John Gibbons, former manager of Blue Jays, 20 Questions: About Doc Gooden, curling, and possibly player combat

At least John Gibbons knew he had a birthday this year.

“I know I’m sixty,” he said with a laugh. “My body knows that, anyway.”

Details were more blurry. He couldn’t remember what he had done to celebrate or where. It’s never been a big day for birthday celebrations, or getting gifts: “The gift I’ve gotten is the four months since, I think.”

Gibbons smiled, leaning back in his chair, at a hotel somewhere in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he was on an expedition for Atlanta Braves. His parents were from New England, but he’s a Texan son, who came through not just through a recent Zoom call, but across all the different platforms he’s joined recently.

Fresh sexagenarian joined Twitter in August. He has a book due out in April—”Gibby: Liver Baseball Tales– and offers customized video greetings starting at $99 Memmo.

The “The Gibby Show” podcast will launch on Tuesday. Josh Donaldsonone of his former players, is scheduled to be his first guest.

The New York Mets He picked Gibbons in the first round of the 1980 amateur draft, right after future CEO Billy Bean took over. (And two locations after the Montreal Expos chose young Thierry Francona #22 overall.)

Gibbons was seen as a frontrunner as a catcher, but injuries derailed those views. He hit one home run during his Big League career, but he also earned the World Championship ring in 1986 for his work behind the scenes with the Mets. (He earned a second ring for his work with the Braves last year.)

It was in Toronto where his profile grew to a stature the size of Texas. He became a fan favorite in two stints as manager of blue jaysHe oversaw more regular season wins (793) than any other coach in Team History Seto Gaston (894) was not called.

Gibbons took time out of his schedule to send 20 questions from him the athletetalks about a broken cheekbone, a roll, and an offer to fight Shea Hillenbrand.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

1. Who was the Mets manager describing when he said Davy Johnson? this is To the New York Times in 1984: “He is mentally mature, and has a lot of heart and drive.”

(gibbons laughs) It couldn’t be me, could it? What is the date of that? I’m sure he had to remove that. That must have seemed premature. That kind of word describes me, I guess, but I think he got it wrong at the time.

2. You broke your cheekbone during a match a few days later, but you kept playing two more times before going to the hospital: How?

Maybe he cursed me, right? It was just two days before spring training kicked off. You made the team. I was playing a training match in the spring against Phyllis. There was a play on the plate. It was a bad throw from the left player, and I grabbed it. I always took off my mask. I’m going to take out the third base line to cut it. Joe Lefebvre is the third-place Velez sprinter. He threw his elbow and it broke me. You know how to get injured, and don’t necessarily start hurting right away? In the end, I sit on the bench and one of my teammates said something to me. My face was kind of dented. They went and grabbed the coach.

3. Where were you when the ball passed a squeak red socks First baseman Bill Buckner in Game Six of the 1986 World Championships?

I was outside, and I thought I was protecting Doc Godin. I wasn’t on the active list, so I stayed with the team on the list. When things started to develop, everyone thought the game was over, and the series was over. Things are just starting to happen. The cool thing about it is that they brought all the Mounted Police…

4. I heard you were talking about horses.

They are big old horses, you know? And so every time I caught the ball, my glove would crack, and these horses would jump.

5. What sound does Doc Gooden’s coat make when it hits your glove?

Oh, it was just a nice, sweet crack, you know? I’ve been known to use some old gloves. Something felt right. They were soft. Sometimes, it would still make a sound, but it wasn’t a bam, you know? When I had a fairly new one, man. That’s why the horses were jumping: We were in New York City. They thought there were gunshots somewhere.

6. How close are we to knowing that you are John Gibbons, an ophthalmologist?

(chuckles gibbons) My God. not very much. I don’t know if I’m smart enough. My grandfather owned an optics company. Of course, my dad was heading this way. He ended up enlisting in the army. He wanted to branch out. He got into research and development, laser research, and things on the eye. It really expanded his career. If it wasn’t for baseball, I might have ended up in the army. I grew up with that. I have always been fascinated by military and military history.

7. Your mother was a dental hygienist: What did she have to say about the habit of chewing tobacco?

Oh my God. You come from two smart people, right? I don’t know what happened. She was playing me the whole time about that, and rightfully so. Where she works, we’re in Texas, and a lot of people use oral tobacco. She’s back home—and these are friends of mine too—and she’s going, “You know, your buddy so-and-so, he’s got pre-cancerous lesions on his lip. What do you think?”

8. When was the last time you chewed food?

My God. Maybe eight or nine years have passed. I started chewing Nicorette gum, and that’s the trick, you know? (Major League Baseball) You’ll save it, and I thought, “That’s perfect.” Then I became addicted to Nicorette gum. (gibbons laughs) But I think my teeth look better. I don’t know.

