November 7 – Happy Birthday Jake Gibbs

Born in Granada, MS in 1938, Jerry Dean Gibbs was a superb high school athlete who starred at both football and baseball. In fact, the reason he finally attended Mississippi on a football scholarship was because they were going to permit him to continue to play both sports, which he did with great success. Jake was the starting quarterback for the Ole Miss football team and during his senior year with the Rebels in 1960, he quarterbacked them to an undefeated season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. Being a pretty pragmatic young man at the time, Gibbs had good reasons for choosing baseball over football as a profession. The first one of course, was money. The Yankees were offering the kid a $100,000 bonus to sign with their team. The second reason Gibbs chose the diamond over the gridiron as his workplace was safety and health related. During his pre-senior years at Mississippi, Gibbs had suffered a series of painful injuries playing football. He knew the pro game was even rougher, making that $100,000 bonus look even more attractive.

So Gibbs became a Yankee. Back then, he was a third baseman but New York’s plan was to convert him to catching and have him some day succeed Elston Howard. At first,  Gibbs resisted the idea but Yankee skipper Ralph Houk, himself a former catcher, convinced Jake that the switch would get him to the big leagues faster and keep him there longer and Houk was right. The Yankees gave Gibbs regular call-ups to the big league roster beginning in 1962 and by ’65, he was Howard’s full-time backup. He then served as the starting Yankee catcher in 1967 and ’68.

Gibbs was a very good defensive receiver but the reason the Yankees weren’t completely happy with him was his lack of offense. He was a lifetime .230 hitter with little power so it wasn’t too tough a decision for New York to return him to the backup catcher role in 1969 in favor of that season’s AL Rookie of the Year, Thurman Munson. Ironically, Gibbs greatest Yankee season took place as Munson’s backup in 1970. In just 49 games that year, he hit more home runs (8) than he ever had in pinstripes plus, he batted .301.

After Gibbs quit playing in 1971, he returned to Ole Miss where he became the Rebel’s highly successful varsity baseball coach. He also did a two-year stint as a catching coach for the Yankees in the early 1990′s.

Gibbs shares his November 7th birthday with this former Yankee relief pitcher and game announcer and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1962 NYY 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1963 NYY 4 8 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
1964 NYY 3 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333
1965 NYY 37 76 68 6 15 1 0 2 7 0 4 20 .221 .267 .324 .590
1966 NYY 62 202 182 19 47 6 0 3 20 5 19 16 .258 .327 .341 .667
1967 NYY 116 411 374 33 87 7 1 4 25 7 28 57 .233 .291 .289 .580
1968 NYY 124 460 423 31 90 12 3 3 29 9 27 68 .213 .270 .277 .546
1969 NYY 71 245 219 18 49 9 2 0 18 3 23 30 .224 .294 .283 .577
1970 NYY 49 163 153 23 46 9 2 8 26 2 7 14 .301 .331 .542 .874
1971 NYY 70 224 206 23 45 9 0 5 21 2 12 23 .218 .270 .335 .605
10 Yrs 538 1795 1639 157 382 53 8 25 146 28 120 231 .233 .289 .321 .610
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/7/2013.

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