Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Garv

Anyone see the Sunday LA Times article on former Dodger star, Steve Garvey?

How sad.

We've known for quite awhile that he was philandering philanthropist. He's got enough kids out of wedlock to stock an infield... but now we discover that he's pretty good at not paying his bills.

Seems that drama has followed Garvey ever since he retired from the game.

It's not hard, however, to close your eyes and remember 'The Garv' at the height of his popularity here in LA when his reputation as a clean-living guy was sterling.

Garvey was THE ONE GUY that seemed to remain above-the-fray just as illegal drug use -- and off-the-field impropriety -- among pro players was hitting the headlines. Garvey was the definition of an Eagle Scout lifestyle. Remember Steve Howe? Darryl Strawberry? Even beloved Dodger outfielder Dusty Baker (the current Cubs manager) made a secretive -- and extra quick -- exit from Chavez Ravine when whispers hit the streets that he was dealing in the Dodger's clubhouse. Not 'The Garv'-- he was 'Mr. Clean.'

Hey, I remember my Mom telling me, "It's OK to be like Steve Garvey when you grow-up. Ignore those guys that are doing drugs. Steve's doesn't do that sort of stuff-- and look how good he is." I don't think she was alone. A lot of Moms felt the same way about Mr. Clean.

Garvey was so principled that he even refused to re-negotiate his contract when it was apparent to EVERYONE that the gold glove All-Star was woefully undercompensated. "I made a deal, and I'll stick by it," he said. Can you imagine that happening today?

Where did he go so far afield?

I remember my godfather telling me that I shouldn't idolize pro athletes. He had business dealings with some of them, and as he used to say, "Just because they're good at handling a ball doesn't mean they are any good at handling their personal lives."

I thought he was just being a hardass. I ignored him, and continued wearing Baker's #12 on all of my jerseys.

To prove his point, he took me to a Dodger game, and handed me his binoculars. He pointed me in the direction of the dugout and told me to find (second baseman) Davey Lopes.

I spotted him right away. He was standing with the catcher Steve Yeager.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

There they were-- in the shadows of the underground tunnel.

Middle of the third, and these two jokers were puffing away at cigarettes.

Big deal? In light of BALCO? Nah. But to an eleven year-old who thought it impossible that a highly paid pro athlete would subject his body to cigarettes? Yes (at that age it was impossible to fathom anything worse than tobacco). How could they be so cavalier with their god-given gifts?!?

I was crushed-- but my godfather sent a powerful message. It's one I'll probably deliver to my kid pretty early-on: Don't worship someone whose greatest acomplishment in life is how they throw a ball. There's a line between admiration and blind hero worship.

Some wonder if Garvey's off-the-field antics have cost him what once appeared to be a certain spot in Cooperstown.

Am I surprised by the latest in the saga that is Steve Garvey? Nope. But part of me wants to go back to feeling like that eleven year-old: that the guy swinging for the fences could slay dragons. That, together, the nine guys on that green, green field could conquer the world. They were invincible... and perfect.

Dreams die hard.


At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Vermont Neighbor said...

oh yeah!! I saw that article and you're the only blog (that I've seen, anyway) to mention it.

Steve Garvey was from that special time in the 70s when we still had a definite line between right and wrong. His headlines were... shocking, actually. Now he's eccentric, like a wheel's dropped off the cart. Very weird indeed.

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