Kirk Gibson remembers…the horror.
NEED FOR SPEED
At spring training in Arizona, Kirk Gibson, the hero of the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series conquest, sits down, removes his cap and discusses the “great intentions” Crews had when he invited teammates and their families to foster new-found friendship and team camaraderie.
Gibson, who had rejoined the Detroit Tigers, previously had visited the ranch, but this off day was an Indians-only shindig. Some teammates and Indians officials who didn’t attend the picnic went to Disney World with their families.
“I was really close to him,’’ says the 55-year-old Diamondbacks manager.
So close that Gibson also realized his buddy had a weakness — a fascination with speed., particularly fast, aerodynamic and powerful boats.
In 1990, Gibson says Crews arranged for his then-Dodger teammate to purchase a pro-style Skeeter bass tournament boat. It was equipped with a high-revving 200-mph horsepower engine.
“This,’’ Crews told Gibson, “is a really bad-ass boat.’‘
The pitcher tricked-out the vessel for Gibson in Florida, and then shipped it up north for the native Michigander. On an off-day, Crews wanted to test the boat’s limits with his pal. Gibson was caught off guard. Initially, he was behind the wheel, he says. Crews became antsy.
“Let me behind the wheel,’’ Crews told his teammate.
Gibson then describes his horror.
“I tell you what, he got behind that wheel and we took off — we’re barely in the water. We’re doing 74 mph and we jump a wake and that boat felt almost like a wing of an airplane. He scared the (heck) out of me.
“I said, ‘You’re crazy.’
“He’s like, ‘Whoo! Whooo!’
“He’s kind of a hillbilly, you know — a dirt farmer. ‘Whooo! Whooooo! Whooooooo! He’s screamin’ and hollerin.’ ‘’
Crews’ risky behavior followed him home.
“He was haulin’ ass that night,’’ Gibson says. “I got it first-hand (from eyewitnesses). He was reckless. Sometimes, you just get over-aggressive. Athletes, that’s our strength. But it can be a weakness and leave us vulnerable.
“(He was) a great dude. It’s unfortunate all of the families that were affected by it. It’s tragic. I miss him. He died doing what he enjoyed doing. Unfortunately, he left his wife and kids behind.’‘