“Baseball is addicting: you fall in love with the competition and the camaraderie, and you never have to grow up.”
John Gibson, former manager of Toronto's baseball team the Blue Jays, highlights significant life memories in and out of baseball. Co-written by sports author, Greg Oliver, the book includes multiple influencers (“Gibby’s Greats") and significant events while growing up, playing and coaching in the minors and majors, and managing the Jays, and of course, his critical analysis of the sport.
Gibbons certainly does not sugar coat his opinion on the bureaucracy of the MLB and I was here for it. There are things that stink about it—big time stink-o-rama—and it takes great patience and maturity to survive it. You either get knocked down and get up or you get caught in the messiness of it—broken and scathed.
He certainly had his challenges: living away from his family; being benched; getting fired from coaching and managing, and dealing with the media, even when he, too, would second-guess his decisions. When commenting on his unsuccessful career as a catcher, Gibby says that in the end he lost his confidence and he “wasn’t having any success. And baseball’s a bad business when you ain’t having any success.”
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his time as manager during the pivotal years of 2015 and 2016. His detailed account of significant moves, trades, and plays, especially during that famous 54-minute seventh inning, which will forever be memorialized as one of the best innings EVER. (IYKYK) Gibbons says, “In reality, the game was over with the bat flip—I don’t see how anybody comes back from that.”
It's hard to succinctly summarize Gibby’s memoir but I highly recommend it. In sum, the man has heart. I came out of this book reaffirmed that he has always shown immense loyalty and passion for the sport—and deep down he is a well-adopted Canadian who drinks his Timmies like the rest of us.
Thanks to ECW Press and Netgalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
A very interesting book to read for a baseball fan. It was good to see that the minor league stuff wasn't glossed over and I enjoyed reading about his time there.
John “Gibby” Gibbons started his baseball career as a catcher. He only played 18 games. This did not stop him from being a great coach and manager. His relationship with his players and his intelligence lead to an impressive career.
John Gibbons has been an icon in professional baseball for years. So, I jumped at the chance to read this.
I enjoyed so much about this book! I have been a huge baseball fan my whole life. So, I just love reading about the quirks of the game. This book is full of famous names and the politics of the game. I laughed out loud in places and was surprised in others. Now, it is a bit choppy in the writing. But that could be because it is an arc and the kinks have not been worked out yet.
Need some good baseball stories…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!
I received this book from the publisher for a honest review.
John Gibbons is exactly who he says he is in the subtitle of this memoir – a baseball lifer. His book, co-written with Greg Oliver, is the perfect illustration of how a memoir of a baseball lifer, whose position was catcher, would read. It fits all the stereotypes that one thinks of when they pick up a memoir by a baseball lifer.
Let’s list a few of those stereotypes that a reader may believe about this book before reading a page. One – catchers usually make the better managers, especially marginal catchers. This checks off nicely as Gibbons talks fondly of his playing career, which really did not have much success in the major league level, but he did show enough knowledge of the game that when he realized his time as a player was through, he was able to find scouting jobs, which led to coaching, which led to managing jobs. Those were both in the minor leagues (Mets system) and in the majors, where he led the Toronto Blue Jays in two separate stints.
Two – baseball men of a certain age dislike the changes in the game today. For the most part, Gibbons shows how he is not a fan of some of the current strategies such as the early removal of starting pitchers. He will often wax nostalgic about how the game used to be. This is something not uncommon in many baseball memoirs, but at times this felt to be a little too much.
Three – there will be certain players that the baseball lifer will go on and on with stories about that player. There is plenty of that in this book, both for teammates while a player and also as a manager. They can range in talent from a fellow back up catcher to a Hall of Fame pitcher such as Roy Halladay. That is not necessarily a bad thing as many of these stories make great reading. It does show, however, that even though Gibbons had the reputation as a “player’s manager” as he refers to himself, he certainly had his favorites.
Four – self-deprecation as humor is almost always present in these types of books and that is certainly present here. Like the stories about players, that helps the reader enjoy the book even if it seemed a bit predictable.
