Steve Garvey pointed to the Great Dodger, sorry, the Great Padre in the Sky. He hoisted his Louisville Slugger aloft, blew fervent kisses across the greensward, waved tenderly at the throng, all the while turning clockwise to make sure he thanked every section, indeed every fan, in Dodger Stadium. For one minute and 22 seconds, he bathed in the warmth of the crowd's affection, and then he bowed like a seasoned stage player and took his place in the batter's box. If all this sounds a little hokey, well it was—hokey and Hollywood and hammy and cheesy and wonderful. There's only one person in the whole world who could have pulled off the grand entrance Steve Garvey made at Dodger Stadium last Friday night.
Actually, it was Garvey's 1,117th entrance in a row at Dodger and other stadiums, tying the National League record for consecutive games played set by Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs between 1963 and 1970. That the milestone should be reached on the same night that Garvey returned to Los Angeles for the first time in a San Diego uniform was a coincidence almost too good to be true. But then Steven Patrick Garvey, past superstar, present franchise and future senator from California, has always been too good to be true.
In the next few months, television stations across the land will be showing Return To Dodger Stadium, a Steve Garvey Production in association with Trans World International. Check your local listings. Throughout the homecoming weekend he was filmed, interviewed and wired for sound by his own production company. But given the outpouring of devotion by Dodger fans and taking into consideration the favorite film of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a better title for the docudrama might be "Garvhi."
The flowers began to arrive Friday before Garvey did. They would come in all manner of arrangements—Tony Orlando sent a particularly beautiful one. Garvey also found, waiting in his locker, balloons, gifts and a chocolate fudge cake sent by Jerry and Terri Reuss. The inscription on the cake box read SLUGGO, AT LEAST 1,117 CALORIES IN EVERY BITE. 'CAUSE WE LOVE YOU.
Garvey showed up at 4 p.m. Friday. "Riding to the stadium was very strange," he said. "I saw a kaleidoscope of memories, of games and people I remember as a Dodger. When I got here, I had to remind myself to turn right to the visitors' clubhouse instead of left." When he got to the clubhouse, he discovered that Manager Dick Williams had written out a phony lineup card, with Kurt Bevacqua batting third and playing first base. "I thought I'd give Steve a rest," said Williams. "That's one game in a row for me," said Bevacqua.
When Garvey came out onto the field to cries of "Steve!" Reuss, his closest friend on the Dodgers, was one of the first to greet him. "Come to bless the loaves and fishes?" asked Reuss. Garvey's first meeting with Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda was cordial, no more than that—"Good to see you, Tommy," "Good to see you, Steve"—although Lasorda later orchestrated a few hugs for the cameras.
Everywhere that Garvey went the media lambs were sure to go, and he later said, "The one thing that might prevent me from setting the record is tripping over one of you guys." Padre Catcher Terry Kennedy came up to Garvey at the batting cage and, using his bat as a make-believe microphone, asked, "Steve Garvey, can you tell me how many times you went to the bathroom today?" At the cage Garvey ran into Greg Brock, his replacement as the Dodger first baseman. "Hi, slugger," said Garvey. Some fans behind the Padre dugout unfurled a banner reading THE DODGERS BLUE IT. WE [LOVE] YOU, STEVE.
Before the game Garvey promised that he would do something very special for the fans before the weekend was over. The 52,392 fans didn't wait to do something very special for him: It was their standing ovation when his name was announced with one on and one out in the first. The ovation could have gone on longer, but Garvey decided it was time to play, so he bowed and walked up to face Fernando Valenzuela.
The first pitch was a ball, the second a screwball that Garvey popped high in the air in front of the plate. And who should call for it and catch it but Brock. "Believe it or not," Brock said later, "when I caught it I was not thinking, 'Oh, wow!' " The play was filled with little ironies. The first base umpire, for instance, was one Billy Williams, although a different one.
The Dodgers, and Brock, proceeded to upstage Garvey. While the returning hero grounded back to the box, hit into a double play and flied to left, Brock hit his fourth homer in five games, singled, stole a base and started a 3-6-1 double play as Los Angeles won 6-2. Garvey was the only Padre regular who didn't get a hit off Valenzuela.