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Is this going to be another story about the white knight in shining armor?" an old friend asked Steve Garvey. "No, no," the old knight replied. "Those days are over. The horse has been shot. I'm a foot soldier now."
The horse has been shot. The white knight's a foot soldier now. That's not bad. In fact, it's about as good a way as any to begin telling the story. But it's a hard curve, and it comes in hanging: with guilt and frustration, nostalgia and remorse, and finally with clearing a whole marriage out of a dream house overlooking the San Fernando Valley, out of closets and drawers, and packing it, piece by piece, photo album by photo album, into large cardboard boxes.
This was in February. With the house sold, the divorce in the works, with another spring training and baseball season about to begin, Steve and Cyndy Garvey returned to Calabasas Park to close the home they had built together. There wasn't much to say, but in the gloaming there were all those drawers to be opened, windows flung open to the past: 2½ years of courtship, 10 years of marriage, two children, four grandparents, almost a decade of celebrity—his for nine years as the durable, hard-hitting first baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, hers as Mrs. Steve Garvey and a local television talk-show hostess. That's a lot of pictures.
But there were a lot of drawers. There were wedding pictures and mug shots and baby pictures of the girls—Krisha Lee, now 7, and Whitney Alyse, now 5—and pictures of the trips to Hawaii and Santo Domingo and such. Pictures of Steve and the girls at their first player's family game at Dodger Stadium. Pictures of Cyndy on TV. Pictures of the first apartment they had in Playa Del Rey (circa 1971). Pictures of the first home they owned in Calabasas, a tri-level (circa 1973).
In one drawer Steve found the sweater, green and white, that he remembered her wearing as she walked with him one snowy night in the light shining from the windows of a building at Michigan State, where they had met. Another drawer produced the sales slip of the Eldorado, baby blue and white, that he bought on their eighth wedding anniversary, in 1979. And there was the letter that set him to recalling dimly the night in 1973 when he came home from a road game in Santo Domingo, where he was playing winter ball, and found her stirring laundry in a tub with a nine-iron. "You should be using a two-iron," he had said at the time. "Less drag."
Garvey has a sense of humor, but not at the moment of his unraveling.
"Every drawer had memories," he says. "It was like a cassette of the last 10 years. It was like going back on rewind, then fast forward to the present, then back on rewind, then fast forward. Ten years of it.... It takes you right back. The nostalgia. And then the reality would set in. You can't go back. The memories will never go, but you can't go back to what once was. Sure there were tears, throughout the week, for different reasons. They were the toughest days of my life. There's no way you can know how emotional that is unless you've been through it. It was the most emotional, draining period of my life."
The web (failure): "No one feels more human than I do. I failed. Of course I failed. I had never failed before. It's not failing for the first time, it's failing at what I've thought to be the single most important thing we can do in life."
The spider (guilt): "I do feel a guilt...a lot of frustration and guilt."
The fly (himself): "I guess we all think it couldn't happen to us until it does. But maybe certain things were meant to be in life that we don't always have an answer or reason for. Just like I didn't. No answers. Only questions...I want that sense of guilt to go away.... You can only hurt somebody so long. I'm essentially restructuring my life now so she has the freedom to be herself, unaffected by what I do."