Kirk Gibson remembers Tiger Stadium

Kirk Gibson excelled playing in Tiger Stadium during his career with the Tigers.

Kirk Gibson excelled playing in Tiger Stadium during his career with the Tigers.

For Detroit fans, it would be hard to find a more perfectly matched pair of sports icons than Kirk Gibson and Tiger Stadium. They melded into one in the fifth game of the 1984 World Series, when Gibby famously deposited a Goose Gossage fastball into the upper deck in right, sealing the Tigers’ last World Series championship.

Tiger Stadium was a special place for Gibson – not only during his two stints (1979-1987 and 1993-1995) as a Tiger, but throughout his entire life, as he recalled in an interview during the team’s last season at the old ballpark, in 1999.

“The biggest vision I have of the stadium is of when I was a little kid,” said Gibson, who was born in 1957 and grew up in Waterford. “My birthday’s in May, and I remember going down there for that. Earl Wilson, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, Willie Horton, Bill Freehan, Dick McAuliffe, Norm Cash – that’s the era that really sticks out in my mind. I remember watching them in the World Series. I think I was in sixth grade.

“Bat Day always used to take place right around my birthday. I remember sitting in the green wooden seats in the upper deck just above third base, banging my bat on the cement floor and with my free hand smashing the vacant chair next to me and screaming, ‘Let’s go, Tigers!’

“That’s my first memory of Tiger Stadium. The green seats, the wooden chairs, banging my bat. When they switched over to orange and blue plastic, it looked good, but I’ll never forget the green.

“The memories go back so far. The things on the field are so obvious. The whole ’84 World Series scene was awesome, seeing the whole place packed and the excitement. I’ll never forget when the sod got ripped up. That was just Detroit. I didn’t see anything negative in that.

“I remember the Opening Day when I lost the ball in the sun and it hit me. No clouds in the sky. Tiger Stadium is known for that. I remember one ball that just missed the overhang, and I lost sight of it, and it got me.

“I’ll always remember things like the short right field porch with the overhang…the small dugout, where you’d always bump your head when you were excited and jumped up…the proximity of the fans to the players…things that were incredible and probably will never be recaptured.”

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About Richard Bak

Richard Bak grew up on Detroit's west side doing poor imitations of Dick McAuliffe's batting stance and Denny McLain's leg kick. He is a contributing writer to Hour Detroit magazine and the author of nearly 30 books, including biographies of Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. Bak's most recent books are The Big Jump, the story of Charles Lindbergh and the great New York-to-Paris air race of the 1920s, and Detroitland, a collection of his history pieces. He currently is finishing two more books of history: Soldier of Misfortune: The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik and Its Aftermath (DaCapo) and When Lions Were Kings: The Detroit Lions and the Fabulous Fifties (Wayne State University Press), both of which will be published in 2015.