Kirk Gibson, Homer baseball team enter Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame
By Larry Hook
Former Detroit Tiger slugger Kirk Gibson and the record-setting Homer High School baseball teams from 2003 to 2006 were inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 25.
The ceremony was held at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, home of both the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame and the Lansing Lugnuts.
The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame is in its second year of existence. The new inductees join the 10 charter members inducted in 2015: Jim Abbott, Bill Freehan, Charlie Gehringer, Ernie Harwell, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser, Alan Trammell, John Smoltz, Pat O’Keefe and Larry Tuttle.
Biographies, accomplishments and photos of the inductees can be found on the Michigan Hall of Fame website at www.michiganbaseballhall.org.
Kirk Gibson played 17 seasons in the Major Leagues, from 1979 to 1995. He was a Detroit Tiger from 1979 to 1987. He returned to the Tigers in 1993 following stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now 59, Gibson is remembered for his speed, his power and his fierce demeanor on the ball field. He finished his career with 255 home runs and 284 stolen bases. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1988 while playing for the Dodgers.
Gibson hit two of the most memorable World Series home runs in the past 50 years. The first helped the Detroit Tigers clinch the 1984 series over the San Diego Padres; the second sparked the Los Angeles Dodgers to the 1988 title against the Oakland A’s
Gibson was unable to attend the ceremony, since he was working as a Detroit Tigers telecaster for Fox Sports Detroit that afternoon. He did deliver a video message to the 100 or so people in attendance at The View, a banquet room located beyond center field at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Gibson thanked his family, coaches and teammates for helping him achieve the Hall of Fame status.
“It’s always good to have a good team around you,” Gibson stated in the video.
Two of Gibson’s family members – his wife JoAnn and 26-year-old son Kevin – attended the ceremony on his behalf. Kevin accepted the Hall of Fame award on his father’s behalf.
“My dad never was much of an individual award kind of guy,” Kevin said. “He always preached to me ‘team first’ and stuff like that.
“Obviously this is a huge deal for him, being from Michigan – born and raised – playing Michigan high school baseball, at Michigan State (University) and then being able to play for the Tigers. It’s really nice for us to accept this award for him.”
The 2003-2006 Homer Trojans, the other 2016 Michigan Hall of Fame inductee, were coached by Scott Salow. The Trojans played 149 games in the four-year span and won 143 of them.
Starting on opening day in 2004 and continuing through 2005, Homer won 75 straight games to break both the state and national record for consecutive victories. The record-setting streak featured 47 wins that ended by mercy rule, 41 shutouts, 12 no-hitters and two perfect games.
Along the way, the Trojans clinched the first undefeated state baseball championship in Michigan history, going a perfect 38-0 in 2004.
The team’s star pitcher was Josh Collmenter, who went on to shine at Central Michigan University before making it to the Major Leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011.
Collmenter remains with the Diamondbacks today, and earned a victory over the Colorado Rockies on June 24, the evening before his high school team’s Hall of Fame induction.
Many of the Homer players were present for the ceremony. Coach Salow, who remains Homer’s coach today, spoke at the banquet about his record-setting teams from 2003 to 2006.
“I can’t say enough about this group,” Salow said. “They found a way to do the unthinkable. They took the state, the region and the country by storm. … The best part is they did it all with class, dignity, intense hustle and integrity.”
Following the conclusion of the banquet, Fred Heumann of WLNS TV-6 emceed the unveiling of the two new Hall of Fame plaques, located on the outfield concourse at Cooley Stadium.
Several thousand people were in attendance for the unveiling ceremony, which preceded the Lansing Lugnuts game against the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Ironically, Cam Gibson, Kirk’s 22-year-old son, played left field for the Whitecaps that evening.
JoAnn Gibson helped unveil the plaque honoring her husband.
“Being from Michigan, it’s a great honor to be recognized by your people,” JoAnn said.
She said her husband played the game the right way during his lengthy baseball career.
“He always gave 110 percent, he always valued his teammates and recognized their importance in how much he could achieve,” JoAnn said. “He really appreciated achieving as a team.”