(Steve Garvey, 2008)
Steve Garvey enjoyed 14 of his 19 big league seasons in the Dodger Blue. A two-time NLCS MVP, a 10-time All-Star and a two-time MVP of the All-Star game and the 1974 National League MVP. These days, Garvey does about 45-50 motivational speeches a year through Garvey Media Group working with clients in stadium advertising. At Dodger Stadium he helps with the Kings Hawaiian Grill stand, introducing and marketing new BBQ sauces.
I had a chance recently to speak with Garvey prior to the Dodgers alumni game on May 12th…
GDWKND: You we’re part of the longest running infield from 1973-81. What was the key in maintaining the infield for as long as you all did?
Garvey: I think the key was staying healthy. We continued to grow as players and understand our roles and performances. We started to work together, the team started to do well and Al Campannis signed us to long-term contracts. When it was all said and done that recipe was a great recipe of success during what I call the Golden Era from 1973-82.
GDWKND: When you we’re being groomed in Albuquerque you had Tommy Lasorda as your manager. When you came up to The Blue you we’re under the guidance of Walter Alston. How was the transition like from Lasorda in Albuquerque, to Alston and then eventually back to Lasorda?
Garvey: It was night and day, it was a 180. Walter Alston was very stoic and quiet, very strong man, Hall of Fame quality. Tommy was gregarious, outgoing, became really the heart and soul of Los Angeles Dodger Baseball by the way he talked about the team and got the fans involved. There’s more than one way to manage success. I was blessed to have Walter Alston to teach me certain things and Tommy Lasorda to teach me the rest.
After the 1982 season, Garvey would head south and finish his career with the San Diego Padres. Though he wouldn’t put up the same numbers wearing the Padre Brown, Garvey would nonetheless have an impact on the Padres, highlighted by the city’s number one sports moment in 1984 with his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the NLCS off Lee Smith of the Cubs, forcing a decisive 5th game which the Padres would win en route to the organizations first World Series appearance.
GDWKND: You played for three storied managers, Alston, Lasorda and Dick Williams, three HOF managers. How was it like playing for all three?
Garvey: Dick was tough, very demanding. Dick had won a couple of World Series with Oakland in the 70s, he had some strict rules that he expected you to adhere to. He was a veterans manager. He let the veterans do a lot of the leadership within the team. A very good X’s and O’s in game manager so he ended up in the HOF one way, Tommy one way and Walt one way. There’s no one way to be a leader to produce success. It takes the ability to communicate as the one common ingredient.
GDWKND: You had an impact not only here but in San Diego as well during your 5 year stint from 1983-87. You will always be remembered for the home run you hit in Game Four of the 1984 NLCS. Do you do any work with the Padres as well?
Garvey: From time to time I get a call from the Padres to do things. I always look forward to it. I always say once I go south of Camp Pendleton I’m a Padre down there. I’m a favorite son and we had some great moments during my five year run capped off by our World Series. It’s like a second home in San Diego, 15 years in L.A and 5 in San Diego, a very blessed career and friendships on both sides.
As Garvey would be a huge catalyst for the Padres first World Series appearance, they would run into a buzz-saw of a Detroit Tiger team that started off the ’84 season 35-5 en route to 104 wins, breezing through the ALCS in a three game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. In Game Five of the ’84 World Series, some future Dodger named Kirk would hit a huge home run in the 8th inning of a one-run game that all but ended the Padres faint hopes. It would be Kirk Gibson’s biggest home run of his career…To that point…
GDWKND: You had a chance to face Kirk Gibson when he was with the Detroit Tigers in the 1984 World Series. Kirk had that huge home run off Goose Gossage in Game Five that for all intents and purposes closed out the series. What was your thought of seeing Gibby in Dodger Blue in 1988, one year after your final season in baseball?
Garvey: That home run in ’84 had to be a prelude to the ’88 World Series. The irony of Gibson’s home run in ’88 was people thought it was Game Seven when it was actually Game One, he never made another World Series appearance again but it was so momentous a hit that it kick-started the momentum and along with Orel Hersheser’s fabulous pitching performances and a great team of executioners and it turned out a World Championship.
Drei’s memories of The Garv…I started watching Dodger Baseball in 1980 at six years of age. My first ever Dodger game at Dodger Stadium would be on my eighth birthday in 1982, one year after baseball’s longest running infield broke up. I would get to see 3/4th’s of the longest running infield twice. Then Garvey and Cey would leave Dodger Blue after the ’82 season.
I may not have seen much of Garvey in Dodger Blue. I do remember he was one of the more popular Dodgers. Every kid in school wanted to be like Garvey. He was, in the eyes of many, Mr. Clean (That’s a topic for another discussion…).
Most of my childhood life as a baseball fan was at the end of his prime. This eight year old kid can remember the night he made his first appearance in that Padre Brown on April 15, 1983. He was given a thunderous standing ovation that seemed to last an eternity.
To this day, the Dodgers have yet to retire number 6. They have this unwritten policy of only retiring players enshrined in Cooperstown, Jim Gilliam being the exception. It’s a debatable discussion, much like Garvey’s number 6 being retired in San Diego.
You could debate that the standards for retiring a number are much higher within the walls of Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers already had a rich history prior to Garvey’s arrival in 1969. The Padres we’re still looking for a baseball identity. One swing of Garvey’s bat in 1984 gave them that.
When talking of Garvey, baseball fans talk of him in the Dodger Blue, a fact that the most ardent Friar fan will admit. It’s been said down south, ” It took a Dodger to put your team on the map” Ouch.
I have no problem with Garvey’s number 6 being retired down south. It’s already been done. Without Garvey’s blast in ’84, the Padres may still be looking for a baseball identity.
How much longer until the Dodger brass retires number 6. Only time will tell.
This is the first of hopefully more detailed interviews I’ll conduct with former Dodgers as they celebrate 60 years here in L.A.
I also had a chance to briefly catch up with other former Dodgers during Alumni Weekend. Check it out and other sports news and stadium reviews on Stadium Journey at StadiumJourney.com
(Just retire Number 6 already !!!)