OAKLAND -- To put himself in a properly nostalgic mood Saturday, Reggie Jackson listened to Marvin Gaye on his way to the Oakland Coliseum. He played The Four Tops, too, as well as a little Barry White.
"I listened to that music and I sung along," Jackson said. "Those are good memories. It gives you some good thoughts."
Once at the ballpark, Jackson cued up a few of the A's greatest hits. The MVP of the 1973 World Series joined Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Vida Blue, Bert "Campy" Campaneris and other players for a 40-year reunion of the team that won the second of three consecutive titles.
Jackson, also the MVP during the regular season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the A's lost 7-3 to the Baltimore Orioles, and drew a hearty round of applause. He even got a warm welcome from Billy North, the former outfielder who once brawled with Jackson in the clubhouse -- part of a Swingin' A's culture as colorful as their Day-Glo uniforms.
"All the bad things are gone," North said with a laugh, "and you remember the joy and the intensity and the efficiency that these guys played with."
The '73 A's defeated the New York Mets in a seven-game series that marked the last-ever games for Willie Mays and the first World Series for the man who would become known as Mr. October.
Jackson, though better known as a New York Yankee, said he thinks of those rollicking Oakland days often. He's even purchased jerseys over the years bearing names like "Blue" and "Campaneris" and "Rudi" to hang in his office.
He bought a Catfish Hunter jersey, too, and brought that one with him to Saturday's reunion. Hunter, the Hall of Fame pitcher, died of ALS in 1999 at age 53.
"Catfish, man, he was in that class with Tom Seaver and (Steve) Carlton and the greats of his day. He was our guy," Jackson, 66, said. "When Catfish pitched, we were going to win the ballgame. ... He was a special guy for us."
His affection for Hunter, who was also his Yankees teammate from 1977-79, went beyond the ballpark. Jackson talked expansively Saturday about the racial climate of the late 1960s and credited Hunter -- "a good homespun guy from North Carolina" -- for helping the A's rise above the fray.
John "Blue Moon" Odom, echoing the love for Hunter said, said: "I always said, if you didn't like Catfish, you didn't like yourself. That's the type of person Catfish was. We need a lot more guys like Catfish in baseball today."
Jackson's reflections on race relations prompted a reporter to ask about the dwindling number of African-American players in the majors. The percentage was 8.5 on this season's opening-day rosters.
"It's not good and I don't know why," Jackson said. But he suspects that the rising costs for youth leagues -- especially for traveling club teams -- is a significant factor. Jackson is rooting for Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB to reverse declining number of black players in the big leagues.
"I'm still a colored man. I'm still a sensitive black man," he said. "I'm part Puerto Rican -- my middle name is Martinez. I am a minority. I'm proud and I want you to know that."
Jackson had one of his finest seasons in '73, batting .293 and leading the league in home runs (32), RBI (117), slugging percentage (.531) and OPS (.914) to capture his only regular-season MVP award.
Against the Mets in the World Series, he hit .310 with a home run and drove in six. Jackson and the rest of the lineup had help from a deep pitching staff led by three 20-game winners -- Blue, Hunter and Ken Holtzman -- as well as busy relievers Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles. Knowles remains the only pitcher ever to appear in each game of a seven-game World Series. "My claim to fame," Knowles said.
Knowles played down his iron man feat, saying that pitchers of that era never worried about workload. Holtzman said much the same about his career high of 297.1 innings that '73 season and scoffed at the notion of pitch counts.
"Yeah, right. Pitch counts?" said Holtzman, 67. "You ask Wes Stock, our pitching coach, if he kept track of pitch counts. I'd tell him to stick that counter up his (nose).
"You know what Mr. Finley told me at the start of spring training? He said, 'You're not in there to count pitches. You're not in there to strike 'em out. You're in there to win.' And, in a brutal sense, he was right. I think that's part of the reason we were so good."
Another reason they were so good, players said, is that despite their reputation as a ragtag wild bunch, the A's were among the most fundamentally sound teams of that era. Manager Dick Williams demanded as much.
"That's how I got my job," North said. "Angel Mangual missed a cutoff man in Baltimore. After that game, Dick came in the clubhouse room and said, 'Ain't nobody eating here tonight.' And he flipped over the food table. He called me into his office and said, 'You're the center fielder.'"
Jackson, now a special adviser to the Yankees, was happy to share the memories. Along with a No. 9 jersey provided by the A's for the weekend, he hauled out his old warm-up jacket. He recalled how cool it was to see J-A-C-K-S-O-N on the back of it of the first time.
"I work for the Yankees and love the Yankees," Jackson said. "But the A's are certainly a part of me and it goes forever."