PHOENIX — Just before Kirk Gibson left Detroit for the Dodgers as a free agent in the winter of 1987, then-Tigers owner Tom Monaghan called him "a disgrace to the Tiger uniform with his half-beard, half-stubble."
Gibson came clean Monday: Monaghan may not have been all wrong.
"Let’s just be honest here. I can’t affix all the blame on him. I was a jerk," the Diamondbacks manager said. "He was half-right. I wasn’t a disgrace to the uniform. But I was crazy."
An incident in the Tigers’ clubhouse after Detroit won the 1984 World Series may have gotten the relationship off on a bad foot, Gibson said.
"It’s a long story," Gibson said Monday before the Diamondbacks opened a three-game series against the Tigers at Chase Field. "He just, I actually … (laughs) … really what happened, in ’84, we won the World Series and Tom Monaghan was in our locker room. He just bought the club. They put the champagne in all the big coolers. I picked one up and dumped it over the top of him."
Gibson laughs, as he probably did at the time. And as if he would like to do it again.
"I was just screwing around," he said. "It was like, ‘C’mon, man, let’s party. Yeah.’ He gave me a real dirty look. And I didn’t shave regularly, and like that."
When Gibson became a "second-look" free agent after a judge ruled owners colluded against the top players in Gibson’s 1987 free-agent class, Monaghan became upset. His frustration apparently boiled over when a star-for-star trade that would have sent Gibson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pedro Guerrero fell apart and it appeared Gibson would be granted free agency.
That’s when Monaghan cried disgrace.
But the story does not end there. Monaghan tried to make amends after Gibson signed with the Dodgers as a free agent before the 1988 season, leading them to the World Series title as the National League MVP.
"He called me actually the year after I went to the Dodgers and apologized and said he was out of line and wanted to know if we could have lunch," Gibson said of Monaghan, who sold the team to the Ilitch family in 1992.
"I said ‘I appreciate the comment, but hopefully you did learn from that and there’s no need for lunch. Best of luck.’ Move on."
Gibson played 12 seasons and won a World Series with the Tigers before serving as Alan Trammell’s bench coach for three seasons, and said he still follows his favorite team since boyhood.
"Actually, you tend to dislike your former teams, you know, because you do have, obviously, a soft spot in your heart and you do have some history with them," Gibson said.
"You’ve had some great times and some tough times and some learning times with those clubs. You try to treat them like any other club. They’re a good club. They’re in first place. They’re loaded. I follow the Tigers because I was a Tiger fan growing up as a young boy. When we’re not in the playoffs and they are, I go to the games.
"I follow all of (manager Brad Ausmus’) stuff on a daily basis. I am pretty familiar with the way it goes. At the same time, I’d like to beat their butt just like I wanted to beat the Cubs yesterday."