Blog #49 (Steve Garvey)

By Richard J. Decker on April 3, 2013 7:00 AM

This week there is no legal section of the blog.

Now for the Opening Day memory:

This week's Opening Day memories are from Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres great Steve Garvey. Although Steve's major league career officially began in 1969 following stints as a batboy for the Dodgers, Yankees and Detroit Tigers, he did not become a household name until 1974 when he was a write-in starter on the National League All Star team representing the Dodgers, his first of 10 such appearances which included eight consecutive and two All Star game MVPs in 1978 and 1984. Other highlights in his 19 year career included a 1981 World Championship with the Dodgers, appearances in 4 other World Series (3 with the Dodgers and one with the Padres), a 1974 MVP award, two NLCS MVP awards (he hit 4 HRs in the 1978 NLCS), a 1207 consecutive game streak from 1975-1983, which ended as a result of a broken thumb, being one of the 4 members of the same Dodgers infield for 8-1/2 years with Ron Cey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell, winning the National League batting championship twice and having 200+ hits in a season 6 times.

After playing for the Dodgers from 1969-1982, Steve signed with the Padres as a free agent for the 1983 season and played for them until 1987. His departure from the Dodgers resulted in Girl Scouts picketing Dodger Stadium. As a member of the Padres, he broke the National League consecutive game streak, led the Padres to the 1984 World Series (where they lost to the Tigers) after he led the Padres to the National League pennant over the Chicago Cubs by, among other things, knocking in 4 runs in Game 4 including a walk off HR. He finished his career with a .294 batting average, 272 HRs and 1308 RBIs, and his No. 6 subsequently was retired by the Padres.

He served for many years after his retirement as a Community Relations Consultant for the Dodgers, but was fired from that position for criticizing former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. He then tried to put together a group to purchase the Dodgers from McCourt but lost out to the current Dodgers ownership. To this day, he is brought up in the context of players who are not in the Hall of Fame but arguably should be. Here are his Opening Day memories:

Garvey.jpg"In 1970, I had won the third base job in spring training. A day before we broke camp, Rick Patterson, our director of public relations came to me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a Vitalis commercial. And I thought, "Wow, I have really made it now! Starting third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Vitalis commercial before Opening Day!" We shot it a day before Opening Day. The Reds were in town. It was Maury Wills and Pete Rose and myself. I was the rookie in it. And it was a lot of fun. Then on Opening Day, I started at third base. I didn't get any hits and we lost 3 or 4-0. That kind of started an early season tailspin and I was sent down to the minors by the end of April. But to be a starter in the 1970 Opener was one of the highlights of my life up to that point.

In 1974, I didn't start, but I had earned the starting position during the second half of 1973. I started the second day, though, and went on to win the MVP, the All-Star game. That was the turning point of my career but the ironic thing was I didn't start Opening Day!

The funniest Opening Day I remember was in 1977. Don Sutton was the starter, and the first pitch was supposed to be a commemorative pitch in honor of the Dodgers - so many years in Los Angeles, or so many games in Los Angeles, and the ball was going to go to the Hall of Fame. They told the umpires about it, so they knew and, of course, Don knew it and our catcher knew it. They were supposed to tell Gary Thomasson, the Giants' leadoff hitter. They told Don to just lay one in there, and he does, and Thomasson swings and hits it halfway up the right field bleachers! We all broke out laughing and had to put our gloves over our faces, we were laughing so loud. I remember Don turning around watching the ball and at the same time trying to call time out! Nobody had told Gary Thomasson! It turned out to be their only run. Don pitched his usual good ballgame and we won 4-1."

See you in two. Richie