Gibson reveals diagnosis of Parkinson's disease
Former NL MVP and manager to resume analyst job with Tigers as health permits
DETROIT -- Kirk Gibson has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The former Tigers great revealed the news Tuesday in a statement released through Fox Sports Detroit, which hired him this spring as an analyst.
"I have faced many different obstacles in my life, and have always maintained a strong belief that no matter the circumstances, I could overcome those obstacles," Gibson said in the statement. "While this diagnosis poses a new kind of challenge for me, I intend to stay true to my beliefs. With the support of my family and friends, I will meet this challenge with the same determination and unwavering intensity that I have displayed in all of my endeavors in life. I look forward to being back at the ballpark as soon as possible."
The Tigers issued a statement: "The Detroit Tigers family wishes the best for Kirk Gibson, and our thoughts are with Kirk and his family. We are all hopeful for Kirk's return to the ballpark soon."
Gibson, who will turn 58 next month, rejoined Fox Sports Detroit as a game analyst after five seasons managing the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was scheduled to work about 60 games on television alongside play-by-play man Mario Impemba, allowing him to follow his son Cam, an outfielder at Michigan State.
Gibson teamed with Impemba and Rod Allen in a three-man booth for Opening Day, but he hadn't been on the air since. He was believed to have been scheduled to work part of last week's Tigers homestand, but he was replaced by Allen in the booth. Gibson was also absent when former teammate Lou Whitaker received the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award last weekend.
Gibson underwent a series of tests recently that revealed the disease, according to the statement. Parkinson's is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60, but it can be diagnosed in people as young as 18, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Fox, an award-winning actor, was diagnosed at age 30 and has become one of the most public faces for those dealing with the disease.
Various estimates tab anywhere from 500,000 to a million people in the United States affected by the disease. Its symptoms include shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Fox Sports Detroit announced that it will welcome Gibson back as his treatment permits.
"The major part of my experience with Kirk was working with him in 2002, my first year in Detroit," Impemba said. "He was the color analyst and I think I learned quickly what Kirk is all about. He's a tough guy, he's a fighter, and he's not afraid of challenges. I know this is not a good diagnosis, but I think he'll meet this thing head on and we just hope for the best."
A two-sport standout at Michigan State, Gibson was a first-round Draft pick of the Tigers in 1978 and spent 12 of his 17 Major League seasons in Detroit. He hit 27 home runs for the 1984 World Series champion Tigers, and he hit two home runs in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, helping clinch what remains Detroit's most recent title.
Gibson went on to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award with the Dodgers in 1988. He came off the bench to hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 that fall.
Gibson finished with a .268 average, 255 home runs and 870 RBIs in 1,635 career games. He rejoined the Tigers as a coach from 2003-05 under teammate-turned-manager Alan Trammell.
"I've known Gibby for about 15, 16 years, and he's always been great to me, a tremendous person," current Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "One of the fiercest competitors I've ever watched. I just feel awful for him and his family.
"I can't see Kirk Gibson folding up shop and crawling into a corner over this. I don't think that's in his DNA."
Reaction spread across baseball. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle learned of the news during his pregame session with reporters.
"I know Kirk from back playing Minor League ball together. He's always been up for a challenge," Hurdle said. "You never want to see anybody have to meet this challenge.
"I would imagine it's good that the diagnosis is in place, because there are procedures and things that can be done along the course to try to maintain some balance and some quality of life. What a competitor. What a good man, a good man to have in the game, a good man to know."