Jake Gibbs – Our Interview with the Former Catcher [Click for More!]

 Pro Perspective: Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs Yankees, swinging bat


  • New York Yankees, 1962 - 1971

From Rural Mississippi to College Superstar

Jake Gibbs was born on November 7, 1938 in Grenada, Mississippi. He was a multi-sport athlete at Grenada High School, and continued his athletic pursuits at the University of Missippi - aka, Ole Miss.

Gibbs was a college superstar at Ole Miss. He led the Ole Miss Rebels to two SEC Baseball championships and also starred as the Rebels' starting Quarterback. Though a fantastic Baseball player, he really made a name for himself on the gridiron.

In Football, Jake led the SEC in passing and total offense in 1959 and led the Rebels to win the 1960 and 1961 Sugar Bowls. Gibbs finished the 1961 season as one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

Sugar Bowl, 1960 Ole Miss, Jake Gibbs as QB
Jake Gibbs (#12) in the Sugar Bowl

As you can probably imagine, Jake Gibbs was heavily recruited out of college. Many thought he would play in the NFL, but he shocked some by choosing the MLB instead.

Though Jake had offers from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, among others, he chose to go with the New York Yankees.

Gibbs stated his decision to sign with the Yankees was due to his desire to keep playing for winning teams. If you know anything about Baseball history, then you know that the Yankees at the time were a dominant force in Baseball in the 1950s and early 1960s.

With the Yankees

The Yankees gave Jake Gibbs a $100,000 signing bonus - which was huge at the time. In fact, it was the highest amount given by New York to an amateur ballplayer, up to that point in time.  

The Yankees signed Jake to play infield, which is where he played at Ole Miss. However, early in his career with the Yankees, legendary Manager Ralph Houk asked him to switch to catcher. He obliged, and would go on to play 459 big league games behind the plate.

His MLB debut occurred on on September 11, 1962 during an away game against the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Gibbs entered the game in the eight inning as a pinch runner, and he went on to score.

It was an important run, as the Yankees would go on to win by just one run, 8 to 7!

Gibbs spent his entire professional career with the Yankees, playing in the majors from 1962 - 1971. For a few years he served as backup to all star catcher Elston Howard, and gained the starting position after Howard was traded.

However, he would soon lose his new starting job to a then young catcher - and now Yankees legend - Thurman Munson.

The Yankees honored Gibbs by making the final game of the 1971 season (also the final game of his career) "Jake Gibbs Day".

He is one of the few Yankees in history to have had that honor.

In total, Jake hit .233 with nearly 400 big league hits, 25 home runs, 157 runs and 146 RBIs.

Defensively, he and threw out over 100 runners attempting to steal (44% caught stealing percentage) and he maintained a .986 fielding percentage behind the plate.

During his time in the big leagues, Gibbs was a teammate to immortal names like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford. 

Jake Gibbs, Mickey Mantle. Ralph Houk
Jake Gibbs (center) with Mickey Mantle and Yankees Manager Ralph Houk

Post Playing Career

After his playing career ended, Jake Gibbs got into coaching at his alma mater. He recruited for the Football team and managed the Rebels Baseball team.

Gibbs was a very successful college manager, and was named NCAA Baseball Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1977.

Jake retired from Ole Miss in 1990. In 1993, he served as the Yankees bullpen catcher, and from 1994 - 1995 Managed the class A minor league team, the Tampa Yankees.

Jake Gibbs signing autographs, son on shoulders
Jake Gibbs signing autographs for fans, with his son on his shoulders (source: Getty Images)

Q&A with Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs is a former MLB catcher who played for a World Series winning team comprised of multiple Hall of Fame players. He's an experienced winner - both at the collegiate and professional levels.

I wrote Jake a few months back hoping to get his input on the three questions I normally ask pro catchers. He graciously signed his 1968 Topps card for me and answered my questions, as you can see below. 

Jake Gibbs autograph, Yankees autographs, signed card

Like others in this series, I wanted to share Jake's responses with the readers of this site. My hope is that his perspective - like other pro catchers showcased on our site - will help young catchers improve their game. 

Here are his responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.

Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?

Answer: Playing in different stadiums and playing against other players - Great time. 

Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?

Answer: 1. Should know your Pitchers and how to call a game (host talk). 2. Correct fundamentals in foot work and throwing - blocking balls in dirt and home plate.

Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to play at the next level, what would it be?

Answer: Study - Know the game and work hard. It is a demanding position but very rewarding.

Jake Gibbs Catcher, Yankees, Answers Questions

As others in the Pro Perspectives series have mentioned (such as John Wathan and Phil Roof), hard work is incredibly important to be successful. As Jake notes, catching is demanding, it isn't always fun and can feel brutal at times. Embrace it!

We also like how Jake talks about the importance of studying the game in order to be successful. It's an interesting piece of advice demonstrating that it pays to do your homework and be an intelligent ballplayer. 

Thanks for Reading

We have tons more Pro Perspectives to share with our readers, so we will continue to post them in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for them!

Scott Perry is the owner and lead author at Catchers Home. He's a former baseball player, a current coach, a husband and a Dad. He remains as passionate about baseball today as he was as a kid.