If his return was sweet, his parting with the Dodgers last year had been bitter. "I was disappointed and disillusioned," he recalls. "From the time I was a bat boy until last year, I spent 28 years of my life as a Dodger. I gave and I gave and I gave to the organization, and I wasn't given anything in return. My relationships are based on personal reciprocity. Being a Dodger was a matter of heart, but in the end I felt they didn't want me."
Garvey wanted a new contract negotiated as early as last spring, but that isn't The Dodger Way. The Dodger Way is to wait until a player's contract runs out before negotiating with him. With that weighing on his mind and his home life in turmoil, Garvey got off to a terrible start in '82. In the meantime, Brock was tearing apart the Pacific Coast League.
It became clear to Garvey that the Dodgers didn't care if they lost him to free agency. The club began contract talks with him last July, but cynics said this was probably done to light a fire under Garvey. Whatever the Dodgers' motives, the play worked because he got hot, and the Dodgers turned the Western Division race around, losing the title by only a game.
The one person in the organization who was willing to sign Garvey to a new contract was Peter O'Malley, who, as president, has some clout. But Garvey insisted on a five-year contract. The best the Dodgers could come up with was $5 million for four years, which was very good indeed. The rub wasn't only that the contract was too little but that it was too late. There's a certain parallel between Garvey's relationship with the Dodgers and his relationship with his estranged wife Cyndy. She, too, wanted a reconciliation last year, but Garvey decided it was too late for that.
Contract talks broke off on Nov. 3 and Garvey became a free agent. The Dodger Way is not to compete in the open market for one of their own players, so they didn't exercise their option to select Garvey in the reentry draft. On Dec. 21, one day before his 34th birthday, Garvey signed with the Padres. The contract was for a base of $6.6 million over five years, with various bonus provisions.
The Dodgers are a very generous organization, but they don't let sentiment interfere with important business decisions. "The Dodgers think they're living in Camelot," says Garvey, "but they're letting the knights get away." Garvey maintains that he's as happy as he could be outside of a Dodger uniform: "I used to look like an American flag. The Padre uniform makes me look like a taco.
"Actually, the transition has been great. I've made 25 new friends, and I never thought I wanted to be anything other than a Dodger, but this is fun."
The Padres have welcomed him with open arms, not only as a first baseman but as a person. In spring training he got a head start on his political career by being named Chief Justice of the Padres' Kangaroo Court.
Garvey has conducted a one-man crusade to dress the team in Ralph Lauren Polo clothing. He took Tim Flannery, a 25-year-old second baseman, to the Polo Shop in San Francisco to buy him a suit as a thank-you for giving up uniform No. 6, Garvey's career-long numeral.
Oddly, Garvey always seems to gravitate toward the certified flakes on a team. On the Dodgers his best friends were Reuss and Jay Johnstone, and on the Padres he has become friendly with Bevacqua. "I tried to figure it out," says Bevacqua, "and there are two possible reasons. Either he hangs around with us because we're something he can never be, or we hang around with him because he's something we can never be."