Kirk Gibson and Tony La Russa continue their 30-plus-year rivalry this week when the St. Louis Cardinals make their only visit to Arizona.
The two first competed against each other in the American Association in 1979, when Gibson played for Jim Leyland at Class AAA Evansville and La Russa managed Iowa. Gibson led Evansville to the league title, but the league was not big enough to hold them. Both were in the majors by the end of that season, when Gibson was recalled by Detroit after White Sox general manager Roland Hemond hired La Russa to replace Don Kessinger as manager.
"It's good to have guys like Tony in the game, for baseball. He certainly kind of sets the standard for what we want to accomplish, as a player, as a manager," Gibson said.
The two have jousted throughout the years. Gibson's memorable wal-koff home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series came against La Russa's A's, but the A's came back to win the Series the next year.
"That '88 home run that he hit, the one thing that makes it more acceptable is that it was just a great competition between two great competitors, (Dennis) Eckersley and Gibson," La Russa said. "To get beat by a guy like 'Gibby' is different than from somebody who just walks into one. That would have been tougher to take.
"He was a successful businessman, and when gets out of business and comes back into coaching, that tells you how much he loves the game. He's really impressive. Continues to be impressive. He knows how much I admire him. Ultimate respect."
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