Monday, April 2, 2012

Jake Gibbs (#401)

Here's Jake Gibbs, entering the downside of his career.

Gibbs was an All-American QB at the University of Mississippi, and was drafted by both the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Oilers in 1961. Instead, he signed with the Yankees, and played 4 1/2 seasons in the minors. He was an infielder during his first 2 seasons before switching to catcher in 1963.

Although he had a few "cups of coffee" in '62, '63, and '64, his first extended big-league playing time came in 1965, when he made 15 starts behind the plate as the 3rd-string catcher behind Elston Howard and Doc Edwards.

In 1966, Jake moved up to #2 catcher, and he began the 1967 season alternating with Howard. When the veteran Yankee catcher was traded to Boston in early August, Gibbs took over as the regular.

1968 was the high point of his career, as he started 111 games behind the plate (and completed all but 1 of them). Gibbs' playing time began to decrease in 1969 as 2nd-year man Frank Fernandez split the catching duties with him - that is, until September arrived. Rookie catcher Thurman Munson took over at the beginning of September, sending Gibbs to the bench and Fernandez to Oakland.

Jake was relegated to backing up Munson for his final 2 seasons. His last game was on September 29, 1971.