by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

We could make it a movie. It might work. Call it “The Natural II: The Kirk Gibson Story.” Redford plays the lead. Or maybe Don Johnson — he’s already got the whiskers. We open with flashbacks. Gibson as a child. Hitting a Wiffle ball. Breaking a window. Kissing a pretty girl. Gibson at college. Smacking home runs. Running with a football. Kissing a pretty girl. Gibson as a Detroit Tiger. Swinging a mean bat. Stealing bases. Leading the club to the 1984 World Series, where — we need slow motion for this — he hits a dramatic home run in the final game and leaps for joy. Music swells. Something by the guy who did “Chariots of Fire.” Everything seems wonderful. . . . Cut to a darkened boardroom, filled with baseball owners. They look grim.

They are losing money. They blame each other for the high salaries of their players. Actually, they should blame themselves. But they do not. That is why they are owners. Up stands their dashing young commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, played by Michael Douglass. “I don’t want to put ideas in your head, but . .
. ” The owners lean forward.

OK? Roll the titles. And the opening theme song. Courtesy of the Rolling Stones.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
‘It’s a rotten conspiracy’

Back in Detroit. The 1985 season. Camera finds Gibson stealing bases. Hitting more home runs. Kissing a pretty girl — and deciding to marry her. We need violins here. Romantic violins.

Next we see them leafing through travel bro- chures. Honeymoon plans. But how much can they spend? Enter Gibson’s agent. He punches up numbers on his calculator. “You’re a free agent,” he says. “Sky’s the limit.” Big contract coming, he says. Five-year deal, he says. One club outbidding the other, he says. Gibson books the deluxe accommodations and goes shopping for a Maserati.

Cut to a close-up of the owners’ faces. They are grinning. Cigar smoke fills the screen.


We come back to a giant calendar. Big X’s appear, covering one day at a time. The months fall off. There goes November. There goes December. Jan. 1, 2, 3 . . .

Close-up on Gibson frowning. He is sitting next to his new wife in a hotel room in Australia, talking on the phone. His agent gives him the bad news. Not a single offer from another team. “It’s a rotten conspiracy,” the agent says.

Trumpets blast here. For added effect.

Gibson asks about the Tigers. Same offer, the agent says. Three years,
$3.9 million. How will Kirk live on that? Flashback to a TV interview where Gibson says if he had to accept that offer and shake hands with Tigers execs, he would “vomit.” No happy endings

Now, the dramatic high point. The final day. We have a clock going in the background. Tick, tick, tick. We need some mood shots here. Like fans sewing black patches on their Tigers jackets. A raspy-voiced TV announcer declaring Gibson is gone. The sound of weeping from teen-age girls everywhere.

Only minutes until midnight. Gibson’s agent hears the news from around the country. The other free agents are frantically signing back with their clubs before the deadline. No one wants to challenge the owners’ apparent
“hands-off” policy. Tick, tick, tick. What will happen? A Detroit newspaper sets the headline: “Gibson Takes a Walk.” The presses start rolling.

Cut to Gibson in New Zealand. Phone to his ear. He closes his eyes. Swallows. Nods slowly.

Cymbals crash. And maybe a kettle drum. Crescendo!

The radio breaks the news: He signed! Three-year deal. The fans cheer. The newspaper people run out to the street, screaming for their trucks to come back.

From a faraway boardroom we hear evil laughter. Get Vincent Price. He’s perfect.

Gibson returns to Detroit. He signs his contract. He goes to shake hands with the Tigers execs. Everyone takes a small step backward, just in case.

The owners have broken the back of free agency. The players’ union tries to retaliate with a major lawsuit. The players charge collusion. Conspiracy. Bad manners. It drags on for months. But they can’t prove anything. The owners grin. Tap their cigars. The commissioner quits and runs for president.

The cameras pull back. The audience is unsympathetic because it knows both Gibson and the owners are rich enough to buy several small nations. Happy endings? Not in this movie.

Roll the credits. Roll the closing song. Cyndi Lauper doing “Money Changes Everything.”

Fade to black. CUTLINE Don Johnson looks the part


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