical science, and intense training regimens. And yet none of them can come close to the
estimated 107.6 thrown by Bob Feller, who, at six feet flat and 185 pounds, was considerably
smaller than most of today’s hardest-throwing pitchers. It’s so startling that you’d be right
to question the accuracy of this estimate. I can counter with two things: first, the
estimate is derived from a measurement taken with a chronograph, which is actually claimed
to be more accurate than modern radar guns, which we only use now because they’re more
practical. And second, like any good scientists, they
also used an alternate method to measure the speed of his fastball. You’re about to see what this method is. Any guesses? What do you think it is? Was it that? Yep. They raced Bob Feller’s fastball with a
motorcycle, which was both the best and stupidest idea they could have possibly had. Bob has three huge disadvantages here. First, he’s throwing in a dress shirt and
a necktie. Second, he isn’t throwing from a mound like
he’s used to doing. Third, this helpful police officer ripping
asphalt at 86 miles per hour actually gets a head start on Feller, who was expected to
time his release perfectly with the passing of the motorcycle. And despite all that, Feller’s fastball
still clearly wins the race. What did we learn? Absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. That’s just the way I like it. The origins of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon couldn’t
have been any more different. While Feller was preordained as the next great
pitcher at age 17 and allowed to skip the minors entirely, Bob Lemon was a third baseman
who languished in the minors for years. He’d been with the Cleveland organization
since 1937, but only made it to the majors for two brief stints. By the end of 1942, he had just one hit in
nine career at-bats. And then, like Bob Feller, Bob Lemon went
off to war. Feller, a nationwide celebrity, got plenty
of photos taken of him. Lemon, some guy, did not. When Lemon returned four years later, he was
finally given a more permanent roster spot. And he was awful. With his pro baseball career nearly a decade
old, he still just could not hit. As of May 9th, 1946, his career major league
batting average was .153. For context, the batting average of the average
player during Bob’s career was .259. His hitting was abysmal, and he was 25 years
old at this point. So how could this guy possibly end up in the
Hall of Fame? Well, something entirely unexpected happened. A couple of opposing players — specifically,
the Yankees’ Bill Dickey and Boston’s Johnny Pesky — approached Bob’s manager,
Lou Boudreau. They’d played some baseball with Bob during
their years in the Navy, and turns out, he’d tried pitching a few times. They were so impressed with what they saw
out of him that they thought Bob should pitch instead. Let’s back up and review the entirety of
Lemon’s pitching experience at this point. He’d pitched a few times at the high school
level, but he almost always played shortstop. He’d made exactly two emergency relief appearances
in the minors, the last of which was kind of a disaster in which he walked three men. And on naval bases he pitched a few times,
but the talent level was probably pretty uneven — some genuinely good players, and some regular
guys. And they think this guy should pitch in the
majors. I’ve already spoiled the ending. Bob ends up in the Hall of Fame. So let’s compare him with other Hall of
Famers. This is every starting pitcher in the Hall
of Fame, arranged by how many professional innings as a pitcher they had under their
belt prior to age 25. Most of these guys were already logging innings
and getting valuable experience by the time they were 18 or 19. Now, Eddie Plank, who never played in the
minors or majors until he was 25, is a notable exception, but he did spend years pitching
in college. The rest of these great pitchers spent hundreds
and hundreds of innings improving their craft in their early years. Most pitched well over a thousand. Bob Lemon, of course, had two — so little
experience that it’s barely visible on this chart. It wasn’t all that weird for Boudreau to
try Bob out as a pitcher, but what’s really weird is that he didn’t even send him down
to the minors to learn how to pitch. He immediately sent Bob out there to figure
it out on a major league level. Let’s dwell on that for another minute. Bob Lemon was learning how to pitch while
being a pitcher in Major League Baseball. This is like entering the Tour de France because
you want to learn how to ride a bike. But … he was awesome. In white, you see the batting average that
opposing hitters managed against Bob Lemon, the pitcher. Look again at that .259 water line. They never even hit average against him. I decided to keep Bob’s own batting average
up here, which you see in black, because incredibly, once he starting pitching, his hitting got
better. By 1948, not only did Bob Lemon have a better
career at the plate than the average hitter, he was considerably more successful with the
bat than the guys he was throwing to. This was nearly the case over the course of
his entire career. For a full-time pitcher to outhit his opposing
hitters for a span of approximately nine years? Almost no other player has ever done that. Pretty impressive hitting and pitching for
a guy who, at first, couldn’t do either. One final note. Remember Bill Dickey and Johnny Pesky? Well, just two years after they lobbied to
let Lemon pitch, Cleveland won the World Series after barely squeaking past the Yankees and
