Kirk Gibson was a Tiger and a Dodger and a Royal and a Pirate in his 16-year career, but he’s a Diamondback now. And as he settles in as the manager of this team, he’s moving on from his past.
Beginning Oct. 27 through Nov. 13, Gibson will auction the jersey he wore during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, along with his road uniform from that series, as well as the bat and batting gloves he used to hit his iconic home run off Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley. Gibson is also selling the World Series Trophy and MVP Award he won in 1988, and the proceeds form those two pieces will go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation.
Gibson has been involved philanthropically for years, establishing scholarship funds at the schools where his parents were teachers. He has also help his alma mater, Michigan State University, to build facilities for student athletes.
“In the past, I’ve raised probably $15 million for the university,” Gibson said. “We built the student-athlete academic center and it’s just outstanding. I’ve given to many, many causes and a lot of athletes do that and this is why I want to continue to build that as long as I’m here.
“I’m going to take a portion of the money that is raised and, based upon some of the items I’ve donated out of my foundation specifically, a certain amount of the money from the auction will go there.“
The main message for Gibson regarding this auction is the same message he delivered to D-backs players this year, as he encouraged them to actively look for ways to give back to the community.
“I’ve been a giver my whole life,” Gibson said. “My parents taught me not to be a taker and this is just a mechanism for me to continue giving. It’s all for good reasons. It’s helping people. It’s helping children. I really don’t like takers and it’s my way of promoting giving and I hope to influence many other people that want to do the same.“
Gibson had his 1988 memorabilia locked away in storage in Michigan, but decided it was time to move on.
“I think many athletes wait until they’re gone and they let their children sort it out and that’s just something my wife and I decided we weren’t going to do,” Gibson said. “We’re going to take care of that right now, so a bit of estate planning, too. You could say it that way. It’s time. I don’t know how long I’ll be around here. I’m going to take a bit of the proceeds and do something that I’m going to enjoy, too, while I’m still alive.“
Some of the most interesting information Gibson revealed about the auction items was regarding the bat he used to hit the famous Game 1 homer. It wasn’t a bat he used during the regular season. There’s a lot to explain here, so let’s just let Gibson take it away:
“The bat thing is pretty interesting. When you’re a major leaguer you get bats usually they come in dozens. That year I was using Worth bats and I always used 35 inch, 33-35 ounce. I never really liked lighter bats because they always felt too light in my hand. The other thing is I would experiment from time to time, like I’d try a 34-˝ inch bat, but that always felt too short for me, so I really pretty much always stayed to the 33/35. When you get bats what you do is they weigh every one, then you go through and personally pick them up. You can look at the wood, you like the grain, like the wood. Do you like the balance and how they feel? Out of a dozen bats, maybe four, possibly five bats are what you consider gamer bats. So you take those bats and use them in (batting practice) a couple times and then you take those to the game.
“Well, this particular bat, it was a reject, so I basically had it sitting there all year and if you look on the end of the bat , they put my number on the end and there was an X on there, which signified that bat was a 34-˝ inch bat and it was too light for me. It was like a 30-31ounce bat so I just Xed it out. As I went through the year I started getting tired and struggled bad in September and when we went to the playoffs I got hurt, I had no legs at all, so I didn’t want to be swinging any big lumber. So I started to get this bat ready in the playoffs and I used it in BP. I used it in the Mets series and had some pretty good success with it in the Mets series.
“So, when I got it and we took BP in the World Series, you feel the balance, it felt light, so what I did with it was put a lot of tar on the handle part and the middle of the bat. That way it made it feel a little heavier to me, and if you look at that bat you’ll see there’s a lot of tar on that bat. So it kind of just made the balance feel better, made it feel a little heavier but it wasn’t all in the head of the bat so it wouldn’t make it feel like it was head-heavy. You don’t want that, you want to be able to throw it and you want to have whip.
“I ended up using that bat and if you look at the end of that bat No. 23 and you will see an X. If you look at all the tar on there it’s more than normal. If you look at the actual barrel of the bat you’ll see some red marks on there which was the foul balls that I hit. There was red ink on the World Series balls. Where I hit the actual home run you can see on the head, on the sweet spot of the bat, is actually chipped out of there. There is a little nick where I hit it. But then if you look on the backside of the barrel, the part where you didn’t hit the ball, it’s really cool because you’ll see all these nicks and that’s from me hitting my cleats. And if you watch the film you see me hitting my cleats. At the beginning of the bat, they weren’t very deep. Then as the at-bat progressed, I kept hitting it harder and harder. When it got 3-2 they’re really deep. So when you look at the bat, the whole bat has so much character. Everything about that bat, it’s like a painting, it’s like a story and it will tell you the whole thing.”