NEW YORK – Surrounded by his family and with Kermit the Frog perched on his shoulder, Charles Gibson toasted the end of his near 19-year tenure on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. He's working later now on ABC's evening news.
"For 19 years my mornings have not just been good," Gibson said, his voice breaking. "They've been great."
It was the second farewell in a month to a morning television star who's leaving to become an evening news anchor. Katie Couric exited NBC's "Today" and will start at the "CBS Evening News" in September.
Keeping with Gibson's button-down style, Wednesday's goodbye was considerably more low-key. Gibson doted on his family, including his 3 1/2-month-old grandson. Kelly Ripa, Cal Ripken Jr. and Kermit were it for celebrity guests.
There were no film clips of embarrassing hairstyles for Gibson, 63, just gray strands invading his black hair.
He started at "Good Morning America" in 1987, paired first with Joan Lunden. Gibson left the show in 1998 but was back with Diane Sawyer less than nine months later after ratings went into a free-fall. Most of Gibson's era — including every week of his second tenure — was in second place in the ratings to "Today."
Gibson was named "World News Tonight" anchor last month, replacing the ill-fated pair of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, and the Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC has already been touting his experience in the role.
"Charles is a night person," said his wife, Arlene, who retired Friday as head of the Spence school in Manhattan. "That's the strange thing about this job. I never see him in the morning — and that's a good thing."
Co-hosts Sawyer and Robin Roberts greeted Gibson with coffee and a glazed doughnut when a car picked him up outside of his New York home before dawn. Except for his opening interview with a recovering judge who had been shot by a sniper in Nevada, the show's script was kept from Gibson.
"We've loved your laughter, how you've been able to make us laugh. It has served you well," Roberts said.
"Is this a segue?" Gibson replied.
Indeed it was, to film clips showing Gibson shagging fly balls in a baseball uniform, singing off-key, attacking Sawyer with a water pistol, bungee jumping and dancing with Whoopi Goldberg — complete with a dip.
Ripken delivered Gibson a framed Baltimore Orioles jersey with number "19." Gibson said he read Ripken's autobiography and was impressed by how the former ironman shortstop said it was important to bring enthusiasm to his job every day.
"That was an inspiration for me," he said. "The way you approached baseball is very much the way you should approach this job."
Kermit was a repeat guest from Gibson's first farewell show from "GMA" eight years ago. Gibson said he used to watch "Sesame Street" with his daughters every morning when they were growing up.
Brief taped tributes were offered from his new competitors — Couric and NBC's Brian Williams.
"See you in September," Couric said.
"Good luck," Williams said. "With limits."