Red Sox to win the A.L. pennant. They beat New York by just two and a half
games, and had to win a one-game playoff to beat Boston. Bob’s Wins Above Replacement that season
was an estimated 4.8. In other words, this is roughly how many more
games Cleveland won with him than they would have won with a replacement-level player in
his place. 4.8. Just enough to put them over these two teams. That was Bill Dickey’s old team. And that was Johnny Pesky’s team. In retrospect, it was an extraordinarily selfless
move on their part. But when you see a Bob, you help a Bob. Because often, they’ll pay you back in full. Basketball might be the greatest sport in
existence, but it wasn’t always that way. Unlike baseball, which has remained mostly
the same in appearance since the 1940s, basketball is a total reinvention of what it used to
be. Let’s revisit a play from a 1930s high school
basketball game. I watched it, but I’m not going to show
you the video, because looking directly at it is very bad for you. If you still really want to see it, and you’ve
had all your vaccinations, I’ll include a link in the description. For the rest of us, let’s just use a diagram. Meet our two heroes, Player A and Player B.
They stand completely flat-footed and pass the ball back and forth seven times. B then steps back a couple of feet and passes
it back. But you haven’t seen anything yet. Think there are only two letters in the alphabet? Well think again, pal! Because player C receives the next pass, and
… passes back to A. And then A and B pass back and forth six more times. But C is a man of action. He’s shifted over a full couple of feet
or so. When the ball comes back to him, he tosses
to B. Who, for the first time, dribbles so he can move while possessing the basketball. This is an extremely reckless maneuver known
as “doing something.” Well hey, look, it’s Player D! He takes the pass and dribbles upcourt a few
feet! And then passes back to B, who passes back
to A, who dribbles and passes back to B, who passes to D. Who passes to B. Who, after 24
passes, finally shoots. Does it go in? Here’s a more important question: do you
care? And the most important question is this: how
did we get from this … to this? About sixty years later, Allen Iverson stared
down the exact same problem they did and immediately chopped it down like it was nothing. He was one of the greatest inventors in basketball
history, but no one man can transform something so awful into something so great all by himself. It took decades upon decades of tireless effort
from countless inventive people. And one of the most important inventors in
the early days was Bob Cousy. Bob excelled at the fast break. He would push his Celtics to score before
the opposing defense could get set. Here, rather than dribbling upcourt, he chucks
it all the way down the floor to a waiting teammate. But often, Bob didn’t pass to his teammates,
he passed to where he knew they were going to be. His Hall of Fame teammate, Bill Russell, isn’t
here yet, but Bob puts it in the mail, and Bill is there to pick it up. Bob loved to show off. Often he used his flash to actually accomplish
something, like this no-look pass to Sam Jones. In this position, Bob stands between Sam and
the defenders, giving Sam an open look. And sometimes it accomplished nothing, like
when he goes behind his back here. But it was fun. If 1950s Bob Cousy took a time machine to
play in today’s NBA, he wouldn’t stand a chance, which is actually a credit to him. Basketball is the beautiful game it is today
because of people like Bob, who took this wretched sport and dragged it kicking and
screaming into the light, one inch at a time. Now, Bob’s NBA career came and went well
before I was born, but he did perform one considerable feat in my time. In the 1994 film “Blue Chips,” Cousy played
a director of an athletic program And in one scene, he shoots free throws while he talks
to his coach, played by Nick Nolte. At this point, Cousy is 65 years old, shooting
in dress shoes, a button-up shirt and a tie. Why are Bobs always doing this? Anyway. You can’t really script making a shot, but
maybe Bob can get one in and make it look good. Hey, there we go! And there’s two in a row. This is slightly impressive. In the 2017-2018 NBA season, whenever a player
got exactly two free throw attempts in a game, they hit both of them only about half the
time. Three in a row. Same conditions, less than half of players
could make all three. There’s four in a row. Five in a row. This line from Nolte is not scripted. “Don’t you ever miss?” There’s seven in a row. Uh-oh. An off-camera bucket? Sounds like a swish, but they could have piped
in that audio. If you would like to debate this further,
please join your local chapter of the Bob Cousy Blue Chips Free Throws Truther Association. If your community doesn’t have one, start
one! Nine in a row. Just for fun, Cousy puts up number 10 with
his left hand, almost daring it to not go in. It goes in. Only 14.9% of modern NBA players who got ten
free throw attempts in a game were able to knock down all ten. The free throw is the one element of basketball
that has been preserved in amber since Cousy’s time. Nothing about it has changed. And decades after his retirement, it’s the
one he could still dominate. By the 1960s, Bobs were everywhere in sports. Even when trends had shifted, they just kept
showing up. As soon as boxing became less popular, they
arrived in huge numbers to minor league baseball. And once that surge ended, they simply moved
on to college football. For decades and decades, across several generations,
