by M. Blair
(Rikers Island, NYC; April 8th) He blends into the prison population easily, maybe too easily. Tatoos of baseball scenes up and down his arms, a few elbow surgery scars and that permanent snarl highlight an otherwise typical inmate here at the Eric M. Taylor Corrrection Facility, Rikers Island, NYC. Along with that snarl he just has the look of a hard man doing hard time. If I didn't known him like I do I would say Morgan Gibson is the type of man you would not want to run into alone at night.
But I do know this man, very well in fact. Just a few years ago I helped him author a book, The Felon With The Golden Arm (Doubleday Press) an autobiography of his absurdly rough childhood growing up an orphan in one DeKalb, Illinois foster home and juvenile detention center after another. So many in fact he honestly cannot recall all of them. I will spare you the details but feel free to help us both out and go buy the book to get a better understanding of the man. I asked to interview him again today not to make excuses but to find out what has happened to the former 20 game winner and multiple Cy Young candidate of the Philadelphia A's from seasons 2 through 5... and where the man goes from here. Not sure I got any answers however, an enigma he was and an enigma he continues to be.
Inmate 2245985 is serving one year on a parole violation the details of which revolve around lascivious behavior and an underage prostitution ring. "My bad judgement went and got the best a'me again, damn it all. I am a hostage to my many vices."
He is set to be released next month on a good behavior furlough but he says he may need to get in a fight so he can continue to pitch in the prison playoffs for his Inmate team. He claims Prison baseball is better preperation for the majors than are the Minor Leagues. He can pitch every other day and motivation is not the problem it is on the outside, Gibson claims, because if he does poorly he runs the risk of "getting shivved or cracked on the skull" by angry inmates who may lose a bet or two. Rumor has it the riot here a few years back started over something similar.
Gibson crashed out of the majors as quickly as he arrived, thanks to nagging elbow and shoulder issues that forced him to the surgeon twice in the months following Philadelphia's Season 4 Title, and he hasn't been the same pitcher since. Traded mid-way though Season 5, or "F#*!'n betrayed and back-stabbed by that former manager Brown!" as Gibson puts it, he never went on the DL but for the Rochester Royals he wouldn't have been missed if he had. Success never returned to the former #1 pick. "I lost all my velocity and then I lost confidence in myself, simple as that."
His plan upon release is simple, "I'm going back to Philly to be with you and the A's, Brown is out and I am in...back home baby!" Gibson exclaims. When pressed on contract details his famous snarl quickly returns and he tells me "No worries Mr. Reporter-Man, no worries."
The A's Front Office continue their "No Comment" mantra when Gibson's availability is brought up. Whether they take a flier on their one time 'Can't Miss Prospect' is still unknown, but it is this reporter's gut feeling what with the Graves and Kidd trades recently finalized, markbl and the A's Front Office may be looking to go Back To The Future with all their former stars. Glory Days indeed, but for Inmate 2245985, perhaps a little premature. He faces Cell Block H this Friday at 2pm on the parade grounds. Tickets still available.