ST. LOUIS -- Bob Gibson was 23 when he debuted with the Cardinals in 1959, and by the time he was 25, he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career as a permanent fixture in the Cards' rotation, a run that lasted 17 years.
Because Gibson was so young when he started out and dominant almost from day one, he's naturally going to be the player people refer to when another young fireballer comes up through the Cardinals' system. That's the way it works -- Gibson was this type of pitcher, at this particular age, and if another St. Louis pitcher does anything close to the same, then boom -- just like that -- comparisons start flying.
So, of course, when Michael Wacha first started dominating in the postseason after having only a handful of regular-season starts to get his feet wet, the first person he was compared to was -- who else? -- Gibson. Ask Gibson for the similarities, however, and he just doesn't see many. Wacha, in Gibson's estimation, is in a class of his own.
"He's only 22 years old," Gibson said. "When I was 22 years old, they were still changing my diaper."
The metaphor was used more to illustrate how unprepared emotionally a ballplayer can be for the big stage before he's ready, and in that respect, Gibson believes Wacha won't have any issues as he continues to acclimate himself to the big league life.
"He's so composed compared to when we were that age," Gibson said. "I don't know how to say it. ... At 22, it seems like you shouldn't be that mature. But he is. And I think it's great."
Gibson has been a regular presence at Busch Stadium throughout the postseason, donning a red jacket along with the other Cardinals Hall of Famers invited to participate in the pageantry of the on-field pregame ceremonies leading up to Game 4. With such a rich history, the Cards have celebrated their history day after day throughout the postseason, having a plethora of former stars and Hall of Famers to honor during their run through October.
On Sunday, they fittingly saluted the 1967 World Series championship club, which beat Boston in seven games. Gibson -- flanked by '67 manager Red Schoendienst and Hall of Famer Lou Brock -- threw the ceremonial first pitch to current radio announcer Mike Shannon. All four, of course, played a role in the Cardinals going 101-60 in 1967 before capping off a magical year with their second title in four years.
"Throwing out the pitch is not nearly as important as what they're doing out there tonight," Gibson said, referring to the current Redbirds club. "It does bring back old memories from a long, long time ago. I enjoy coming back, and I've always enjoyed the St. Louis crowd."
Gibson, Shannon and Brock played on three World Series teams with the Cards, winning it twice. Brock, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame four years after Gibson in 1985, echoed the sentiment of everyone who's ever played in the Fall Classic, noting that nothing else a player accomplishes in his career can compare to winning the whole thing.
"You call them memory makers," Brock said. "There's nothing better to make a memory than the World Series. It is baseball's finest moment, and it's the moment where the biggest stage is there and you are competing for the world against a team that is trying to prevent you from being 'on the throne' at the moment in Major League Baseball.
"Some of us were fortunate to play on a World Series team, some of us were fortunate enough to be the one to make a difference for a team to win. Every guy sort of thinks that. Collectively, it takes a whole team to make it happen."
The pregame ceremony was jam-packed with events, including the presentation of the Hank Aaron Award to the best offensive players in each league. Miguel Cabrera won it for the American League for the second year in a row. In the National League, the award went to D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt. Aaron was on hand to present the award to Cabrera, while Goldschmidt was unable to attend, as he was on his way to Australia to promote the 2014 Opening Series.
Grammy Award-winning country music band Rascal Flatts performed the national anthem to a rousing approval from Cardinals fans, and the band was greeted with a big bear hug from Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy as they were walking off the field.
"Years ago when we first got asked to do the anthem at some games, we came up with an arrangement that we stayed true to all these years," bass guitarist Jay DeMarcus said. "If you start fooling with it too much and you get confused at that big moment, there's a lot of room for disaster. We've sung the same arrangement for about 12 years, which is how we safeguard ourselves against it."
Two young fans with life-threatening medical conditions, whose wish it was to attend a World Series game, yelled "Play Ball!" to ceremoniously begin Game 4. The honor went to Michael "Austin" Summerbell, 15, from Lynn Haven, Fla., and Micah Reed, 10, from Sulphur Spring, Texas.
Amanda Richardson, 18, delivered the first ball to the mound with So Taguchi, a member of the 2006 World Series champion Cards. Richardson -- who is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Herbert Hoover Club -- is a freshman at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.