the Bobs had always been there. But one year stands alone as the year of Bob. There were 525 Bobs playing sports in 1968. And though there weren’t quite as many as
there had been 20 years prior, it was in ‘68 that we saw two of the most extraordinary
athletic feats accomplished by anyone, by any name, at any point in history. And both were accomplished men named Bob. We could spend hours talking about Bob Gibson,
a man who, by all rights, never should have made it here. He did, because at every turn, he demanded
it. Pack Robert Gibson was born in 1935. Unlike most, he chose the hypocorism “Bob”
himself by taking his middle name and shortening it. As a child, he grew up in extreme poverty
and suffered from rickets, asthma attacks, and a bout with pneumonia. He also developed a heart murmur that nearly
prevented him from playing sports at all. Entering high school, he stood only four-foot-ten,
but by graduation he had transformed into a phenomenal athlete. He set at least one local record in track
and field, but his main pursuits were basketball and baseball. Throughout most of his high school career,
he was barred from baseball because the coach refused to let black players on the team. So Bob turned his attention to basketball. He was a star on his high school team, and
wanted to play college ball at Indiana. When he applied, they told him explicitly
that they did not want him solely because he was black. Bob ended up accepting a scholarship from
Creighton instead. Once he was eligible to play, he immediately
established himself as the team’s star, leading in both points and rebounds. And while at Creighton, he also played baseball,
the sport his high school coach refused to let him play. In April he played what might be the best
six innings of college baseball of all time, maintaining a no-hitter while also adding
four hits from the plate. Why they pulled him, we’ll probably never
know. But it was clear that Gibson could do everything. Baseball scouts wanted him. So did the Lakers, and so did the Harlem Globetrotters. Bob didn’t want to have to choose between
baseball and basketball, so, at first, he didn’t. Just a few years prior, he was an impoverished,
undersized kid whose health prevented him from playing sports at all. Now, he was going to play for the Harlem Globetrotters
and pitch in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system at the same time. After a few months with the Globetrotters,
Bob got sick of all the traveling and the clowning around. So he focused on baseball, ending one of the
most unlikely two-sport careers ever. Bob Gibson finished his rookie season in St.
Louis with an earned run average of 3.33 — which is to say, he gave up an average of three
and a third earned runs every nine innings. That made him better than most. The next season, he hit a brick wall. More than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke
the color barrier, a sort of quiet discrimination still permeated baseball. The pitcher, like the quarterback, was a marquee
position reserved for a white player. Of the 153 pitchers to start a game in 1960,
only ten were black. But Gibson’s manager wasn’t at all quiet
about this discrimination. His name was Solly Hemus, who, to hear Gibson
tell it, had mastered the art of throwing his players under the bus, on at least one
occasion yelling slurs at an opposing player. He would lazily, probably intentionally, confuse
the names of the black players on his own team. He would single out Gibson in meetings, implying
that he wasn’t smart enough to make it as a pitcher. Hemus destroyed Bob’s ability to find any
sort of rhythm, yanking him seemingly arbitrarily between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Gibson was on the verge of quitting baseball. His ERA of 5.61 was one of the worst in the
majors, and it was far above the league average of 3.82. But midway through the next season, Hemus
was fired and replaced by new manager Johnny Keane, who actually respected Gibson as a
player and as a person. His entire life, through ill health, poverty,
and discrimination, the forces of man and nature had done everything they could to stop
Bob Gibson from getting to this point. They failed. Now he was here, and he seemed hellbent on
throwing it all right back. On paper, he was terrific. His ERA stood among the best, year in and
year out. He helped lead the Cardinals to two World
Series championships, and was voted an All-Star on a regular basis. But he was most famous as an intimidator. It’s not really about the number of batters
he hit. A lot of batters, sure, but nowhere even close
to a record number. It was that if Bob hit you with a pitch, it
was almost certainly on purpose. He seemed to regard the strike zone as his
territory, and if you as a batter crowded in on it or otherwise challenged his sovereignty,
he would scramble the jets. Or, he’d hit you for pettier reasons. Maybe, as Hank Aaron famously said, he’d
hit you because you showboated against him, or foolishly tried to say hello to him. What a lot of us tend to miss, I think, is
that Gibson didn’t just do this because he was mad. These were calculated, as he notes in a 2009
interview. [Gibson:] “If there’s a guy who does not like to
be knocked down, and I know he doesn’t like to be knocked down, I’ll knock him down.” For him, intimidation wasn’t an expression
of anger, but a useful instrument. Gibson’s teammates loved him. To this day, other players talk about how
much they love him. In interviews, he’s a funny guy. “No! That’s dumb!” But he was happy to be perceived as vindictive
and psychotic to his opponents, and collect the advantage that gave him. His delivery didn’t hurt, either. On the mound, he looked unlike any other pitcher
I’ve ever seen. It’s as though he threw the ball with such
intensity that his own body got taken along for the ride. They captured his iconic follow-throw in a
sculpture outside Busch Stadium, and I can’t help but look at it without thinking, “why
doesn’t it fall over? Why didn’t he fall over?” It took its toll. In one of his books, Gibson explains that
he’d drag his toe against the ground each time, and his foot would be bloody by the
end of the game. He’d do this in part to manipulate the dirt
on the mound and make life slightly tougher for the opposing pitcher. So here was a man who was endlessly crafty
and calculating, possessed the athletic ability that made him both a Harlem Globetrotter and
a World Series champion, and was as relentlessly determined as anyone else to play the game. Without question, he remains one of America’s
all-time greatest athletes. In the middle of the 1967 season, Gibson took
a Roberto Clemente line drive straight to his leg. It hurt, but he stayed in the game. He walked a batter and forced a flyout from
another, and then, while planting his right foot, his leg snapped in half. But he returned to the mound less than two
months later, and was available to pitch in the World Series. This is every World Series pitching performance
within the integration era, a total of 1,245. Some pitchers finished the series with an
ERA well above 10, but we’ll keep the focus down here. Gibson finished the ‘67 series with an ERA
of exactly 1 over 27 innings pitched. Three complete games, in games 1, 4 and 7,
the last of which won the Cardinals another World Series. In 2018, no pitcher finished three complete
games across the entire regular season. Gibson did it in a span of eight days. He’d done this before in the ‘64 series. And … he’d do it again in the ‘68 series. There was no one like him. This story is rich enough to fill a book. But all his achievements to this point would
pale in comparison to what he was about to do. When Bob was three and a half years old, he
was stricken with pneumonia so severely that his mother feared he wouldn’t survive. His brother wrapped him in a blanket and carried
him the hospital, and promised him that if he made it, he would buy him a baseball glove. In 1968, Bob Gibson pitched the greatest season
in the history of baseball. This is a plot of every season in which a
pitcher finished with an ERA below 1.5. It happened a handful of times in the 1870s
and ‘80s, when organized ball was still in its infancy, and kind of often between
1900 and 1920. This was known as the “dead ball era,”
a time in which pitchers dominated. They were allowed to throw spitballs, rub
the baseball in mud to make it tougher to see, and scuff up the ball however they saw
fit. These practices were made illegal, and in
the 50  or so years to follow, no one threw below 1.50. And then Gibson did it by a huge margin, 1.12. And then no one did it ever again. Gibson’s season was 1,161 batters long. In red, we see all the times a batter managed
to drive in an earned run against Gibson. And in white, all the times they failed to
drive in an earned run. He got off to a solid start, making it through
his first 43 batters without an earned run. But it was a grueling campaign, especially
by today’s standards. In this stretch, he pitched four straight
complete games, two of which went well into extra innings. Gibson’s 1968 was the sort of campaign none
of today’s players will ever have to worry about, because pitchers are used a lot differently
now. In 2018, the league leader in complete games
finished with two. Gibson had 28. In two of his 34 starts, he was merely mortal,
allowing four earned runs. The first was on August 4th, and the second
came on September 11th. As you can see here, hitters batted in three
runs against him, not four. So where’s the fourth? Well, in the top of the fifth, catcher Tim
McCarver failed to bring in Gibson’s pitch. It gets away from him, and the Dodgers’
Willie Davis runs in from third to score. It’s scored as a “passed ball” — in
other words, McCarver, not Gibson, is ruled at fault for this. By rule, this should not count as an earned
run against Gibson. But it does, likely because the game’s official
scorer exercised their authority to make a judgment call. They overruled it, and hit Gibson with the
run. Maybe the scorer figured out that Davis would
have scored from third anyway, but that’s a really bold assumption, considering the
ball never made it to the outfield for the rest of the inning. Granted, I didn’t watch this game and the
scorer did, but I don’t get it. Whatever the case, if it weren’t for the
scorer playing what-if games, Gibson’s ERA this season would be a slightly more impossible
1.09. Regardless, throughout the rest of this season,
Gibson ranged from incredible to untouchable. In particular, he pieced together this wonder,
which ranged between June 2nd and July 12, without a batter scoring a single earned run
against him. This segment is what made this season possible,
and it’s what I refer to as “the 261.” The red lights you see indicate whether he
let men on first, second, and/or third. As you can see, they rarely made it past first,
let alone to third. To prevent 261 consecutive batters from driving
in a run, you can’t just rely on facing a couple of weak-hitting teams, or a few players
who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You have to run the gauntlet of the National
League. By the time it was all over, Gibson had faced
