During the National League's workout prior to Monday night's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, Garner was asked about his memories of 1979.
"The Pitt Panthers were No. 1, the Steelers won the Super Bowl," Garner said. "That's when this became the 'City of Champions' -- and it has been that ever since. Congratulations, Pittsburgh."
Garner has returned here many times as manager of the Houston Astros, and before then in 1998-99 as Milwaukee's skipper and as Detroit's bench boss in 2000 in Interleague Play. But this "homecoming" is a little different.
The last manager to turn Garner's feat was Billy Martin, who managed the 1977 AL All-Stars in Yankee Stadium. The only other two to similarly go full circle were Leo Durocher and Bill Terry.
Judging from the rousing ovation Chuck Tanner received when he was introduced on the field during batting practice, it's obvious the former Pirates manager has not been forgotten in the Steel City.
Tanner managed the Pirates from 1977-85 and was the man pulling the reins when the Bucs won that 1979 World Series. He is in Pittsburgh this week as an honorary All-Star coach to Garner, who credits Tanner with just about everything good that has happened in his baseball life.
Asked about another Pirates legend, Willie Stargell, the 79-year-old Tanner's blue eyes brightened.
"When the Pirates let him go, I told Willie, 'You'll always have a job in baseball with me, the rest of your life,'" Tanner said. "He was like having a 10-carat diamond on your finger."
Sage advice: Tanner called that '79 Series win over the Baltimore Orioles "my biggest thrill -- until now."
"This is the seventh All-Star Game I've been a part of," added Tanner, perhaps mindful of some players who decline invitations, "and if you have a chance to participate and you don't, it's something you'll regret 20 years from now. It's your loss."
Hometown favorite Jason Bay doubtless had no inkling yet of the thrill awaiting him. All-Star Game crowds are famous for adoring and enduring ovations for their own. As one of two Bucs on the National League team, along with Freddy Sanchez, Bay's appearance Tuesday night will bring down the house.
But Bay already knew he was enjoying this All-Star experience a lot more than the last one. As Canada's entry in the 2005 "Global" Home Run Derby, he drew a blank to finish only 41 behind Bobby Abreu.
"This whole thing is thrilling," Bay said during batting practice. "Not many people get to play an All-Star Game in their home park, and this is probably the last time I'll get to do it.
"It'll be nice to be able to give a 'thank you' back to all the fans."
Fans' response to a concerted campaign run by the Pirates landed Bay in the NL's starting lineup.
City of Stars:
With PNC Park following Forbes Field (1944, 1959) and Three Rivers Stadium (1974, 1994), the Pirates will become the first team to host All-Star Games in three different stadiums.
All-Star Games have been held in four different New York parks and three different stadiums in Chicago, but those are multiple-team cities. All-Star Games in New York have been played in Ebbets Field (Dodgers), Polo Grounds (Giants), Shea Stadium (Mets) and Yankee Stadium (Yankees), while Chicago has hosted games in Comiskey Park and U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox), as well as Wrigley Field (Cubs).
It had to set a record for the number of times the word "butt" was uttered over a P.A. system.
During the NL's workout, roving field reporters interviewed various members of the squad. Invariably, the subject turned to the AL's recent domination.
Just as invariably, the answers given by Paul Lo Duca, David Wright, Chase Utley and others included, "They've been kicking our butt."
Rooting for the right team:
MLB's biggest soccer fan, Nomar Garciaparra, boasted that the World Cup was won by the team for which he was rooting. Sort of.
"I rooted for the United States, then Mexico, then Germany," Garciaparra said. "But then they were all out. Then I felt Italy would pull it off, and they did."
Garciaparra, of course, is married to U.S. soccer legend Mia Hamm.
The Dodgers first baseman also is one of six current All-Stars to have represented both leagues. Garciaparra made it here as winner of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com.
He was profuse in expressing his gratitude to fans. "For them to take the time and vote ... I can't thank them enough."