9. If you had committed to the University of Texas rather than signed with the Mets, what do you think you would have pursued as a major?

Oh, another good question. If they had a ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program, I think I could have passed that too. I was there with Roger Clemens. was there at the time. I always thought that once I got into professional ball, if it didn’t work out or if my career was really short, I’d probably want to become a coach—if it was too late for the military—whether high school or college or professionally. I’m sure I would have attended the education, you know? So I was going to get my teaching degree and I could train for high school.

10. Your father went to Notre Dame: Irish or Longhorn?

Hook ’em horns, kid. (gibbons smiles)

“If it wasn’t for baseball, I might have ended up in the army,” says John Gibbons. “I grew up with that.” (Jerry Angus/USA Today)

11. What happens to me if I walk into the Rogers Center club and write,This is a sinking shipNext to the fridge?

What happens to you personally? (gibbons laughs) Well, I’ll give you a break unless it’s a problem for me for a while. I guess what people don’t understand is, I rarely have a quick reaction. Something leads to something. It’s as if I tell people all the time, “If I have to tell my child something two or three times, something is wrong, and I don’t think it’s me.” The problem that year was that Shi was probably right: We were drinking water too fast at the time.

12. Did I really call Shea Hillenbrand to punch you in the face?

Well, I wasn’t that specific. And I love chia. He didn’t want to be there. We took it from Arizona. It was DH, and he wanted it to be third base or first base. He wanted to play on the field, looking forward to his future. And he was good at it, but we had Troy Glaus. I understand his frustration, and he has expressed it many times. Basically, in the midst of this moment, I said, “Hey, let’s go, if you want.”

13. Have you and Xia spoken since then?

No, you know, someone told me he was trying to track me down. I’m fine now. The things that happen. I had an accident with Ted Lilly. Teddy and I are good friends. My only regret is that it was in the public eye. Sometimes, things have to happen, right? You need to broadcast things, and everyone needs to know what’s going on. You cannot allow guests to run an asylum. This is just a fact. I don’t have a problem with chia. I would like to see him someday.

14. Where does John Gibbons get upset most in everyday life?

I am a very relaxed guy, but also very impatient. It mostly appears when I’m on the road. I don’t know if that’s where it came from, but during baseball season in Toronto, I lived two blocks from the ballpark. I used to walk to the park every day. I had a car, but I didn’t use it. If we went to the airport and things like that, he was on a bus. For seven months, I’ve never driven a car. Now, when I’m driving a car and I’m on the road, for some reason, I get impatient.

15. You joined Twitter in August, and this week, a Canadian user asked you to Organizing their wedding Next year: Are you dusting off your good-looking suit?

(gibbons smiles) Hello. I don’t have many suits, believe it or not. I wore it a little. I’ve gained a little weight, so the pretty clothes I have don’t quite fit me. I said I’d be happy about that, you know. I don’t know if God would appreciate it: I’m intervening for him. (gibbons laughs) But I guess it’s like going to Vegas or something, right?

16. In these polarized times, how could a proud, right-leaning Texan develop such a strong following in left-leaning Toronto?

you know what? I am a conservative man. there is no doubt. I have always been, of course, in the part of the country you are from. But I do not judge. I think the beauty of both our countries, and being from the Western world, is that you have those rights. Do you believe what you want? You can protest. You can say whatever you want. Not everyone around the world can say that. I’ve always been very respectful of that. Do I have my opinions on some of the things that happen? I bet, I do. I have enough of my own problems. I need to worry about myself. I can’t worry about anyone else. But I like to talk about this kind of thing.

17. What Canadian food or product do you miss when you’re at home in San Antonio?

I’m a Tim Hortons guy. Do you know what’s funny? As long as I’ve been up in Toronto, I’ve had poutine once. I heard about it all the time, and I had it once. I think I’ve been there for 12 or 13 years, and I went through it once. And that was near the end, believe it or not.

18. Have you located a good curling rink around your home in San Antonio?

(gibbons laughs) They do not have any. They have curling irons, but they don’t have curling rinks. When it’s shown on TV, and I’m lying down the night after the match, I’ve been watching it. I got attached to it, but I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t figure out the rules. I did google it. I saw it privately on the Olympics.

19. Complete the following sentence: “Old managers never die, they just…”

… I wish they would.

20. (Laugh) Jesus.

(gibbons smiles) Being a manager, you are always talking to the media. Journalists would come in and ask me every now and then, “Your record in the major tournaments is whatever.” I said I didn’t think about it much. I am aware of that. I definitely want to be a winner, not a loser. But I say: If my record of running a major league is on my tombstone, I haven’t done much in life, you know?

(top photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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