nearly every member of the N.L. All-Star team several times over, and he’d
pitched to nearly every position player who received an MVP vote that season. Granted, he did not have to pitch to the actual
MVP that season, who was Bob Gibson. In 49 plate appearances against Gibson, these
men had managed just eight singles and a walk. The best of the best hit .167 against him
in this span, same as their slugging percentage, with an on-base percentage of .184. From the batters’ perspective, these numbers
are absolutely miserable. Which is not to say he never got into trouble
in this stretch. As you can see, he had to deal with some runners
in scoring position. He just engineered his way out of trouble
every single time. At one point, the Giants loaded the bases
against him. With no room for error, Gibson gathered himself
and struck out the next three batters in a row. I think he was annoyed with having to do this,
because he turned around and completely shut down 24 of the next 25 batters, giving up
one walk and nothing else. I’ve had to be careful with my vocabulary
here, because Gibson did give up one earned run in this stretch. It just wasn’t to a batter. On July 1st, he was facing the Dodgers’
Ron Fairly with a man on third. The ball slipped out of his hand, hit the
dirt, and his catcher couldn’t quite haul it in. It was ruled a wild pitch, the runner scored,
and Gibson was hit with the run. The catcher said the ball was wet from landing
in the grass moments prior. Gibson joked it was the catcher’s fault
before quickly clarifying that he was to blame. Decades later, he wrote that he thought it
actually was the catcher’s fault, so … I’m not really sure how much of a joke that was. Regardless, the batter had nothing to do with
that wild pitch, so we can say that no batter in this span beat him. In fact, across all of 1968, he reduced the
batters of the National League to shadows of themselves. On-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS,
is perhaps the most handy measure of a hitter’s performance. Combined, the 1968 National League managed
an OPS of .469 against Bob Gibson, which is very, very bad. I thought it would be interesting to find
a player to serve as a comparison, so I looked up the OPS of every player in the integration
era with at least 1,161 plate appearances — the same number as those against Bob Gibson. Of course, .469 is miles away from guys like
Ted Williams and Barry Bonds, who are well above 1.000. To find a hitter like this, we have to reach
far back into the record books and look up more than two thousand players, until we get
to … nothing. None of these players had an OPS of worse
than .500. This is unbelievable. Bob Gibson took the entirety of National League
hitting — all its all-stars, all its MVP candidates, all its Hall of Famers — and
effectively turned them into a mythical worst modern player ever who doesn’t even actually
exist. But back to Gibson’s ERA of 1.12 for a moment,
because that’s the number he’s most famous for. The closer your ERA gets to zero, the tougher
it is, mathematically speaking, to cut it down further. A complete game shutout just doesn’t cut
into an ERA around 1 as much as it would into an ERA around 3. By the time he was in the back half of the
season, he was fighting for a few hundredths at a time. On September 2nd, he pitched a 10-inning shutout
— which, for ERA purposes, is just about the best game you can imagine — and his ERA
dropped from 1.03 to 0.99 — just four hundredths. The last few starts were unbelievably tense
as Gibson dialed just barely up and down, as though he was trying to open a safe. In his final start, he managed a complete-game
shutout to engineer his ERA down from 1.16 to a final 1.12. The difference seems microscopic. But …  you ever did that thing as a kid
where you listen to music on your headphones, and it’s not loud enough, and you keep turning
it up, and then realize that the music’s actually coming out of the speakers and you’ve
woken up everyone in the house? Well … In this season, the National League’s collective
ERA was 2.99. Remove Gibson’s contributions, and it’s
3.03. One man lowered the entire National League’s
ERA by four ticks all by himself. 1968 is known as the “Year of the Pitcher.” For reasons still debated today, pitchers
enjoyed an unusual amount of success in this season. Six other guys got their ERA under two. But taking into account both ERA and innings
pitched, those guys weren’t even in the same category. Gibson was the one who destroyed the pitcher/batter
dynamic in Major League Baseball. It was all his fault. And Major League Baseball responded by changing
the rules before the next season. They’re often known as the “Gibson rules;”
to this day, Gibson dislikes taking the credit. Two changes were made: first, the strike zone
was altered, as it has been several times throughout history. Instead of ending at the top of the batter’s
shoulders, it only extended to the batter’s armpits. Second, and more permanently, the height of
the pitcher’s mound was lowered by one third, which diminished the pitcher’s leverage. Despite these changes, Gibson had another
incredible season, finishing with an ERA of 2.18 that nearly led the league. Throughout his entire life, absolutely nothing
and nobody on Earth could stop Bob Gibson, so they moved the earth itself. And that didn’t work, either. Gibson’s ‘68 was one of the most remarkable
athletic achievements of all time. But around the same time in the same year,
another Bob was on his way toward something perhaps even more incredible. We’ll visit him, and many other Bobs to
come, in part two.

