November 22, 2006

The Legend of Gibby

Originally uploaded by Rick Rock Radio.
It was only a few years after Al Kaline retired that Kirk Gibson joined the Detroit Tigers squad and took over in right field. I recall Sparky Anderson, the Tigers manager in '79, making comparisons to former New York Yankee Mickey Mantle for Gibby. I really didn't know who Mantle was, but I thought he must have been good because everyone said that Gibby was going to be a great player. My Sporting News Hall of Fame Encyclopedia verified that Mantle was a great one.

In 1982, Jerry Green, longtime writer for the Detroit News, wrote a huge article entitled "Whatever Happened to Kirk Gibson?" I will never forget that article. Gibby was young then, and unproven. He was the victim of extremely high expectations. He was from Waterford, Mich. He was a superstar football player at Michigan State University. Then, he signed on with his home state's major league baseball team.

Gibby had some decent games in '81, '82 and '83. He especially had a strong second-half in the strike-shortened '81 season. That season the Tigers came close and you could tell they were on the verge of being a very good team. Close again in '82. Then in '83, the Orioles barely beat them out. 1984 ... now that was a season.

Kirk Gibson arrived on Oct. 14, 1984. Two huge home runs that day ... but none bigger than the one off Goose Gossage. It made the score 8-4 or something like that and we knew. That was like in the seventh inning. But, we knew. They were the World Champions. It was awesome. And Gibby was the hero.

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