Usually, when an athlete writes a book, it is because he wants to remind you of how great he was.
Of how the media mistreated him.
Of how he overcame dumb managers, bad coaching and crummy luck to become (this is the place for the drum roll) rich and famous and great.
Usually, when an athlete writes a book, it is to remind you that he is special and most of us are not.
The absence of such self-serving verbiage is what makes Kirk Gibson's book "Bottom of the Ninth" both extraordinary and worth its $35 price tag.
Not a whole lot of secrets are revealed in the 161-page coffee table book, written with Detroit sports writer Lynn Henning. There are no sexual stories to rival those that Dennis Rodman delights in putting into his best-sellers. There is no juicy gossip.
Instead, Gibson -- who hit two of the most memorable home runs of the 1980s -- spends a fair amount of time confessing to past sins of indifference, ego and surliness and describing how he overcame himself.
It is a book written with equal portions of pride and humility.
Gibson had an extraordinary 17-year career in the major leagues, but from almost the book's first words, the impression is that he would like forgiveness for the shortcomings of his youth.
We all knew about those days. Many of us suffered through them.
The most unfortunate suffered while watching their child be snubbed by the Gibson of those years, who with a three-day growth of beard and stringy blond hair looked like a Viking returning from the plunder of a helpless village.
On the book's very first page, Gibson recalls a confrontation with Sparky Anderson on the day before the 1983 Tigers opener, recalling that his manager told him: "You ain't playing tomorrow night. You've been acting like an idiot."
Conceding that he had acted "selfish and immature," Gibson writes, "Contrary to my upbringing, I showed no regard for others. Kids would be standing within my reach, begging for autographs, and too often they would get a harsh, 'I'm not signing.'
"To Sparky and the Tigers, my early '80s public relations problems were significant, but they were even worse combined with the fact that I was not becoming a dependable or productive major league player."
Gibson attributes his problems to the Beast, the bad and the negative in each of us that he believes is always struggling for control.
He says his life changed after a trip to the Pacific Institute, a Seattle-based "clinic for the mind and soul" where he says he learned about accountability, goal-setting and controlling his subconscious.
It was not an overnight conversion, because Gibson's competitive nature continued for years to spill over and scald those who ventured too near when he was out of sorts over a loss or a bad day at the plate.
He wasn't always a role model, wasn't always an inspiration.
But if his book and his life prove anything, it is that we are all capable of change, and the beneficiary is as often ourselves as it is anyone else.
Gibson's career, a series of disappointments and unfulfilled promise in the early 1980s, found new heights later in the decade, when he helped first the Tigers, then the Los Angeles Dodgers, to World Series championships and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1988.
Rightly, he is proud of his achievements -- possibly the most significant one being his impact on the lackadaisical Dodgers. But just as rightly he misses no chance to praise three of his managers: Jim Leyland, his first manager in the minor leagues, Anderson and Tom Lasorda.
One of the few tales he tells, which never received wide coverage in Detroit, is of the night he, his wife and children were followed to their Santa Monica home by a man who held a gun to Gibson's head before stealing his car.
Gibson's career was a perfect round-trip, beginning here and ending here, but ending, uncharacteristically, not with a bolt of lightning, with thunder and fanfare, but with the decision to retire after being struck out by Texas Rangers reliever Dennis Cook in Arlington in August 1995.
He also struck out in his first-major league at-bat, against Goose Gossage, 17 years earlier.
"You were humbled coming in, you're humbled going out. Perfect," Gibson recalls saying to himself after that final strikeout.
Pub Date: 5/09/97