St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson visits spring-training camp

Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson talks with Dexter Fowler at spring training

St. Louis MO Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson talks with new Cards center fielder Dexter Fowler at Major League Baseball MLB spring training in Jupiter FL.
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St. Louis MO Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson talks with new Cards center fielder Dexter Fowler at Major League Baseball MLB spring training in Jupiter FL.

Bob Gibson is still a menacing figure at the age of 81.

The St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame right-hander, who won 251 games in his career, was in spring-training camp Tuesday and is expected to hang around for a few more days.

Gibson didn’t formally talk to the ball club, but he did speak to a few of the pitchers.

“We’re just honored that he showed,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “I know it’s tough getting away (from Omaha, Neb.), but he’s special.”

Matheny said it’s important for the Cardinals, particularly their younger players, to become familiar with former stars like Gibson.

“Part of passing on the tradition and the history around here is (knowing) some of these faces and hearing some of their ideas and their voices,” Matheny said. “It’s unique, and it’s something we’ve got to try, as much as we can, to continue to incorporate.”

Matheny spent several minutes talking to Gibson, whose 1.12 ERA in 1968 remains a major-league record — and likely will forever.

“Some of our Hall of Famers come in, and our guys are intimidated, and they’re not an easily intimidated group,” Matheny said. “But when you have the Hall of Famers (around), they just don’t feel comfortable. We’re trying to break down that.”

Matheny encourages his players to be outgoing with the Hall of Famers. If not, said the manager, it’s a “missed opportunity.”

“If they don’t take advantage of it, that’s really their loss,” Matheny said. “I make sure they understand how unique it is and how special it is to have these opportunities – and not let them slip away. We’re not guaranteed we’re going to have those opportunities, whether they’ll be able to make the time to come down here.”

One player who didn’t shy away from meeting Gibson was newcomer Dexter Fowler, who spent several minutes catching up with Gibson.

“Welcome to a real organization,” Gibson told Fowler.

Fowler, who played the last two seasons for the Chicago Cubs, laughed and extended his hand.

Gibson did not talk with the media.

Adam Wainwright has had several chances to talk with Gibson over the years and has enjoyed every exchange.

“He’s still part of everything here,” Wainwright said. “That’s what we love about it when he’s here.”

Wainwright said he always makes it a point to do more listening than talking when he’s around Gibson.

“I try to listen as much as I can. I don’t want to fill the box with too many of my words when he’s got stuff to say, which he’s usually great about doing,” Wainwright said. “I let him do it.”

Another Cardinals pitcher, Mitch Harris, said Gibson seems bigger than life.

“For him to be approachable and talk to guys is amazing,” Cardinals pitcher Mitch Harris said.

Another sports celebrity was in camp Tuesday, as Jupiter native and professional golfer Ricky Fowler visited the Cardinals and the Marlins.

Fowler, 28, fresh off a championship in the Honda Classic, threw off the mound as he visited the Cardinals’ side of the Roger Dean Stadium complex. 

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm