Kirk Harold Gibson (born May 28, 1957) is a former Major League Baseball player and currently the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. As a player, Gibson was an outfielder who batted and threw left-handed. He spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers but also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gibson is best known for a home run he hit off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, during his time with the Dodgers. He was named the National League MVP in 1988. He is the only MVP winner to never appear on an All-Star roster since the advent of the All-Star Game. He was named to the team twice, in 1985 and 1988, but declined the invitation both times. He announced his retirement from baseball in August 1995.
Following his playing retirement, he spent five seasons as a television analyst in Detroit, then became a coach for the Tigers in 2003. He became the Diamondbacks' bench coach in 2007, and was promoted to interim manager in 2010 following the midseason dismissal of A. J. Hinch. On October 4, 2010, the Diamondbacks removed the "interim" label, naming Gibson their manager for the 2011 season.
Early life and collegiate careerEdit
Gibson was born in Pontiac, Michigan, grew up in Waterford, Michigan (attending Waterford Kettering High School), and attended Michigan State University where he was an All-American wide receiver in football. Gibson's college football career was distinguished by leading the Spartans to a tie for the Big Ten title, setting school and conference receiving records, starring in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl and making several All-America teams. It was at the suggestion of Spartan football coach Darryl Rogers that Gibson played collegiate baseball. Gibson played only one year of college baseball, but managed to hit .390 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 48 games. He was drafted by both the Detroit Tigers baseball team (1st round) and the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) football team (7th round), but chose baseball.
Gibson played as the regular right fielder for the Detroit Tigers from Template:By to Template:By. He helped the Tigers to the 1984 World Series championship. He became a free agent after the 1985 season, but received no significant offers, due to what was later determined to be collusion among the owners of Major League Baseball teams. He re-signed with the Tigers, and in Template:By helped them to win the American League East by two games over the Toronto Blue Jays in an enthralling divisional race. However, Detroit lost the 1987 American League Championship Series to the eventual World Champion Minnesota Twins.
Early in his career, Gibson was proclaimed by manager Sparky Anderson as the next Mickey Mantle. Later, Anderson apologized and said that probably put too much pressure on a young and inexperienced Gibson. Nevertheless, Gibson was considered a versatile power/speed player in the 1980s who was able to hit home runs as well as steal bases. He finished in the top 10 in home runs 3 times in his career and ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases 4 times. He fell one home run short of becoming the first Tiger in the 30-30 club in 1985.
Gibson was known for hitting clutch home runs. In the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 1984 World Series between the Tigers and San Diego Padres, he faced Goose Gossage, one of the game's premier relievers, with Detroit up 5-4 and runners on second and third. An intentional (or at least semi-intentional) walk seemed to be in order, especially since Gibson had already homered earlier in the game. But Gossage told San Diego manager Dick Williams he thought he could get the Tigers' right fielder to strike out. Indeed, Gossage had struck out Gibson in Gibson's very first Major League at-bat in 1979, and Gibson had only managed one bunt-single against Gossage in 10 previous plate appearances. Gossage later said he had told teammate Tim Lollar before the game, "I own him," when asked about Gibson. If the Padres could hold the Tigers and score a couple in the ninth, they would force the Series back to San Diego, and maybe turn the tide. In the Sounds of the Game video, Detroit manager Sparky Anderson was seen in the dugout, yelling at Gibson, "He don't want to walk you!" and making a bat-swinging motion with his hands, the universal baseball gesture for "swing away." Gibson got the message, and launched Gossage's 1-0 fastball deep into Tiger Stadium's right field upper deck for a three-run homer, icing the game and the Series for the Tigers.
In the ESPN interview with Gossage and Williams aired after the 2008 Hall of Fame inductions, Williams took responsibility for the situation, as he allowed Gossage to talk him into pitching to Gibson. At the same time, Williams ribbed Gossage that Gibson's home run damaged several seats, "in consecutive rows."
Los Angeles DodgersEdit
In Template:By, an arbitrator ruled that baseball team owners had colluded against the players in an effort to stem free agency. He granted several players, including Gibson, immediate free agency. Gibson signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gibson joined the Dodgers in 1988, and immediately brought a winning attitude after a publicized blow-up when pitcher Jesse Orosco put shoe black in his cap during a spring training prank. Gibson openly ripped the team, which had finished 4th in the NL West the year before, for its unprofessionalism. He became the team's de facto leader, winning a controversial NL MVP award after batting .290 with 25 home runs, 76 RBIs, 106 runs and 31 stolen bases. While he didn't lead the league in any major category, Gibson likely won the award more for his intensity and leadership than for his stats.
In the 1988 National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, Gibson made an improbable catch in left field at a rain-soaked Shea Stadium. Racing back, he slipped on the wet grass and, while on his way down with his knees on the ground and the rest of his body suspended, he reached out and made a full extension catch to save a Mookie Wilson double and preserve a win in Game 3. In Game 4, he hit a solo home run in the top of the 12th that ended up winning the game for the Dodgers. In Game 5, he hit a two-out three-run homer in the fifth; the Dodgers ended up winning the game 7-4. His LCS heroics proved to be a prelude to his single most visible career moment.
The 1988 World Series home runEdit
- Main article: Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series home run
Gibson is perhaps best known for his one and only plate appearance in the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. With a stomach virus and injuries to both legs sustained during the League Championship Series, Gibson was not expected to play at all. In Game 1, on October 15, 1988 at Dodger Stadium, with the Dodgers trailing by a score of 4–3, Mike Davis on first, and two out in the ninth inning, manager Tommy Lasorda inserted Gibson as a pinch hitter.
Gibson limped up to the plate to face Oakland's future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley. Gibson quickly got behind in the count, 0–2, but laid off a pair of outside pitches that were called balls and fouled off a pitch to work to a 2–2 count. On the sixth pitch of his at bat, a ball, Davis stole second. With an awkward, almost casual swing, Gibson used pure upper-body strength -- and according to some, advance scouting-based knowledge of what the pitcher would likely throw with that count -- to smack a 3–2 backdoor slider over the right-field fence. He hobbled around the bases and pumped his fist as his jubilant teammates stormed the field. The Dodgers won the game, 5–4, and would go on to win the World Series, 4–1.
In Template:By, Gibson signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals, and then in Template:By signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired from baseball temporarily, after being released by the Pirates. The following spring, Sparky Anderson convinced him to return to baseball. He spent the final three years of his career (Template:By–Template:By) back with the Detroit Tigers, including a renaissance season in Template:By when he slugged 23 homers.
In Template:By, he was named the Tigers' bench coach by new Tigers manager and former Tigers teammate Alan Trammell. He served in that position until the midway point of the Template:By season when he was moved from bench coach to hitting coach, swapping positions with Bruce Fields. As of the start of the 2007 Major League Baseball season, Gibson became the new Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach.
Gibson had worn #23 as a player in both football at Michigan State and baseball throughout his career. However, while coaching for the Tigers, he wore #22 after #23 was retired for Willie Horton. Gibson currently wears #23 as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On July 1, 2010, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired A. J. Hinch as manager and promoted Gibson from his position as bench coach to interim manager. Shortly after the season, Gibson was named permanent manager and given a two-year contract.
Gibson married JoAnn Sklarski on December 22, 1985 they have three kids Cam, Kr and Kevin, in a double ceremony where Tiger pitcher Dave Rozema married JoAnn's sister Sandy. They were married at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.
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