Cleat Geeks

Former Tiger’s player and D-back’s manager Diagnosed with Parkinson’s

We at Cleat Geeks are very sad to report that former player and manager Kirk Gibson has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

As a player Gibson spent the majority of his years with the Detroit Tigers from 1979-87 then again from 1983-85. But he also spent time with 3 other MLB teams as well. 2 of those 3 teams were the Royals in 1991 and the Pirates in 1992. He also hit 1 of the more iconic home runs in history as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in his 2 year tenure with them in 1988-90.

Gibson is perhaps best known for his one and only plate appearance in that 1988 World Series against the Oakland gibsonasDodgerAthletics. Suffering from a stomach virus and 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 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.

Fox Sports Detroit issued a release early Tuesday afternoon announcing the news.

“As many Fox Sports Detroit viewers have noticed in recent weeks, Kirk Gibson has been absent from the broadcast booth since the Opening Day 2015 telecast,” Fox Sports Detroit said in the release. “Kirk would like to disclose that after undergoing a series of tests, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”

gibsonasTigerHis coaching career started in Detroit, as a bench coach for then manager Alan Trammell (who in my humble opinion should be in the Hall of Fame) in 2003. He then moved to hitting coach midway through the 2005 season. In 2007 he went back to being a bench coach, this time with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then on July 1st 2010 the Arizona Diamondbacks fired A.J. Hinch as manager and replaced him with Kirk Gibson. Next year, his first full year at the helm, most so-called experts predicted the Diamondback to be last or close to it in their division. Gibson led his team to their second N.L. West title and that led him to become Manager of the Year. On September 26th 2014 Gibson was fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks with an overall record of 356-375 in his 4 years with the club.

In fact just as I was doing my final revisions on this article, I read a Tweet from current Arizona Diamondback President and CEO Derrick Hall that I thought was appropriate in this situation, so I decided to insert it into this article. “We are devastated about Kirk Gibson’s news. I just sent him a note to tell him how much we love him. We know he will tackle this head on.”

Gibson issued the following statement:

“I have faced many different obstacles in my life, and have always maintained a strong belief that no matter the circumstances, I could overcome those obstacles. While this diagnosis poses a new kind of challenge for me, I intend to stay true to my beliefs. With the support of my family and friends, I will meet this challenge with the same determination and unwavering intensity that I have displayed in all of my endeavors in life. I look forward to being back at the ballpark as soon as possible.”

Earlier this year, I was covering Michigan State baseball in Surprise Arizona where Kirk’s son Cam was the starting left fielder. I got to have a short conversation with Mr. Gibson and take a couple photos with him. He was extremely kind and generous with me. We at Cleat Geeks wish Kirk Gibson the best in his battle with his new obstacle.

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