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100 thoughts on “The Bob Emergency: a study of athletes named Bob, Part I | Chart Party”

  1. JGfrm BrooKLynnn says:

    IM GOING TO FOLLOW THIS UP WITH THE STUDY OF FAMOUS WOMEN WITH BOB HAIRCUTS. WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOB HAIRCUTS GONE???

  2. Gary Babcock says:

    Love the graphics and wipes. Top notch.

  3. JOHNONZ2 says:

    So genius!! I have fallen in love with these long winded tales of aloof facts of sport. They have captivated me.

  4. JOHNONZ2 says:

    “Nothing on earth could stop Bob Gibson,,,,,so they moved the earth itself”. Profound!

  5. Paul B says:

    This is such beautiful work

  6. Stamos Rigas says:

    "The bob emergency ?" jon bois my friend , i watched it but i must say you are losing it, you are cracking , you are fading into madness…

  7. Just Saying says:

    Hey Jon Bois, can you make a video about David Carr getting sacked 249 in his first 75 games?

  8. Oblivion776 says:

    YouTube algorithm: You're going to watch a two part documentary on people named Bob in sports.
    Me: No I'm not.
    YouTube algorithm: And you're going to love it.
    Me: No I most definitely am not.
    Jon: "He played a note in this symphony. He mattered."
    Me: Alright fine YouTube, you win this one.

  9. Christian Miles says:

    I am in the Navy and have been on deployment for the last interminable amount of time cut off from culture. Coming back to this is like finding out the Messiah returned but you missed it.

  10. Jennapher Hague says:

    Jon, you are a wordsmith in the magnificent tradition of Jim Murray. There are too many superlative lines in this video for anyone to count, it’s simply & greatly, a symphony.
    🌟✨🌟✨🌟

  11. Cole Ward says:

    I’m starting to think that Jon got tired of researching Bob and part 2 isn’t coming

  12. Matthew Robare says:

    The same thing is happening with "Dave"

  13. theseamusexperience says:

    Is anyone considering Bob "Lob" Williams on the Celtics?

  14. pir8slife says:

    The Bob Legacy lives on

    https://www.adventure-journal.com/2019/08/worlds-toughest-horse-race-won-by-70-year-old-idaho-man-named-bob/?fbclid=IwAR0nSvh5oCbS11rIZORgsXhLgZVKCbqVJW_1LjqtPpAbO13wK4ehLv92lPo

  15. Ashy Pharoah says:

    Bob Cousy received the Presidential Medal of Honor yesterday. It's great that Bobs are getting the recognition they deserve

  16. BoW Skittlez says:

    Bob Ross. My favorite MLB player

  17. FunkEcrime says:

    #savethebobs

  18. Blake Lester says:

    The part with Bob Gibson was amazing he was may dads favorite player… But it also stung because we are both IU alumni, and that part of him wanting to go to IU and being refused because of his race I didn’t know and really pissed me off… Gibson’s 2.44 era in 66 is amazing considering the amount of innings he pitched. But the 1968 season is the most dominant pitching season ever. A season ERA of 1.12 in the 60’s is just beyond words…. I know a lot of people say Nolan Ryan is the greatest but Bob Gibson was what made St. Louis title town in the second half of the 60’s… They had a solid lineup but Gibson was a force… I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this documentary.

  19. Ian Staudacher says:

    Bob

  20. Gold Standard says:

    this is sad

  21. Paul O'Reilly says:

    Why.

    WHYYY???

  22. Blaize Parrish says:

    I got an ad that had a song by a guy named bob.

  23. SHADOWHIO SHADOW HIPPO says:

    Imagine you making me care so much about this I, naming my kid BOB

  24. Cliff says:

    "…so they moved the Earth itself.

    …and that didn't work either."

    Jesus Christ, Jon. That was an incredible line.

  25. Intelligence Paradigm says:

    I came here from a Summoning Salts video and now I have no idea where I am or what is happening.

