Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The Dodgers were God's Team and Garvey was His chosen representative."
— Jim Murray, 6/26/83
No one, not even Tommy Lasorda, bleeds Dodger Blue like Steve Garvey!
Garvey, who turns 62 on Dec. 22, made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 1, 1969. Garvey was an eight-time all-star for the Dodgers and the 1974 most valuable player. He has worked in the Dodgers' marketing and community relations departments for 14 years. Now he has assembled an investment group that would like to buy the Dodgers.
"I think I know what it takes to put a winner on the field," Garvey said.
Indeed you do, Steve! We at the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation applaud you and your investors in this endeavour. You are a true champion and ambassador, not only for the Dodgers but for the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation.
Thank you!



Garvey Finds There Is Life Beyond L.A.

   No. 6 ran up the steps of the dugout, looked out at the field before him, and life couldn't be sweeter.
   Stephen Patrick Garvey couldn't believe his good luck. The pay was good, the second baseman was speaking to him, the third baseman wasn't giving off-the-record interviews suggesting his public image was all a pose, the star pitcher was not apt to poke a finger in his eye, he wasn't starring in any snide items in the gossip columns.
   Management wanted him and he was making more money than journeyman shortstops or mildly successful .500 pitchers. The manager didn't care if he went ahead with his consecutive-games playing streak.
   Everywhere Steve Garvey looked was roses. Days he came down into the dugout in his street clothes, players shouted good-naturedly, "Hey, Garv. Get in uniform, you got a chance to start tonight." In the old days, when Garvey came in the dugout, some teammates would ignore him, others would look the other way. The rest would be indifferent.
   Had Mr. Wonderful finally found a home? Was Captain America among people who revered loyalty, patriotism, devotion to church, Mom and apple pie? Can Frank Merriwell find happiness in a National League locker-room after all?
   Steve Garvey's career has always been one of the great mysteries of major league baseball. He played in over 1,100 games in a row, he knocked in key runs, he hit crucial homers, he dug throws out of the dirt that would have broken another player's shins. He kept his hair combed, his shoes shined, his nose clean and he paid his bills. And he was the most underpaid man in baseball. He couldn't get a kind word said about him on the team bus.
   He as polite to the media, charming to the fans, he never griped to the front office or demanded to renegotiate his contract. He watched the club dole out millions to pitchers who didn't even pitch, he saw the seats filled night after night with fans, many of whom had come to see him play. He had been practically brought up on the Dodger team bus. It was unthinkable he would ever wear any other but the red, white and blue of the Dodgers. He was sure his loyalty and patience would be rewarded. After all, the Dodgers were, like him, an old-fashioned institution.
   He did everything they told him to, he talked in wall mottoes. He was one of The Boys of Summer, a heritage player, a Dodger heirloom, they told him.
   What happened was enough to make you throw away the Boy Scout handbook, reach for the bottle, chase broads, hold out, snarl at reporters, kick water coolers, feud with your teammates.
   The Dodgers were God's Team and Garvey was His chosen representative. All it got him was resentment from his teammates, indifference from management and confusion among the fans. Even the writers seemed to take sides, although they should have been happy to have a superstar who didn't sulk in the training room after pivotal games. Envy is contagious. Virtue is suspicious and always has been. They used to burn people at the stake for it.
   But Garvey thought the front office, at least, could add up the home runs, games played, World Series RBI, and errors avoided and make up for the years of underpayment.
   They couldn't. They made Garvey, if not a token offer, at least an offer he could refuse. And did. They had the good taste not to throw a party when he left but the relief on their countenances was visible. Steve Garvey got the message: get lost.
   Is he appreciated in San Diego? Did he make the right move? Or did he make a mistake?
   Garvey smiled. "I'm very happy in San Diego," he murmured, peeling a sweatshirt over his head and donning the gold and brown friar robes of the Padres. "The pace down there is great, I'm comfortable, relaxed — wanted even."
   Teammates cordial? Garvey smiled.
   “Extremely so. They're young, they're anxious to learn. They know I'm the only guy here who's been through a World Series and playoffs. I'm happy. I get my energy from people, and I miss that when I'm in isolation.
   “I think it's the best of all worlds. I stayed in Southern California. I'm near my business interests, my charity headquarters. This is an upwardly mobile team, maybe only a year away from a championship, maybe not that much."
   Does he miss the controversy? Garvey looked amused. "I never could understand what I did to become controversial. I always thought everything I did was non-controversial. I thought I should have been the least controversial guy in the league."
   Does it mean a lot to be finally paid the million or so comparable players were getting. "Well, of course," he said. "No one wants to work for less than he's worth. It puts everything right in its place and lets you concentrate solely on baseball."
   Does he ever, ever, get mad? Garvey laughed. "What's to get mad about? If anything was more perfect I'd worry."

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

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