Gibson fulfilling dad's wish at All-Star Game
To father's chagrin, D-backs skipper passed on invites as player
PHOENIX -- At the Winter Meetings, Giants manager Bruce Bochy approached his D-backs counterpart Kirk Gibson and asked him to be part of the National League coaching staff for the 82nd All-Star Game, to be held at Chase Field on Tuesday.
After quickly saying yes, Gibson's first thoughts turned to his late father, Robert Gibson.
"There you go, Hooter," Gibson said to himself, referring to his father by his nickname.
It had been Robert Gibson's dream for his son to participate in an All-Star Game, and he was disappointed by the fact that Kirk turned down opportunities to go in 1985 and '88.
There's a certain stubbornness that comes with being a Gibson, and Kirk had it in his head that the All-Star Game was too much about personal accomplishment, while all he cared about was his team winning the World Series.
"The whole event just wasn't who I was," Gibson said.
It was a stance that Robert wished were different.
"He knew how I was," Gibson said. "I was a total team guy. There's a makeup inside of me that doesn't want any individual acknowledgement. When the World Series is over, fine, then let's talk about that stuff. But up to that point? No. It's a mechanism inside of me. I was a team-oriented guy, and I played all out every day so the three days we had I was going to take three days and chill and get ready for my team."
In 1985, Gibson's manager with the Tigers, Sparky Anderson, asked him to participate when he was selecting the American League roster, and Gibson declined.
"He found out and we had a discussion about that," Gibson said of his father. "We were very close. We had this kind of relationship where we sparred a bit."
They would spar again in 1988 when NL All-Star manager Whitey Herzog asked Gibson to be part of the All-Star team.
Gibson was in the middle of his first season with the Dodgers -- a Midwestern boy trapped on the West Coast -- and he simply wanted to spend the break with his family in Michigan.
"I was kind of missing home," Gibson said.
Gibson's dad served as his coach from the time he began playing sports, and he always wanted his son to play baseball.
"He made me run home from elementary school during lunch," Gibson said. "He'd have lunch on the table, then we'd go out in the backyard and we'd work with the football, whether it was how to carry it properly, how to catch it, how to take a handoff. If it was basketball season, we did basketball stuff, same with baseball. Then I would run back to school.
"In August, I got a couple of weeks off and we would go up to a place called Sugar Island in Canada, and we'd fish and water ski and have a two-week camping thing. That was my life growing up, every year until I was 18 years old."
At that point, Gibson was quite an accomplished football player, and Michigan State University offered him a full scholarship to play football.
"My dad told me I should go out for baseball, but I told my dad I'm a football player, I'm on a football scholarship and that's what I'm focused on," Gibson said. "It killed him. He constantly reminded me about baseball, and we kind of had this go-around. My mentality was I wanted to play in the NFL. My dad kept saying, 'Don't give up on baseball.'"
Finally, after his junior year of football, Michigan State head coach Darryl Rogers encouraged Gibson to play baseball that spring as a way of enhancing his leverage for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Gibson wound up having an All-America season on the diamond and was drafted by the Tigers in the first round (12th overall) in the 1978 First-Year Player Draft. He eventually signed.
"My dad's dream came true," Gibson said.
Prior to his death a decade ago, Robert Gibson told his son that if he got another chance to get to an All-Star Game, he should take it.
"When I was asked the first thing I thought about it was, 'Dad, you're going to get your wish,'" Gibson said. "It does make me feel good that I fulfilled that wish for him."
The ultimate competitor during his playing career, the All-Star Game will give Gibson a chance to do something that he never did as a player.
"I'm not a very social guy," Gibson said. "I don't socialize too much on the field with the other team. It's just the way I was brought up. It will be very different for me to mingle among my competitors and my peers. I'm actually looking forward to that. It's probably the next step for me. It will be a great experience."
And one that would no doubt have made his dad proud.