  26. Sandrine Tougas says:

    I named my bong "Bob Cyclone" so he can finally win sometimes.

  27. P.O.T.S says:

    Raid the chat with bob

  28. adam braga says:

    Bob Burnqist

  29. Ray Bourgeois says:

    Indian guy: show me your bobs
    Girl:

  30. Brentanic says:

    The folks in India are also searching for Bobs as well as females named Vagene

  31. Tim Brady says:

    "Bob, where's your bat? You're making this difficult, Bob."

  32. Michael Molash says:

    I laughed… I cried.. I was on the edge of my seat.. I was shouting.. I got angry.. I felt joy… This video accomplished more than most Hollywood Blockbusters do.. Thank you for the effort and time you pour into these videos. Thank you.

  33. Smithysmithin says:

    This is LEGIT, the BEST video I've ever watched, and I'm not even finished with this video, let alone both parts..

  34. stigwastaken says:

    Gibby was a god

  35. K Ram says:

    Chart party might be the best series ever, tv included

  36. The Vanilla Godzilla says:

    Actually laughed out loud
    @12:34. "He mattered," a recurring underlying theme of Jon's superb videos! Thank you Mr Bois again

  37. qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm /I can't fit my name says:

    where is the Minecraft map download

  38. C R says:

    When you see a Bob, you help a Bob

  39. royalninja says:

    Hey, we learned one thing from that video experiment. He can throw faster than 83mph on flat asphalt.

  40. wanderlustwarrior says:

    Well now I know the disgusting history of the battle royale…

  41. wanderlustwarrior says:

    One thing that I appreciate about this video is that it's honest in how you can't really look at the history of men's sports in America, or look at America in general, without the presence of racism pervading it.

  42. fləˈmiNGgō says:

    I was gonna watch this but why is it 40 mins long

  43. Oswald 1927 says:

    The year I was born there were 69 bobs

  44. John Michael says:

    aaaaand i got an ad with a song by
    Bob Dylan

  45. yermanoh says:

    my name is bob and i play lots of sports i will endeavour to make it a as semipro to keep the name going

  46. Kinxdinx says:

    What about Bob?

  47. David Redacted says:

    NEERD!

  48. SlayinSaiyan 94 says:

    Love this channel , I feel guilty it's on youtube.

    Also dedication! 40+ minute on the lineage of Bob's that played sport.

  49. Matthew Sawczyn says:

    Bob Hamelin. A magnificent beast.

  50. Nathan Sheets says:

    damn I laughed so hard at Bob Cyclone. My god

  51. Curry Man says:

    Anyone got a link to the songs used in this video? Specifically the one at 24:02?

  52. False Shepherd- says:

    I don't know how I got here, and I didn't intend on staying. But the video is 3 minutes in, and my interest has been piqued. I MUST KNOW ABOUT BOBS!

  53. キティニャー says:

    there maybe 0 bobs soon 🙁

  54. Brimstone says:

    My father in law is Bob and my son was named after him, we call him Bobby

  55. Russell St.Martin says:

    Like a Bois

  56. Liam McFarlin says:

    The Cardinals have had lots of legends play with them all the way from Stan the Man to Albert Pujols. Some have the flash and the home runs and the crazy catches and the back flips. But none of them are Bob Gibson. No one will ever be Bob Gibson.

  57. Thomas Symonds says:

    God, I love chart party.

  58. The Opponent says:

    "Throughout his entire life, absolutely nothing and nobody on Earth could stop Bob Gibson, so they moved the Earth itself. And that didn't work either."
    That's my favorite line in the entire Chart Party series so far.

  59. SuperBradC says:

    You do a sports story about people named "Bob" and you leave out Bob Beamon? WTF? Track and Field stars don't count?

  60. absolutelysobeast says:

    Jon Bois if you read this i want you to know you are maybe the most talented and revolutionary person on Youtube. THIS is what Youtube is supposed to be. Not vlogs, not unboxing videos, not prank videos, not compilation videos, not music videos. THIS. Unbelievable work i found you through the “saddest punt ever” video and im absolutely blown away. Seriously you are an absolute virtuoso. Thank you from the center of my soul. I honestly cant even fathom the VAST amount of work that goes into each of these videos. I mean dude i cant even. You truly are one of a kind and i hope you are accumulating some wealth from these videos, if any person who has ever created content since the beginning of video deserves it, its you

  61. DakotaN says:

    Can you imagine being like Bob Lennon not knowing your like one of the greatest baseball players ever lol

  62. Dalton Robert Pepple says:

    19:51 Most Overrated Sport.

