Garvey's box-office appeal has already been felt in San Diego. Season ticket sales have increased by almost 6,000 this year, and he's been tireless in promotional work. The Padres will be happy even if he doesn't return to his old hitting form. "We don't expect him to hit .330 or 30 homers anymore," says General Manager Jack McKeon. "We just want somebody the young players on our ball club can emulate. We'll be happy if he does what he did last year." Despite his slow start in 1982, Garvey batted .282 with 16 homers and 86 RBIs. At the end of last week he was hitting .286 with one homer and five RBIs.
In the meantime, the Dodgers are very happy with Brock. Two things he can do that Garvey couldn't are: 1) bat left-handed, which balances out the batting order, and 2) throw. But Garvey can do at least one thing Brock can't. That's give an interview. Brock is nice enough, but his charisma quotient is low. And the Dodgers may very well miss Garvey at the gate. The Dodgers probably have a higher percentage of female fans than any other team, and Garvey is a great favorite with women. When it appeared certain he was leaving last fall, some Girl Scouts picketed the stadium.
"I've heard from many fans who have told me something is missing at Dodger Stadium this year," says Garvey. "Something is missing," said Mark Rothman, a fan with a HELL NO! GARVEY CAN'T GO! T shirt. "I know it was a business decision, but they should have let the fans' feelings enter into it. I think the contract they offered him was just to save face." His friend Louise Ellison, whose T shirt read the same, said, "I cry almost every time I read his name in the papers now."
Dodger attendance has been off this year, some 6,000 a game before the Padre series, although part of the dropoff can be traced to bad weather and bad opponents. Still, Friday's game was the first sellout of the year since Opening Day, and Saturday, when Garvey would break Williams' record, brought the third sellout.
The Dodgers were nice enough to hold a "night" for Garvey on Saturday when he was presented with various plaques and scrolls and gifts. Billy Williams, the one who played for the Cubs, was also a guest, as were Joe and Millie Garvey, Steve's parents, whom the Padres flew in from Tampa as a surprise. In an emotional speech, Garvey again thanked the fans. "I consider you the 10th player," he said. "There aren't many words to describe how I feel, but there are three, and I love you." Garvey still trails the No. 2 man in the iron-man sweeps, Everett Scott of the Red Sox and Yankees, who played in 1,307 consecutive games from 1916 to 1925. And he's a long, long way away from Lou Gehrig's major league mark—it would take him until the 54th game of the 1989 season to surpass Gehrig's total of 2,130—but he's fast approaching Gehrig in tear-jerking speeches.
Nonetheless, Garvey's record is an astounding achievement, a fact that was brought home when he posed with a banner covered with the box scores of the 1,117 games. It all started on Sept. 3, 1975 when Garvey came back against Cincinnati after a two-day bout with the flu and doubled in three trips to the plate. "Only he and I know what you have to go through," said Williams. "Playing hurt, staying lucky. I don't think he has a chance to catch Gehrig. But then Garvey's kind of special."
Garvey was a little more successful at the plate Saturday night, singling and doubling off Reuss, who retaliated by accidentally stepping on Garvey's foot while running to first. However, Garvey was still outdone by Brock, who doubled twice and singled to drive in a run as the Dodgers won 8-5. On Sunday, Garvey got two more base hits and drove in a run as San Diego won 9-1. By then, most of the fans had probably seen the full-page advertisement he had taken out in the sports section of Sunday's Los Angeles Times. He would not reveal how much he paid for it, but the standard page rate is $15,000.
Headed A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO ALL, the ad said, in part, "It is nineteen eighty-three and the uniform is no longer the same, nor are the colors or the name. But the man inside remains simple, dedicated, principled and with the same realization that you have been with me through the good times and bad for thirteen years now.... You taught me the power of hope, the virtue of patience and the strength of dignity. I would like to dedicate the National League consecutive game record to you, not only for the past but the present and future. With love and dedication, Steve Garvey."
Hokey, yes. And there's only one person in the whole world who could have gotten away with it.