Retired baseball player, Kirk Gibson, was born May 28, 1957 in Pontiac, Michigan. Gibson is best known for his clutch home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Today Gibson is currently the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kirk Gibson played as the right fielder for the Detroit Tigers from 1983 to 1985. 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 collusion among the owners of Major League Baseball teams. He re-signed with the Tigers, and in 1987 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.
Kirk 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.
In 1988, an arbitrator, Thomas Roberts, ruled that the owners colluded against the players. He ruled that several players, including Kirk Gibson, were to be immediate free agents. They were free to sign with any team. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him.
Gibson was known for hitting clutch home runs. In the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, he faced Goose Gossage, one of the game's premier relievers, with Detroit up 5-4 and first base open. 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 out; indeed, he had struck out Gibson in the latter's very first Major League at-bat in 1979. 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 next pitch 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".
Playing for the Dodgers 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, yet 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 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.
In the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, Gibson -- the 1988 NL MVP -- saw only a single plate appearance in the series, but it was one of the most memorable and oft-replayed in baseball history. Gibson had severely injured both legs during the League Championship Series and had a stomach virus. He 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. Earlier, the TV camera had scanned the dugout and Vin Scully (the legendary Dodger announcer, who was calling the game with Joe Garagiola for NBC) observed that Gibson was nowhere to be found. According to legend, he was in the clubhouse undergoing physical therapy and saw this on the television, spurring him to get back in the dugout and tell Lasorda he was ready if needed. When Gibson received the news that he would pinch-hit, he went to the clubhouse batting-cage to warm-up. Suffering through such terrible pain in his knee, it is said he was wincing and nearly collapsing after every practice swing.
Kirk Gibson hobbled up to the plate with Scully commenting, "Look who's coming up!" He was facing Dennis Eckersley. Gibson quickly got behind in the count, 0-2, but received a few outside pitches from Eckersley to work to a 3–2 count. On the sixth pitch of his at bat, a ball, Davis stole second. The A's could have walked Gibson to face Steve Sax, but chose to pitch to him, just as Gossage had done four years earlier. With an awkward, almost casual swing, Gibson used pure upper-body strength 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. The telecast of the home run is also notable because the shot of the ball flying over the wall also captures the taillights of the cars leaving the lot, presumably filled with fans who had either given up hope and were merely leaving early to avoid the traffic (a standard Dodger Stadium fan stereotype).
Gibson later said that prior to the Series, Dodger scout Mel Didier had provided a report on Eckersley that claimed with a 3-2 count against a left-handed hitter, one could be absolutely certain that Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider. Gibson said that when the count reached 3-2, he stepped out of the batter's box and, in his mind, could hear Didier's voice, with its distinctive Southern drawl, reiterating that same piece of advice. With that thought in mind, Gibson stepped back into the batter's box; and thus when Eckersley did in fact throw a backdoor slider, it was, thanks to Didier, exactly the pitch Gibson was looking for.
The home run was so memorable that it was included as a finalist in a Major League Baseball contest to determine the sport's "Greatest Moment of All-Time." For years after the fact, it was regularly used in This Week in Baseball's closing montage sequence. An edited audio of Scully's 1988 call has been used in 2005 post-season action, in a TV ad featuring a recreational softball game, with a portly player essentially re-enacting that entire moment as he hits the softball over the right field fence to win the game. It was in competition on ESPN's SportsCenter for the Greatest Sports Highlight of All-Time.