I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was that Kirk Gibson left the Tigers for the Dodgers as a free agent in 1988. Not only had there been rumors of a one-for-one trade in place for L.A.’s slugging first baseman Pedro GuererroLance Parrish also left as a free-agent, about a year before.

Yeah, but still.

The day Gibby signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the Dodgers was the day I finally understood the “baseball-is-a-business” thing was legit. (And, my God, two years later Jack Morris would leave and then I’d really had it. )

Jan. 29, 1988 was the end of an era for Detroit baseball, but we didn’t know it. Or maybe most fans did; I certainly didn’t. I wanted to believe the 1988 Tigers would be okay — no better, no worse — than the ’87 team. I mean, after all, they traded for Ray Knight.


The Gibson that rejoined the Tigers in 1993 was nowhere near the one that left five years earlier, but it still seemed right that he came back to end his career in Detroit.

But still.