Gibson in 2017
|Outfielder / Manager|
|Born: May 28, 1957|
|September 8, 1979, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 10, 1995, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||870|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kirk Harold Gibson (nicknamed "Gibby") (born May 28, 1957) is an American former professional baseball player and manager. He is currently a color commentator for the Detroit Tigers on Fox Sports Detroit and a special assistant for the Tigers. 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.
A fierce competitor, Gibson is perhaps best known for two dramatic home runs in the World Series, each of them off a relief pitcher who would end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. With the Tigers, he clinched the 1984 World Series with a three-run homer off Goose Gossage, who had refused to walk him with a base open. While with the Dodgers, Gibson was named the National League MVP in 1988. In game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Gibson faced heralded closer Dennis Eckersley and hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run—often described as one of the most exciting moments in World Series history. He was named to the All-Star team twice, in 1985 and 1988, but declined the invitation both times. He announced his retirement from baseball in August 1995.
Following his retirement as a player, he spent five seasons as a television analyst in Detroit and 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 mid-season dismissal of A. J. Hinch. On October 4, 2010, the Diamondbacks removed the "interim" label, naming Gibson their manager for the 2011 season. Gibson served as the Diamondbacks' manager until September 26, 2014.
Gibson was born in Pontiac, Michigan on May 28, 1957, 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. For his accomplishments on the football field, Gibson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in January 2017.
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). He chose baseball.
Gibson played as the regular right fielder for the Detroit Tigers from 1983 to 1987. He helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series. He became a free agent after the 1985 season but received no significant offers because of what was later determined to be collusion among the owners of MLB teams. He re-signed with the Tigers and in 1987, helped them to win the American League East by one game over the Blue Jays in an enthralling divisional race. However, Detroit lost the 1987 American League Championship Series to the eventual World Champion Twins.
Early in his career, Gibson was proclaimed by manager Sparky Anderson to be the next Mickey Mantle. Anderson later 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 Padres, he faced Goose Gossage, one of the game's premier relievers, with Detroit up 5–4 and runners on second and third with one out. An intentional (or at least semi-intentional) walk seemed to be in order, especially because Gibson had already homered earlier in the game. However, Gossage told San Diego manager Dick Williams he thought he could strike him out. Indeed, Gossage had struck out Gibson in his very first Major League at-bat in 1979 on 3 pitches, and Kirk had only managed one bunt-single against Gossage in 10 previous plate appearances. When asked about Gibson, Gossage later said he had told teammate Tim Lollar in the second inning, "I own him." If the Padres could hold the Tigers and score a couple runs 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 yelling at Gibson from the dugout, "He don't want to walk you!", showing four fingers and then making a bat-swinging motion, 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 that 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."
In 1988, 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 criticized the team, which had finished 4th in the NL West the previous season, for its unprofessionalism. He became the team's de facto leader, and won 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, the intensity and leadership he brought to an increasingly successful team likely won him the award over players with more impressive statistics. (MVP runner-up Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets, for example, led the NL with 39 home runs that season.)
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 in Game 3. 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, reached out and made a full extension catch to save a potential Mookie Wilson double; however, the Dodgers lost the game 8–4. In Game 4, his solo home run in the top of the 12th proved to be the winning hit. In Game 5, he hit a two-out three-run homer in the fifth; the Dodgers ended up winning the game 7–4. Nonetheless, his LCS heroics served as but a prelude to the career-defining moment that awaited him in the subsequent World Series.
Gibson is perhaps best known for his one and only plate appearance in the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. Having injured both legs during the NLCS, Gibson was not expected to play at all. In Game 1, however, with the Dodgers trailing by a score of 4–3, Mike Davis on first base, and two out in the ninth inning, manager Tommy Lasorda unexpectedly inserted his hobbled league MVP as a pinch hitter. Gibson, limping back and forth between a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee, made his way 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. He then kept the count at 2–2 by fouling off a pitch. On the 7th 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 Gibson, advanced 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 right fist as his jubilant teammates stormed the field. The Dodgers won the game, 5–4, and would go on to win the World Series, four games to one.
In 1991, Gibson signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals, and then in 1992 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neal Heaton. He retired from baseball temporarily, after being released by the Pirates on May 5, 1992. A month later, Gibson got an offer to return to Detroit—not with the Tigers, but to play football again, with the Arena Football League's Detroit Drive; he declined the offer. The following spring, Sparky Anderson convinced him to return to baseball. He spent the final three years of his career (1993–1995) back with the Detroit Tigers, including a renaissance season in 1994 when he slugged 23 homers.
On January 28, 2019, Gibson was named a special assistant for the Detroit Tigers.
In 2003, 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 2005 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 wore #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. In his first full year as manager, Gibson led the Diamondbacks to their first N.L. West title since 2007, when most sports writers expected them to be in last place for the third time in a row. He was named NL Manager of the Year on November 16, 2011. On September 26, 2014 the Arizona Diamondbacks fired Gibson, ending his four-year tenure with the team. He finished his Diamondbacks career with a 353–375 regular season and 2–3 post–season record.
|Team||From||To||Regular season record||Post–season record|
|W||L||Win %||W||L||Win %|
Gibson married JoAnn Sklarski on December 22, 1985, 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. The Gibsons reside in Novi, Michigan, and have four children: Colleen, Cam, Kirk, and Kevin. Gibson's son Cam was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 5th round, 160th overall, in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. His son Kevin is a defenseman for the Fort Wayne Komets in the ECHL.
Gibson is an avid deer hunter. He and former teammate David Wells, along with former MLB pitcher Jake Peavy, own a 1,300-acre hunting ranch near Millersburg, Michigan, which they named the "Buck Falls Ranch". On April 28, 2015, it was announced that Gibson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
| Detroit Tigers hitting coach
| Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach