Gage: Gibson would probably want us to think of others

After undergoing a series of tests, Kirk Gibson has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

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DETROIT — My reaction is your reaction. We wish Kirk Gibson the best.

All the best.

Gibson has Parkinson’s disease. And while I know a little about Parkinson’s — and the extent to which it can change an individual — I can’t presume to comment on the medical challenge he’s facing.

I know it will be one — because Gibson has already said so. I also know that if anyone is equal to a challenge, it is Kirk.

I’ve seen him go through many transitions in his life — all the way to being someone I consider a personal friend.

But from someone so disagreeable that all I wanted to do, as a reporter covering him, was to stay out his way.

Staying away didn’t always work, however, because even if Gibson heard a question he didn’t like being asked of another player, he wouldn’t hesitate to let you know.

I distinctly remember asking a question of Mick Kelleher, after a defensive mistake by a group of infielders had cost the Tigers a game, only to have Gibson answer it.

Loudly, angrily — and without inviting a discussion about it. That was Kirk Gibson in those days.

Brash didn’t begin to describe him.

But he changed.

And by the time our sons played on the same hockey team, and I got to see that side of him, the ice between us had long since thawed.

Whether it was a time in Gibson’s life that I liked him or not, though, I always had a high regard for his intelligence. And it is with that same regard that I know he will tackle the times ahead as best, and as wisely, as they can be challenged.

Gibson was a player who never wanted to talk about himself when he had done something good, however.

If he had helped the team, well, it was his job to do so. The best conversations with him, once he became civil, were when he’d mess up — because while he never wanted credit, he wouldn’t duck blame.

It was in the acceptance of blame that he felt he was doing the greatest service to his team.

Kirk Gibson, FSD analyst and former Tigers player, has Parkinson's disease

And that’s how I think of Gibson even now — as a team player. One who, if we happen to mention 1984, would still prefer us to consider the hands that were dealt to players no longer with us than of him and his newly disclosed affliction.

So this is what I propose we do as we cope with the announcement that this truly gifted athlete is facing an uncertain time.

Think of better days.

Think, as you will, of that terrific Detroit Free Press photo of him after his pivotal home run in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series.

At that moment in time, Gibson was the embodiment of selfless triumph — because he knew that his team was going to be victorious.

I also remember a moment after his dramatic 1988 home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers where he and I, strangely enough considering the crowded circumstances, had a brief one-on-one conversation — a split second in which I formed the same impression as I did in 1984.

Gibson wasn’t basking in the personal glory that he could have at the time. He felt better for how he had just saved his team.

That’s not to say Kirk Gibson eschewed all attention. But ever since I’ve known him — 36 years — he’s known exactly who he is, and to what extent others could depend on him.

That’s what self-assurance is.

At first, it was unattractive in him. Later, it was viewed as an admirable trait. But it was always present.

It’s with that self-assurance that I now believe he must know he will give Parkinson’s the best battle anyone can give it.

But it’s with his selflessness, instead, that he would probably want us to think of better team times than individual uncertainty.

So I ask of you: Envision the last pitch of the 1984 World Series. Larry Herndon has caught the ball and the Tigers are rushing to the mound.

In the middle of the celebration at the mound are some players we now miss: Dave Bergman and Aurelio Lopez.

It’s bedlam. It’s pure joy. But down the dugout steps, the first to leave because he wanted to celebrate only with the team, goes Gibson.

In difficult times now, I have no doubt he will tackle the flip side of joy in his own determined way, as well.