When looking at the history of the Detroit Tigers, arguably the two most intense, fiery, and competitive players to ever wear the Old English D were Ty Cobb and Kirk Gibson.
God help the infielders and catchers who stood between them and their base.
Of course Kirk Gibson never came close to Ty Cobb’s unbelievable base stealing prowess.
The Georgia Peach not only stole home plate a record 54 times, he is third all-time behind Lou Brock and Ricky Henderson with 892 thefts. Yet Gibson possessed great speed, and like Cobb, was an extremely aggressive base runner.
One of my favorite moments in Gibson’s career occurred in the fifth game of the 1984 World Series. (And no I am not just talking about his two home runs that clinched the World Championship that October night.)
In the fifth inning, Gibson utilized his speed and characteristic aggressive base running to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
After slapping a single to left field, Gibson dangerously tagged and slid safely into second in a bang-bang play on Lance Parrish’s deep fly out to left field. After consecutive walks to Herndon and Lemon to load the bases with one out, Gibson was perched on third base as pinch hitter Rusty Kuntz stepped to the plate.
What followed changed the momentum of the game.
Kuntz lofted a lazy fly ball to shallow right that right fielder Tony Gwynn had trouble tracking. With his momentum carrying him away from the plate, second baseman Alan Wiggins snared the ball.
To the surprise of everyone, Gibson took off for home.
He slid so fiercely, that Gibson ripped the knee out of his pants. The throw never made it home and the Tigers took a 4-3 lead as the crowd went wild.
In an article I wrote two years ago for Baseball Digest magazine, Gibson described for me his mad dash home.
“I knew I probably shouldn’t have gone but I was very aggressive and had good speed and size, and surprise was part of the element,” says Gibson. “Even if Wiggins had turned around and made a great throw, the catcher still had to hold onto the ball. I was prepared to definitely press the issue. If he had the ball I was going to drill him. It was just an exciting play.”
Gibson did however instigate one of the two most violent home plate collisions ever photographed, and they both occurred at Michigan and Trumbull.
Check out this photo of Ty Cobb jumping in the air with spikes high as he attempts to impale a likely terrified catcher at Bennett Park.
Then take a look at Kirk Gibson as he annihilates Royals catcher Pat Borders in a 1995 game at Tiger Stadium.
All I can say is: “Holy Crap!”
One reply on “The Iconic Home Plate Collisions of Ty Cobb and Kirk Gibson“
Around 84′ Lou was rounding third with Gibby close behind. Kirk almost caught up to Whitaker. Home plate ump called Lou safe at home but didn’t see Gibby coming home right behind. SPLATT! Ump flew thru air and later complained about football tactics of MSU All American. Gibby said that the ump shoulda stayed out of his way.
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