Steve Garvey: Forever young in Dodger Blue

Tournaments : : Story
Jim Ecker        
Published: Monday, October 26, 2009

JUPITER, Fla. -- Steve Garvey is 60 years old. For baseball fans of a certain generation, that's hard to believe. We have a mental picture of Garvey as a fixture at first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a 10-time all-star, the 1974 National League MVP, a key member of the 1981 World Series champions, a .294 career hitter and the man who holds the National League record for consecutive games played at 1,207 in a row. That's Steve Garvey, eternally young in Dodger Blue.
 
He didn't look 60 while watching his son, Ryan, play for the Braves Scout Team in the WWBA World Championship the last few days in Florida. He looked like a typical dad, watching his kid play ball, smiling at the successes and wincing at the failures, just like any parent. Ryan's team won the tournament Monday afternoon and Steve took pictures of the team's trophy celebration, just like all the other parents with their cameras.
 
When Garvey was growing up in Tampa, Fla., they didn't have travel teams and major tournaments with hundreds of pro scouts and college coaches. "I had Little League, I had Pony League and then I had American Legion, as well as high school baseball," he said.
 
People forget now, but Garvey was a two-sport star when he was young, a rollout quarterback and defensive back in football and an outstanding baseball player. He played both sports at Michigan State for a couple of years before signing with the Dodgers in 1968. One of the highlights of his career came a year later when he had his first at-bat for the Dodgers.
 
"Even though I struck out, that's the dream come true," he said. The dream, of course, was making the big leagues.
 
Garvey lives in Palm Desert, Calif., and his son plays for the ABD baseball program, which is heavily into club baseball and travel teams. It's a lot different than when Garvey was growing up. He called club teams and travel ball "an interesting environment" that gives talented boys a chance to develop and be scouted.
 
"I think Perfect Game does that as well as anybody," he said. "They create opportunities for these boys to be seen and to grow, not only on the field but off the field, too."
 
Garvey was scouted the old-fashioned way. He attracted attention in Tampa by making all-conference as a sophomore in high school and was selected in the second round of the 1966 draft by Minnesota. The course of baseball history might have changed had he signed with the Twins, but he went to Michigan State instead before signing with Los Angeles a couple of years later.
 
"With 20,000 coeds (at Michigan State), I was bound to get a date," he joked. "So it was a good choice. I never regretted it."
 
Garvey played for the Dodgers from 1969 through 1982, then finished his 19-year career with the San Diego Padres from 1983 to 1987. He vividly remembers the final out of the 1981 World Series when the Dodgers beat the Yankees, remembers leaping on teammates Steve Howe and Steve Yeager as the celebration began. Sports Illustrated had a great picture of "The Three Steves" celebrating the championship. Garvey called the World Series victory his ultimate thrill in baseball.
 
Garvey is a businessman these days with the Garvey Media Group, a media consultant company. He also is a motivational speaker and serves as a consultant with the Dodgers. He still bleeds Dodger Blue and was disappointed to see Los Angeles lose the National League pennant to the Phillies.
 
Garvey did not pick a winner in the 2009 World Series between the Phils and Yanks, perhaps diplomatically. He noted that Cliff Lee could pitch three times for the Phils, just as C.C. Sabathia could pitch three times for the Yankees if the Series goes seven games.
 
"I think it's going to be very interesting," he said.
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