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.”

11 replies on “Kirk Gibson remembers Tiger Stadium

  • Stan Sikorski

    Also born in ’57 and followed Gibson through MS’79 where he played receiver to Eddie Smith along with Mark Brammer and Eugene Byrd. Credit Kaline with coaching Gibson how to play right field. Gibson was one of if not the fastest in baseball during his era. He used to play shallow and run deep after fly balls until he learned the wall didn’t move like a linebacker when you hit it. Since he began baseball later in his athletic career he needed coaching on how to field short hoppers. Kaline taught him to take advantage of his speed by playing deeper, running in and field the short hopper. Was their singing “Goose Busters” while they were playing Ghostbusters in the stadium when he hit the HR off Gossage. Dropped into Kalines corner and made my way running down the warning track to CF to celebrate the ’84 World Series victory. Yes I did take home a piece of sod.

  • Ed Torres

    Banging the seats, pounding the bats. I know there’s a ton of use with those memories. Heck, I still have two bats from the old bat days.

  • Bob Diamond

    I was born in 1954. My first memory of Briggs Stadium was a Friday night game. As dad and I walked through the ramp into the upper deck bleachers I looked down and saw a gray uniform with No. 7 on it, hands on knees looking in towards home plate. “That’s Mickey Mantle,” Dad said. The Tigers’ uniforms were so white in contrast. A sea of green, from the grass to the seats, surrounded me. There was a distinct smell to the old ballpark. Blindfolded you could tell when you were there. It was a mix of beer and hot dogs that had soaked into the concrete over the years. We usually sat in the right center field upper deck bleachers. My first tickets cost just 25-cents! I longed to sit closer to the field. Finally, when I was about 10, we sat in the Upper Deck reserves in Section 17 above first base. Still the best seats in baseball ever in my opinion. Ironically, it was from there I watched the Orioles’ Jim Gentile hit the first home run I had ever seen into the Upper Deck right center field bleachers we always sat in. Eventually, I would sit in every area of the stadium, even the Third Deck. It was from there the first home run I had ever seen over the 440-mark in dead center by pitcher Earl Wilson when he was with the Red Sox. My Bat Day memory is when I was 12. We let a friend hold our bats and climbed the fence in center field while the Twins were taking batting practice. I came away with the first baseball I ever got at a game, hit by Harmon Killebrew one-bounce off the fence, before the usher came and chased us back over the fence. During the long Sunday doubleheaders, I used to roll up my dad’s sports section and ball up a hot dog wrapper to play a make believe game under the stands. I won a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola that allowed me to go on the field for the first time at a cold April game when I was 12. I was down in the bullpen area. It was like being in heaven! I still have the photos taken with Gladding and Northrup, and with Kaline. I eventually wound up playing in Tiger Stadium three times on an American Legion and two AABC all-star games – two as a third baseman and one at second. I managed only a single up the middle in about six total at-bats. Each time I had visions of my boyhood heroes playing there beside me. A great place where you could really enjoy the game. I imagine most youngsters of that era will take wonderful memories to their end as will I.

  • bill craig

    Yep – 2 bats from Bat Day and a ball from Ball Day. Alas – the cap from Cap Day was stolen right off my head in front of Louie’s Loans on Michigan Ave as I waited for a ride from my folks. It was like 45 years ago but I’d still like it back!

  • 68er

    It was all the green. My first view of Tiger Stadium was walking out just behind home plate 1967. The vastness of the outfield and the 440 sign miles away. And the sweeping panorama of the outfield grass and the stadium interior and of course the seats. I have one of the old green seats. A guy had a whole truck full of the seats and was selling them right outside the stadium just after the switched to the orange and blue. I will never forgive Illitch for demolishing Tiger for that abomination they now play in.

  • Larry

    If you lived in my neighbborhood Free bat day was like a national holiday . Not every family would have a bat so a free bat was a huge deal . Kids would drag bat stamped with Horton, Freehan, Kaline ect around all year . If you were 10-12 yrs old in the 60’s the bat was like gold.

    After the game we would stand at Michigan & Trumbull and dad would take our photo with my new bat . It was like dad going fishing a getting a huge pike or bass . The new bat was driven around on my bike after we arrived home . Then the bat was used the rest of the summer .

    We played baseball, swam, and of course never missed a Tigers game called by Ernie . A very old AM radio was able to pull in the games for us . None of the boys from our ball team were ever in trouble, We did outdoors activity than in some way revolved around the Tigers .
    Life was much more simple then . We thought of Tigers Stadium as some type of House of Worship . What I would do to have the 1960’s back again .

  • Rick

    Reading all of your comments makes me realize how lucky we all were to grow up in the 60’s and have the memories we do. They can take modern baseball and sports in general and stick it. Give me the Kalines, Mays, Mantle’s, Aaron’s, Clemente’s and all the rest. THOSE guys were heroes! The bums today are just that bums! The roider’s and cheater’s of the game have ruined it for me. Thanks Bud Selig for ruining the greatest game ever!

  • Rob Gibson

    My first memory of Tiger Stadium was in 1984,being 6 years old, going to my first game against the Cleveland Indians. George Vukovich hitting two homeruns for the Indians, Herndon hitting one. The Tigers losing. But walking up that third base tunnel and the vast sea of green being eye level with me as I got half way up. How green everything was, how the sound of the ball hitting the bat resonated throughout the whole stadium. You could hear ballplayers conversations as they took BP.

    I got to talk to Mike Laga at another game. Listen to Mike Heath and Walt Terrell joke as Terrell threw in the bullpen. And hear ball players yell at me as Trammell laced a ball down the wall and nearly took my head off as I leaned over the railing.

    I love that stadium. Comerica will never be what Tiger Stadium was. Comerica to me is an amusement park where the Tigers happen to play. There is no baseball atmosphere there..

  • Scott Dominiak

    My first recollection of Tiger Stadium was when my mom would pack up the car with my brothers and take us to Ladies Day for an afternoon game in the mid ’60s. But the memory that stands out the most was my first twilight doubleheader around 1967. My friend’s dad took us to see the Cleveland Indians. When it got dark, there was a huge cloud of smoke hovering over the stadium because of cigars and cigarettes the fans were smoking. In fact, it was so thick, I thought at first that clouds were upon us and it was going to rain, until my friend told me differently. From that moment on, we always referred to Tiger Stadium as “Stogie Stadium”. The smells of the stadium have never left me.

  • Margaret Herring Ostrander

    I remember my Dad taking me to Briggs Stadium. I was born in 1944 and my Mom would tell him to sit behind the net to keep me safe I guess. I’ll never ever forget all the places my Dad took me. He was a wonderful Father.

  • Dave Cobb

    My birthday also was in May. So my parents wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday and it was always a trip to tiger stadium. Even when I got older my kids would take me to tiger stadium for my birthday. When I was a kid we always sat out in the upper deck because of what we could afford . But as I got older I knew I had to be down with the action. So we started to sit on the first base side right by the visitors bullpen. What a great place to watch a game. The relief pitchers used to lean back there chairs against the cement wall . You were literally about 6 feet away from some of the best relievers in baseball. And there you were also watching them warm up like you were sitting in your back yard. Seems like going to old Tiger Stadium it was like going over to a friends house you knew real well , I just felt so relaxed and at home. Really miss the old girl

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