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Padres legends Steve Garvey and Goose Gossage told stories at Sycuan Casino, and a good time was had by all

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Last night I had the opportunity to attend the first night of the three-night Steve Garvey All-Star Legends Series at Sycuan Casino. Garvey's guests were two of his teammates on the 1984 National League champion Padres team, relief pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage and jack-of-all-trades Kurt Bevacqua. The evening consisted mostly of Garvey and Gossage chatting, since Bevacqua had to leave early to do the Padres' postgame show on FOX Sports San Diego, but Bevacqua did share some anecdotes and the trio had a few humorous exchanges before he left.

I arrived a bit early with my friend Denise, a fellow Friar fan who is visiting our beautiful city from Calgary. After picking up our tickets at the window I ran into Jodes and Spencer, which was a real treat because they're delightful. Once we got in, the four of us sat together until we were beckoned to get in line for a quick meet-and-greet and photo with the men of the hour. The fine folks working the line asked the four of us if we wanted to go in as pairs or as a group, and after some quick indecisive glances we decided on strength in numbers. Seasoned pros that they are, the three former Padres were warm and welcoming. Garvey was the most engaging, saying "Oh, that's a great jersey you've got!" then placing his hand on my shoulder to turn me around so he could see whose name and number was on the back. I think he may have been hoping it was his. Our group photograph got off to an auspicious start when I was completely out of frame, and we were all off center on the right side by Garvey and Bevacqua, prompting Gossage to cheerfully declare "I don't bite!" From there, we went back out to the theater to wait for the show to begin.

The promotional material for the event described the Live & Up Close Theater as "intimate", and I found that to be the perfect adjective. Neither vast nor cramped, any seat would have provided a good view of the minimalist set of an armchair and couch placed in front of a screen. Garvey was introduced first, following a video showing highlights of his career, both with the Padres and beforehand. He came out, said a few words, then introduced Gossage with a short video highlighting his many achievements throughout his career. After the two of them had a few words and Gossage took a seat on the couch, Garvey introduced Bevacqua with an even shorter video which focused only on his time with the Padres. Bevacqua came out with a cake on a cart, as it was Gossage's birthday. The three engaged in some friendly banter about age before Bevacqua joined Gossage on the couch.

While Bevacqua was there, the trio mostly discussed the 1984 season, but Bevacqua did mention that Gossage was one of two pitchers he was scared of, with J.R. Richard of the Astros being the other. He mentioned striking out three times in a game versus Gossage early in their careers and, sure enough, his memory served him well. It was the final game of the 1974 regular season for both Bevacqua's Royals and Gossage's White Sox. Gossage got him looking in the top of the eighth inning with two on, swinging with a runner on third for the third out in the top of the tenth, and then looking again with two more runners on for the Royals' final out in the twelfth inning. The White Sox scored in the bottom of the inning, and Gossage got the win after pitching 4.2 innings.

Gossage pitching several innings at a time was a topic that would be revisited, as I was sure it would be. He's certainly not been shy when it comes to vocalizing the differences between today's game and when he was playing. At one point he mentioned that he'd been informed that of his 310 saves, fifty-some were seven or more outs, and that of Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera's 600-plus each, they only had three between them. Garvey turned to the audience and implored us to applaud that. I chose not to, as I felt it was a little too close to tearing others down to build one's self up, but that's just me. Gossage also referred to himself as a relief pitcher a few times, stating that he doesn't like being called a closer, and that there was no such thing back then. He also spoke less than fondly about today's pitchers being on pitch counts; he and Garvey spoke about Sandy Koufax throwing 27 complete games in a year, although neither mentioned the part where he had to retire at the age of 30 due to gruesome and irreparable harm to his pitching arm. Those were the only curmudgeonly remarks I recall, and he's certainly entitled to them. He wasn't overbearing about it, and did say that he understood, with the economics of the game, why pitchers are watched more closely.

The two of them discussed their postseason experiences they had before joining the Padres; the two faced each other in the 1978 and 1981 World Series when Garvey was with the Dodgers and Gossage with the Yankees, each winning one. They both stated that they came to San Diego because they thought it was a team on the verge; Gossage said that anything short of reaching the World Series in 1984 would have been considered a failure. The team really started to gel in Spring Training because, according to Gossage, there was nothing to do in Yuma, so the guys would stick together, whereas the Yankees players would go their separate ways in the more eventful Fort Lauderdale. One thing the Padres players liked to do together was golf, but their choice of venues was severely limited once Gossage got them banned from the best one of just three golf courses in the area.

Both spoke very highly of their manager in 1984, the no-nonsense Dick Williams, with Gossage at one point proclaiming "I love Dick!" and Garvey nodding in agreement. They spoke about him getting the best out of everyone, and being the right person to lead that group of players.

Gossage went on to recount the famous story of him arguing with Williams' decision to issue an intentional walk to Detroit's Kirk Gibson in the 1984 World Series, then promptly giving up a mammoth home run as soon as Williams got back to the dugout. He also spoke of what an honor it was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year as Williams, and told the story of calling Williams as soon as he found out. Williams wasn't home, but his wife answered the phone. Goose introduced himself by saying, "Norma, this is the guy who should've walked Kirk Gibson!"

Toward the end, the two men took a few questions from the audience. One man asked Gossage what it was like to play for Billy Martin, and Gossage replied that his mother taught him that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all. I get nervous during question-and-answer sessions, but fortunately nobody asked anything ridiculous to make me feel vicarious embarrassment for them. Once the two were through, they received a long, well-deserved round of applause.

It was a very enjoyable evening, not only for those in attendance, but those on stage as well. All three players seemed to enjoy themselves, and were not just going through the motions. I thought it was especially cool of Gossage to take time out of his birthday to participate. A big thanks goes out to the fine folks at Sycuan for putting on the event and seeing that it ran smoothly; all of their staff was helpful and accommodating. This is the second Padres-related event I've attended at their facility in just over a month of living in San Diego, and both this and Baseball & Brunch were a lot of fun. I'm sure that nights two and three of this current Steve Garvey All-Star Legends Series will be equally entertaining; tonight his guest will be the great Dave Winfield, and tomorrow night will feature yet another Hall of Fame member, Reggie Jackson.