While this may come across as a critical review, it really isn’t – it is meant to convey that everything one may expect from a baseball memoir is present here, including fond memories for Blue Jays fans of their run in the 2015 postseason. That is the section with the most detailed baseball talk for on-field action, but for baseball talk in general, this is a book that many fans, especially Blue Jays fans, will enjoy.
I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are strictly mine.
Baseball managers more or less come with an expiration date. It's understood that at some point the organization that hires a manager probably is going to have to fire that manager at some point. It sort of goes with the territory. Teams go through cycles of winning and losing, and during the down parts someone has to be blamed. Usually, that means the skipper is the one to go, in part because it's easier to do that than to fire 26 players.
There's a corollary to that. Managers aren't expected to be popular, at least once the honeymoon period of new employment is over. Everyone loves to second-guess a manager's decisions, and once in a while a decision will be made that doesn't work out quite properly. Do it a few times, and you stop getting the benefit of the doubt.
John Gibbons knew those were the rules we became the Blue Jays manager. Sure enough, he's currently unemployed. But, he figured out a way to if not beat the system, to at least tame it for a while. Gibbons managed the Blue Jays from 2004 to 2008, only to leave when times got tough. But they brought him back in 2013, which is rather unusual for most organizations except this one (Cito Gaston also got two chances to manage in Toronto.)
Gibbons also stayed popular. Shortly after leaving, the Mayor of Toronto proclaimed "John Gibbons Day" be noted soon after his departure. In addition, the Toronto media - not always the most polite group of individuals, particularly by Canadian standards - went out of its way to say what a good person Gibbons was.
When word came out that Gibbons had written an autobiography, in this case called "Gibby," it instantly seemed like a good idea. After reading it, it seemed like an even better one.
Gibbons calls himself a baseball lifer, and it fits. He's spent his adult life around the game in a variety of capacities. The story seemed rather unlikely at the start of high school, but he suddenly blossomed as a prospect as a senior year and became a first-round draft choice of the New York Mets. His stories about life in the minors are nicely done, but his own is as compelling as any of them. Gibbons worked his way up the ladder to reach the majors, jumping to the Mets in 1984. But a couple of injuries, including one to his throwing arm, slowed his progress. Then the Mets traded for Gary Carter, the best catcher in the business at the time and a future Hall of Famer. The door to starting for New York had just been slammed shut for good.
Gibbons hung around the Mets' organization for a while, and even played a few games in 1985 for New York. That earned him a championship ring. From there John bounced to some minor league teams, but by 1990 it was pretty clear he was no longer a prospect. At least he'd been given an opportunity or two. Gibbons writes about some players he encountered in those days who should have been given a chance at bigger things but weren't, sometimes because they weren't top draft choices.
Gibbons stayed with the Mets after retiring as a player, working as an instructor before landing managerial positions. He jumped to the Blue Jays as a coach in 2002, and became manager in 2004. No matter what Toronto did on the field around then, they weren't going to stay with teams like the Red Sox and Yankees. Gibbons paid the price with his job in 2008. But he had a comeback after the 2012 season, signing with the Blue Jays again after John Farrell left Toronto to manage in Boston.
The second time around proved fruitful. The Blue Jays made the playoffs a couple of times and might have been World Champions if a few things had gone differently. The good times didn't last forever - they never do unless you are connected with the Dodgers or Yankees - and Gibbons was back to being unemployed after the 2018 season. He's taken some other jobs in baseball since then. While it's easy to be yesterday's news in that business, you get the impression that he could be talked into one more go-around somewhere. In the meantime, he's doing a baseball podcast and enjoying life by the looks of it.
Autobiographies can rise or fall by an opinion about the author, and Gibbons comes across really well here throughout the book. He seems to be a honest rational actor at all times, and his concern for his players, working associates and others is genuine. In other words, the first impression of him in the book is that he's a likeable straight-shooter, and that never changes through page 240 or so. (Congrats go to co-author Greg Oliver for making it work so smoothly.)
