As the Toronto Blue Jays home opener approaches in the revamped Rogers Centre tonight, I know I’m not the only one with baseball on the mind.
But I can say that I have far more baseball on the mind than I did at this time last year. At that point, I was deep into the work on what would be called Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer, written with former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Now the book is out, and already on the Canadian non-fiction bestseller list.
Jays fans will know all about Gibby’s two tours of duty in the city, and the runs to the American League Championship Series in both 2015 and 2016, but there’s so much else to learn about Gibby in the book.
Like his long-time love of pro wrestling!
Now, I’m not saying he’s a fan today, but back in the day, growing up in the 1970s in Houston and then San Antonio, he was into the action provided by Paul Boesch out of Houston and then the Joe Blanchard-run Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion in S.A.
There’s an anecdote in the book about crossing the border into Mexico and scoring a mask:
On another trip to Nuevo Laredo, I talked my mom into letting me get a big ol’ set of bull horns, the kind you sometimes see on someone’s low-rider car. I also bought a mask of my favorite pro wrestler — Mil Máscaras — and wore that dragging these horns across the international bridge. I can remember goring a couple of people along the way. Well, Mexico is known for its bull fighting, isn’t it?
Hanging out with his mom, Sallie Gibbons, one afternoon in San Antonio was a real hoot. She gave me the real scoop on John’s fandom … which didn’t make the cut in the book.
Sallie: The girls loved him. The girls loved him. … He’s always been a big wrestling fan, did he tell you that?
Greg: We’ve talked a lot about wrestling.
Sallie: This is something I was gonna tell you, this is really funny. He’d go out on dates when he was in high school and he loved wrestling. He’d drop the girls at home after the date, and then go to Taco Bell and pick up tacos, and he’d come back and he and I would watch wrestling on Saturday night.
When we were working on the book, whether in person in November 2020, or over the phone, wrestling names sometimes popped up, and Gibby would ask me about them, what happened to them or what they were like.
Or, in reverse, I brought up some of my experiences with baseball players who were into wrestling. I got to interview infielder Shea Hillenbrand in 2005 when the Jays hosted Bobby Heenan, Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan for a WWE-related event, and then Curtis Granderson, who’d made an appearance with Impact Wrestling, in July 2018.
The connecting factor for me to Gibby is John Arezzi, the man of three careers — minor league baseball, pro wrestling as a radio host and promoter, and country music. Arezzi and Gibbons met when Gibby was assigned to the Class A Shelby Mets minor league team, where Arezzi was employed doing everything from selling ads to announcing in the stadium. Together, the old friends now host The Gibby Show podcast.
It was Arezzi who hooked Gibby up with Konnan and Disco Inferno, to be on their K100 Sports Episode 13 podcast, in March, previewing the Major League Baseball season. If nothing else, it proves that Gibby can talk with anyone, loves baseball — and pro wrestling.
You can order Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer (ECW Press) at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com — or better yet, head to your local bookstore and ask for it, as that helps both the author and the publisher.
TOP PHOTO: Right, Mil Mascaras in one of his rare appearances in the WWWF. Photo by John Arezzi; Left, the cover for Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer.