EL CAJON, Calif. -- Old rivals and now close friends don't often get together in public to talk about games and championships long past, but it happened on Thursday night in the Sycuan Casino Theater.
Steve Garvey hosted a 90-minute talk with Reggie Jackson as the final segment of this week's three-part Legends Series, leading into Tuesday night's All-Star Game presented by MasterCard at Petco Park.
Earlier, Garvey hosted former Padres teammate Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield on successive evenings. But his session with Jackson paired two players who competed four times in the World Series from 1974-81, and it was one replete with oozing mutual respect.
Garvey was the first baseman for the Dodgers in all four of those Fall Classics. Jackson, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, played right field in 1974 for the A's and for the Yankees in '77, '78 and '81.
Jackson's teams won the first three times. Then, the Dodgers finally defeated the Yankees in 1981, the last of 11 confrontations between those two storied franchises in the World Series. The Yanks won eight of the 11.
Jackson hit three homers on consecutive pitches in the decisive Game 6 of the 1977 World Series at the old Yankee Stadium. Garvey recalled on Thursday night that when Jackson crushed the final blast off knuckleballer Charlie Hough to cinch the Series MVP, Garvey quietly -- and he thought privately -- clapped his hand inside his glove.
"He hit the ball into the black tarp in center, and just as he goes by, I think he peaked at me," Garvey recalled. "And I just go like this in my glove. I mean, if you can't recognize greatness, you really can't appreciate the game."
The late Dick Young, then a prominent columnist for the New York Daily News, asked Garvey about the gesture in the postgame clubhouse.
"You saw?" Garvey recalled asking Young. "'Yeah, for some reason I looked at you and I saw. I'd never seen that before,' he said. I said, 'Well, it's the first time I ever did it.' And he asked, 'Why?' I said, 'Because a great player had a great game in the greatest moment of the season. If you don't recognize that, then you don't understand the game, the history of the game and what it takes to accomplish something like that.'"
Garvey hit .417 in the 1981 World Series and .319 overall in 28 World Series games. He was the ultimate gamer. He came to play every day despite flu, stitches in his chin and various bumps and bruises, playing in a National League-record 1,207 consecutive games.
That streak ended in 1983 when Garvey dislocated his right thumb sliding into home plate at Jack Murphy Stadium as a member of the Padres.
"You have a kinship with all the players you played with and against," Jackson said. "I was just telling Steve backstage, I didn't know him that much as an opposing player, but he was there every day, he hit cleanup every day, he hit .300 every year, drove in 100, hit 25-30 [homers] and was in the middle of a lineup for a first-place team.
"You had to respect it. You knew what he put in was what you put in. I worked hard. I answered the bell. I never called in sick. I was never late to the ballpark. I was never hurt. We played Garvey in the World Series, and he was just like me."
The Dodgers also lost to the Yankees in six games in the 1978 World Series. In Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, there was the still-controversial play in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jackson on first, Garvey holding him close to the base. Lou Piniella grounded to Bill Russell at short. Russell stepped on second forcing Jackson, who froze in the basepath.
Russell's throw to Garvey hit Jackson for an error that allowed Thurman Munson to score. The Yanks wound up winning the game in 10 innings and erasing a 2-0 deficit in that series.
Did Jackson intentionally stick out his right hip to deflect the throw? That is still Garvey's contention. Jackson has never admitted it. And Tuesday night, the duo re-enacted the play on stage in comic and slapstick fashion.
"Russell throws the ball and hits me," Jackson said. "I let it hit me, but I never moved out of the baseline. I had six feet -- three feet either way -- and the baseline belonged to me."
"But you intentionally stuck your hip out," Garvey said.
"OK, let's go to the video. You don't have no video? You just want to tell the story your way," Jackson responded with a cackle. "What was I supposed to do? It was E-6, error shortstop. You guys should have won that series. You really should've. But you didn't. We did."
Roll forward to 1981, and this time it was the Dodgers who wiped out a 2-0 deficit and won the series in six games. Garvey played again in the World Series for the Padres, a five-game loss in 1984 to a great Tigers team.
As it turned out, Game 6 at Yankee Stadium would be Jackson's last in the Fall Classic. He played in six of them for the A's and Yankees and was 5-1.
This time, it was Jackson's turn to honor Garvey in his final game as a Yankee. There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Jackson was safe on an error.
"We had a comfortable lead," Garvey said. "And with two strikes and two outs, this man is on first base and he turns to me and says, 'Well, it's your turn.' I looked at him and patted him on the behind."
That's what you call mutual respect. Nearly 35 years later, the stage was brimming with it on Thursday night.