Jim Bibby (1944-2010)

By Sammy Batten
Updated: February 18, 2010

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Willis McLeod had never watched the baseball team at Fayetteville State until his senior year in 1964 when a relative newcomer on campus piqued his interest.

“At that time, he was one of the best pitchers I had ever seen,” said McLeod, who would later become chancellor at FSU. “He had no problem throwing it 90 miles an hour. We eventually started coming out just to watch him warm up.”

The pitcher was Jim Bibby, who would leave Fayetteville State in 1965 for a career in professional baseball that would eventually cover 12 major-league seasons, 111 victories and a World Series championship.

The most famous alum from a baseball program that went dormant in the late 1970s, Bibby died Tuesday at the age of 65 in Lynchburg, Va.

Bibby was a long-time resident of Madison Heights, a town just outside Lynchburg.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

McLeod was a classmate of Bibby’s older brother, Fred, who was a basketball star for the Broncos and a member of the FSU Athletic Hall of Fame. It was because of his older brother that Jim Bibby made his way to Fayetteville State from their hometown of Franklinton.

“If it hadn’t been for his older brother, we wouldn’t have gotten Jim,” McLeod said. “I remember he was taller than Fred, about 6-foot-5 or 6-6. He was a very affable, outgoing person, just like all the Bibbys. People on campus were really proud that somebody with his ability was at Fayetteville State.”

Jim was the middle brother in a trio of athletic siblings, including Fred and former UCLA point guard Henry Bibby.

Dr. Joseph Johnson, a professor in FSU’s School of Education, has maintained a friendship with Bibby’s brother Fred through the years. He recalls Jim Bibby residing at Williams Hall on campus.

“He was a big boy, and a very happy-go-lucky guy,” Johnson said.

“But he could throw that ball. It was kind of like when you’re growing up in your neighborhood and you see a special athlete. We knew he was a great player. He was born to pitch. We’d quietly say, ‘Jim Bibby. One day he’s going to be great. He’s going to make it.’

“He didn’t finish at Fayetteville State, but we still consider him an alum. We were all proud. He was our Jim Bibby.”

Very little is known about Bibby’s career at FSU. The school doesn’t have baseball records from that era so no statistical information on Bibby with the Broncos is available.

He attended the school between 1963 and 1965, but didn’t earn a degree because professional baseball came calling at the end of his junior year.

The New York Mets signed Bibby as a free agent and sent him to the minor leagues in the summer of ’65. Although his career would be interrupted by a two-year stint serving in the military during the Vietnam War, and another year in which a back injury that required spinal fusion surgery sidelined him, Bibby reached the majors in 1972 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

A year later, on July 30, 1973, Bibby tossed the first no-hitter in the history of the Texas Rangers franchise in beating the Oakland Athletics, 6-0.

Bibby would play for the Cardinals, Rangers and Cleveland Indians before moving in 1978 to Pittsburgh where he would enjoy his greatest success.

He helped the Pirates win the 1979 world championship and in 1980 enjoyed his best major league season, producing a 19-6 record that would earn him a spot on the National League All-Star team. He would retire following the 1984 season with the Pirates after posting an 111-101 career won-loss record.

That wasn’t the end of Bibby’s career in pro baseball, however. He served as pitching coach for the Lynchburg minor league franchise for 15 years and an additional year with the Nashville, Tenn., club before leaving the game.

Although he hasn’t made it into FSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame like his older brother Fred, Jim Bibby is still one of the best athletes to ever play at the school in McLeod’s mind.

“I think any sport he chose, I’m sure he would have been superior in it,” McLeod said. “We’ve had some good athletes, but I put him right up there in the top one percent easily.”