  63. VYKnight_ADark says:

    We need another world war to bring back the bobz

  64. andy cooper says:

    Using fortnite as a BR example and not PUBG you lost me.

  65. Michael Williams says:

    At first I was thinking how dumb this video seemed and how I couldn't believe it was 42 minutes long! At the end I'm like: Where's part II? Great stuff here. Especially the Bob Gibson bit.

  66. jordan wilkerson says:

    i audibly gasped at the chart reveal at 5:00
    this is so odd but i dig it

  67. Epic 91 says:

    The bob migration

  68. Meadhands says:

    This video is the dumbest waste of time and anyway I loved it have a like.

  69. Thomas Maddox says:

    You should do a study on athletes not named bob

  70. Logie Bear says:

    I'm calling my next son Bob and gonna get him into the Scotland soccer team.

  71. riley yohn says:

    Image being so good you actually convinced me that a name that is losing popularity in sports and in general is a critical and awful thing

  72. Michael B says:

    9 only 9 holy shot that’s actually crazy

  73. Hector Alejandro says:

    @23:30 Me: Its 10:30 on a Friday, why the f*%# am I still watching this.
    @23:37 Also Me: lolololol

  74. BK Highlights says:

    Holy crap in the Illinois high school basketball tournament they did all that passing for the guy to shoot a 35 footer and he actually drained

  75. Drew Phillips says:

    still waiting on part twooooooo

  76. Jarrod says:

    "If somebody is named bob it's a safe bet that someone out there really loves them."
    -Chart Party, 2019

  77. Riff Dane says:

    Its kinda fascinating, really. The evolution of names. Robert, Bobby, or Bob is slowly getting put in the "old person names" category, along with Barney, Earl, Horace, and Ralph.

  78. andrewmeadows78 says:

    I've got a meeting with the bobs soon

  79. Mikky says:

    My boy Bob Hamlin looks like George Costanza

  80. Daniel Gillrup says:

    Come back Bob! 😭

  81. EkinsOnTrack says:

    A 42 minute video and it's part 1 😂

  82. Quinton Ewing says:

    Quite possibly the greatest overload of quite possibly useless information I will ever endure in my life. That’s possible.

  83. dk6024 says:

    The Bob Book
    https://www.ebay.com/p/1191906?iid=303262080116&chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=303262080116&targetid=537215841048&device=m&mktype=pla&googleloc=9030966&poi=&campaignid=6470552775&mkgroupid=77829366456&rlsatarget=pla-537215841048&abcId=1139336&merchantid=7870994&gclid=Cj0KCQjwi7DtBRCLARIsAGCJWBqMLp1uWvAFfSTU3SLBy1xXqALJdmKj7UddkKLvCBZVJrMjiVMGYvsaAsaxEALw_wcB

  84. Aozotra says:

    bob is now considered an ironic troll

  85. Troy Dube' says:

    Im truly shocked at how hard I just laughed at "Bob, where's your bat?".

  86. Irish Nurhd says:

    But what about bob?

  87. Paul Bradford says:

    Gibson was great, no doubt about it; but 1968 was such an outlier. Drysdale was also doing impossible things that same year.

    Weird, weird year.

    Greatest single season for a starting pitcher was Pedro Martinez’ 1999 season. Gotta compare a pitcher to his competition. Pedro won the pitcher’s triple crown by winning five games more than the runner up, striking out 100 more batters than the runner up and posting an ERA a full run less than the runner up.

  88. C Knight 19 says:

    I watched the 1930’s basketball game clip. Please don’t. I lost IQ points.

  89. Farpezio says:

    Where's part 2

  90. Elliot Armitage says:

    one of the best videos on youtube

  91. William Innes says:

    05:07

  92. Jared Curry says:

    So almost half of these Bobs were boxers? Interesting.

  93. Josh Mccarty says:

    RIP Bob's.

  94. plasticwrap says:

    lol my grandpa might have been a Bob, but when he was young the Indians had a good player with the same last name, so he ended up being called "Mike" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Powers_(baseball)
    by the time I came around, Bob was a name only old dudes had. Even pop culture figures were different: Bobby Hill is about as close as it gets AFAIK, and frankly, that's supposed to be a dorky name.

  95. Tn Yamaneko says:

    I hope before my time has come, to know one day, how Jon Bois comes up with the idea of making a 1 and ½ hour documentary about a subject so silly yet brilliant and tantalizing as this one.

  96. William Bertram says:

    Nice work. Very enjoyable.

  97. Marcos Carrera says:

    When u see a Bob you help a bob….damn right!!!

  98. Jameson White says:

    Check out George Carlin's bit about soft names.. this will explain everything.

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