ST. LOUIS — Cardinals nation lost one of its icons on Friday night when news broke of the passing of Bob Gibson at the age of 84.
Fans and the baseball community will remember him as one of the fiercest competitors in the history of the game.
But one current Cardinal gets to remember him as a Hall of Fame mentor.
Current Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty developed a special relationship with Gibson as he progressed through the St. Louis system. He took some time after his start in Game 3 of the Cardinals' Wild Card Series in San Diego to remember his friend.
"I want to send my thoughts and prayers to his family and everyone who was close to him. He's a legend first and foremost. He's somebody who I was lucky enough to develop a relationship with and someone I was lucky enough to learn from," Flaherty said. "And you don't get that from people like that very often. You don't get the opportunity to learn from someone of that caliber and somebody who was that good very often. So just to have the ability to form a relationship and for him to offer up his advice and anything that I could ask him... it was special."
Flaherty said he had been kept up to date on Gibson's deteriorating health, and the Hall of Famer had been on his mind even before his start Friday.
"It was a relationship I never really saw coming, I never really expected. I had been kept up on his health and where he was at. And just kept praying, and kept praying and kept praying for him... I was about to wear his jersey today to the field... decided against it. All I can say is I'm incredibly thankful to have had a relationship with him and to have learned what I learned from him," Flaherty said.
Flaherty said he hadn't been able to speak to Gibson in person for a while, but that others would communicate messages from the Hall of Famer. The last one stuck with him.
"The last message that I got from him was just to, 'Be a man. Be you.' Pretty simple. So you take that to heart. But that one hurts."
As for their special bond, Gibson must have seen something in the young, emerging ace, and wanted to pass on the knowledge that had made him so dominant.
"He initiated it. I found out that he wanted to talk to me and I was like, damn, alright. I wanted to jump at the opportunity because you don't get that opportunity very often and I was something I didn't want to pass up," Flaherty said.
"You want to seek advice from the best of the best and there's not many people better than a guy like that. So to be able to get advice from a guy like him you want to pull and pull information from guys at that level and that caliber and I was able to take every last bit of information I could from him and I knew that's exactly what I wanted to do once I was given a chance to have that relationship with him."