VIDEO: When Gibson’s Parkinson’s Diagnosis Was Revealed

One thing that happens when you watch your favorite team for six months every year, year-after-year: the players become like family.

Kirk Gibson was not only a family member to Tigers fans, he was also a hometown star. If he was family to Michigan sports fans, he was the hyper-intense, manly brother or son who always took wrestling in the living a little too far. Any broken lamp in the house was usually Kirk’s fault.

In some ways, Gibby assumed the role that Willie Horton held on the 1960s Tigers. A Michigan-reared athletic star, a strongman, and the heart of the team.

When Gibson hit two home runs in the clinching game of the 1984 World Series, his place among Tiger legends was secure. The sight of Gibson’s palm-breaking high-fives after his towering home run off Goose Gossage at Tiger Stadium in Game Five is as cemented into Detroit baseball fans of the 1980s as Lolich in Feehan’s arms is for those from the 1960s.

Gibson even had a storybook narrative: he left Detroit but returned as the prodigal son to finish out his baseball career. By then the immature tantrums were gone, replaced by Gibby the father, the older veteran clubhouse leader. The second time he was a Tiger, Gibby was even more popular, because he won the fans who were turned off by his hyper-masculinity when he was in his 20s.

Like Horton, and like his boyhood hero Al Kaline, Gibson stayed on the Tigers payroll after he hung up his cleats. Against all odds, Gibson became a broadcaster. When he was playing baseball, if anyone had suggested the straggly-bearded Gibson, with this F-bombs and scowls, would some day earn a living as a television analyst, he would have been laughed all the way to Hamtramck.

But, there Gibby was for several years, in the booth with an unusually high voice and bizarre sense of humor that made him a quirky presence on Tigers baseball broadcasts.

But in 2015, real life interrupted baseball when Gibson received shocking news. The chiseled Greek statue athlete who once ran like a deer and hit baseballs out of ballparks, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The news shocked the Tigers family, including the fans who knew Gibby as the guy who ran over catchers and broke batting racks. Not a guy who could be felled by a disease.

The video below shows the reaction of Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on a 2015 broadcast, the day Gibson released a statement revealing his diagnosis and absence from the team.