DETROIT (AP) – Minutes before the first pitch, fans at Comerica Park broke into a polite smattering of applause after hearing Kirk Gibson’s name.
Gibson, now the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is in Detroit this weekend to face his former team. Gibson helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series as a player and is back for what promises to be an emotional weekend. The Tigers are retiring former manager Sparky Anderson’s number before Sunday’s game.
“Everything that I wasn’t when I came up, I am now. He taught me how to be a professional,” Gibson said. “When we come into this game, I don’t think we sometimes realize it’s not about us. It’s really about the game, and how long it’s been, and the history of it, and all the great things that have happened.”
Gibson became Arizona’s manager on an interim basis in the middle of last season and was given the permanent job in October. Alan Trammell – another former Detroit star – is his bench coach. Both played for the Tigers under Anderson during that memorable 1984 season.
“I’m always going to be a part of their history,” Trammell said. “I wouldn’t want that to change. My gosh, that’s where I played my entire career. It is special. It always will be.”
Anderson also won the World Series twice as Cincinnati’s manager. He died Nov. 4.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he hopes Sunday will be a chance for the Tigers and their fans to remember the contributions Anderson made to the team and the sport.
“It should be a celebration, not a funeral,” Leyland said. “I think it’s really fitting and proper that Tramm and Gibby are both here.”
The Tigers have already taken steps to honor Anderson this season. A flag with his name on it flies out beyond the outfield fence.
Anderson’s No. 11 will be the seventh number retired by the Tigers and the first since Willie Horton’s No. 23 in 2000.
Gibson, who is from Pontiac and went to Michigan State, played for the Tigers from 1979-87 and again from 1993-95. He homered twice in the clinching game of that 1984 World Series.
Always fiery as a player, Gibson says he’s toned down his emotions a bit now that he’s in a new role.
“When you’re a player, you’re more reactive. You kind of wear it on your sleeve,” he said. “As a manager, you need to be more proactive and stay ahead of things.”
Whatever his methods, they’re working. Arizona began the weekend series at Detroit with a 42-34 record.
Gibson was Detroit’s bench coach from 2003-05 – with Trammell as the manager. Now the roles are reversed.
“I realize that Gibby is the captain of the ship, as I was here a few years back, but we’re a team,” Trammell said. “That’s one of the things that we were taught by Sparky – it’s not about us, it’s about the team, and we’ll do whatever it takes. That’s how we were brought up.”
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