By COREY NOLES
For decades, we've heard the stories of Bob Gibson as a no-nonsense pitcher who many believed to be quick to plunk a batter who got too greedy with the plate.
The interesting thing is that, while many people remember him that way, the numbers don't entirely support that notion.
In 17 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bob Gibson plunked, thumped or popped 102 batters.
That places him in a tie for 79th--with Randy Wolf, Carlos Zambrano, Chief Bender and Long Tom Hughes. He hit fewer batters than A.J. Burnett (115) and even the late Darryl Kile (117).
In no season during his playing career did he ever lead the league in HBPs.
He led every other category--shutouts, strikeouts, wins, ERA, even home runs one year. There were always guys who hit more batters.
For Gibson, it was never about just hitting guys, the two-time Cy Young Award winner explained during a Monday interview.
There are old tales that guys would come to Gibson in the clubhouse and ask him to hit certain players for retaliation for various things, but they're just stories.
Gibson said while it makes for good stories, that couldn't be further from the truth.
"One thing I never asked anybody if they wanted me to hit anybody," he said. "I never wanted anybody to come over and tell me that they wanted me to hit somebody."
Some things, he felt, weren't anyone else's business.
"If I wasn't gonna do that on my own, then leave me alone," Gibson said.
With that said, Gibson made it clear that he took care of his teammates when it was necessary, but that no pitcher could own the inside of the plate.
The inside belongs to the hitter.
"You don't own the inside part of the plate, you own the outside," Gibson explained. "The inside part of the plate is where the ball goes 490 or 500 feet. But the ball over the outside won't do that."
The key he said was to go inside to keep a batter from getting good wood on a ball on the outside portion of the plate.
In his own words, you "make them aware" that you aren't afraid to go inside.
"You push 'em back to keep them from hitting that ball, because guys like to get their arms out," Gibson said. "You pitch them inside, and now they're aware. It makes your outside ball a bit more effective."
That willingness to go inside on hitters is what led to his reputation.
His pinpoint accuracy and otherworldly control are why he was able to pitch inside without hitting 200 guys. He could knock a guy down without knocking him out.
He didn't need to.
In fact, his reputation alone could keep batters on their toes in the box.
Gibson brushed off questions about his approach and whether his violent motion toward first base at release made it harder for hitters to follow the ball. Regardless of whether he answered the question, his numbers confirm that something was working for him.
Gibson still holds the single season ERA record at 1.12 in 1968.
That ERA is all the intimidation you need.
Hall of Famer Lou Brock, a longtime teammate of Gibson, knows him well and insists says that over the years, he's changed very little.
About his good friend's intensity?
"He had no intensity, you just think that," Brock said, joking with his usual smile. "He's just a teddy bear."
Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. He is also a regular contributor to Bleacher Report and KSDK.com. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @coreynoles.