Gibbons does write about a few confrontations that he's had over the years with players, and his explanations hold up rather well. It's to his credit that none of the "combatants" seem to think less of Gibbons now. One of those players, Josh Donaldson, even wrote the forward to the book.
Obviously a book like "Gibby" is directed at the large potential audience in Toronto, which got to know him best because he stayed there the longest. Still, any baseball fan will find this book time well spent.
I am a casual baseball fan who jumps on the Blue Jays bandwagon when things get exciting. I also tend to enjoy a good sports memoir. I was hoping that John Gibbons’ book “Gibby” would provide me with some insight that would connect me more to the sport and fuel an interest in following it more seriously. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but this book didn’t live up to what I was hoping for.
Let’s start with what I liked about the book. John Gibbons clearly has a sense of humour, and is frequently self-deprecating. I often found myself chuckling at things like, “Bobby Cox once told me to talk a lot and say nothing. That’s perfect. I’ve actually done that naturally my whole life.” The tone of the book is relaxed and conversational, and feels exactly like you’d expect from a 60 year old baseball lifer rambling through the highlights of his career. If you have followed the Jays closely enough to have heard him speak to the media for a while, I’m sure you’ll be able to hear his voice while you read this. One of the more interesting parts of the story for me is how Gibbons draws connections from his early experiences in baseball to his philosophy of managing a ball club, particularly when it comes to how he related to the players.
What I struggled with as I read this book was that it assumes some familiarity with the world of baseball that I just don’t have. There are a lot of names thrown at the reader and, especially in the first half of the book, they are usually brief recollections that are lost on a casual ball fan like me. Similarly, the storytelling often moved so quickly from one event to another that it felt like one narrative wouldn’t resolve before moving on to the next. The story starts to build, but in most cases nothing truly interesting happens, and you move on hoping that the next story is a little more compelling. A reader with some knowledge or experience of the people and places involved would probably be drawn in more than I was. The chapters covering Gibbons’ second stint managing the Blue Jays recounted scenes that were familiar to me, so my interest did pick up as the book went on.
A recurring theme throughout the book is how baseball isn’t the same as it used to be. Often Gibbons is just making an observation without much added commentary, but other times he waxes nostalgic and complains about how things like rule changes are not to his liking. Similarly, he often points out how politically uncorrect he is, including grousing about how he doesn’t understand why people were upset with a sexist comment he made in 2016. Again, this is probably what you should expect from the memoirs of a 60 year old baseball lifer.
Ultimately, I just don’t think I land in the target audience for this book. If you already know who the Norfolk Tides are, it will probably connect better for you, and you’ll find some good yarns in Gibbons’ casual storytelling. If you’re a Blue Jays fan, it’ll be worth your while just to re-live the 2015 and 2016 playoffs.
Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for the advance copy in exchange for this honest review.
Ok, standard baseball memoir format. Grew up here, played these sports, caught the eye of this coach and that scout, went to the minors, bounced around, retired, into coaching, baseball was better in my day, etc.
For sure will appeal to fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, as Gibbons goes into great detail regarding his two stints managing the club.
This memoir reads like Gibby is kicked back in his chair bullshitting about the past and telling stories. And according to the postscript, that's exactly how it was written.
I really enjoyed it. I've read Buck Martinez and Jerry Howarth's memoirs in the last few years and this one is easily the best of those three. Ghost written sports memoirs are so hit and miss but this one perfectly nails the tone. I enjoyed the stories of Gibby's playing career most, as I didn't know anything about that time of his life. He knows how to keep a story interesting, knowing that we're more interested in the stories than the actual games themselves.
In fact, if any part of this book dragged a little, it would be the chapters on 2015 and 2016. He goes into more detail about those exciting years than I needed to hear. But that may just be because I remember them so clearly still. That's a small gripe though, and the chapters still offered enough of his opinion that they were fine.
So basically, if you're the type of person who would even consider reading a book about Gibby, then go for it. It delivers.