In Which the Case for Steve Garvey is Made by a Red Sox Fan


I was going to write some fake Plaschke to introduce Garvey, but then I realized that there was no need for that.  Josh Wilker* of Cardboard Gods wrote a brilliant piece on Steve Garvey.  One excerpt:


Here are two versions of history. Both could be said to follow the logic of dreams.

Version one: Steve Garvey did not go to Vietnam because he was a star. He had been a star in college and he was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers and one year later he made his debut in the major leagues, and once you were in the major leagues there was no more Vietnam. The year he made his debut, 1969, he played in spring training alongside a struggling minor leaguer named Roy Gleason. Gleason had played briefly for the Dodgers in 1963, doubling in his only at-bat, then in 1967 after failing to further distinguish himself in the minors he was drafted into the army, the only man to serve in Vietnam after logging so much as a single moment in the major leagues. He was sent home on a stretcher, wounded with shrapnel from a blast that killed the man standing beside him, his friend Tony Silvo. He left behind in Vietnam some personal effects, including his 1963 World Series ring.

Version two: Steve Garvey did not go to Vietnam because there was no such thing as Vietnam. Look at the card at the top of this page and tell me there was such a thing as Vietnam. Look at that card at the top of the page and tell me there was a place somewhere full of contradictions and ambiguity and needless suffering. Tell me there was a place where America has been defeated. Tell me there was a place that replaced our innocence with the knowledge that we were capable of unspeakable cruelties, that mutilated or killed our young men, that even stole one of our 1963 World Series rings. If you tell me there was a Vietnam I’ll tell you I don’t believe you.

I have another excerpt to include, but first I'll describe Garvey's case for the Lords of the Ravine a bit more.

Where do we begin with Steve Garvey?  From his successful write-in All-Star campaign in 1974, Garvey was a legend and a fan favorite.  He was a key part of "The Infield" from 1974-1981, and during his time as the starting 1B the Dodgers made it to the World Series 4 times, finally defeating the Yankees in 1981.  The BBWAA were probably right in denying him entry into the Hall of Fame; Garvey was a good, but not great hitter, particularly as a first baseman. 

The best-hitting player to ever be the Dodger first baseman was Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, from 1989-1991.  He posted this line in Dodger Blue:

.278/.359/.440, 65 HR, 279 RBI, 125 OPS+

Steve Garvey's line as a Dodger (1969-1982), on the other hand, looks like this:

.301/.337/.459, 211 HR, 992 RBI, 122 OPS+

And if you just count the seasons when he was the full-time starting 1B (1974-1982):

.306/.341/.467, 186 HR, 880 RBI, 125 OPS+

Really not that far off of Eddie Murray's Dodger stint.  Since Fangraphs doesn't have WAR going that far back, I looked at Baseball Prospectus for career Warp-3 as an LA Dodger. Listed here are those with a career Warp-3 of 10 or more as the Los Angeles Dodgers starting first baseman

Garvey 32.9

Karros 21.1

Parker 19.5

Murray 13.4

Looking only at the Los Angeles career saves Garvey from comparison to Gil Hodges, who was easily the best first baseman in the history of the franchise.  Also, most of Eddie Murray's best years were behind him when he joined the Dodgers; 1990 was great, but if you compare Murray's peak years to Garvey's peak years, it's obvious which player is a Hall of Fame guy.  But for our purposes, we're not; we're looking at the best LA Dodger first baseman, and that man is Steve Garvey.

But Garvey's qualifications go beyond that.  The legend of Steve Garvey, from his 1974 write-in campaign for the all-star team and MVP that year, he became the face of the Dodgers.  He was the first name of Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey, the kid whose dad drove the bus at Dodgertown.  He went on to inspire future generations, including Chipper Jones.  And he was a leader, the face of the franchise, the guy, the brand, and the guy that got paid to endorse a few brands.

Screw it.  I get it, but seeing as I neither lived in LA, was alive when he was a Dodger, started a blog in his honor and take a moniker where I call him dad, or know too much more about him than what I've read, I'm not the guy to write about him.  Instead, Josh Wilker says it best:

Some years after I first used this card to dream myself into the dream of America, Steve Garvey left the team with the red, white, and blue uniform. The jarring sight of him in nauseous brown and yellow foreshadowed the coming disillusionment that he was at least as complicated and fallible as anyone else. And the devaluing of the myth of Steve Garvey that accompanied revelations that he, as Bill James put it, “couldn’t keep his underpants off the infield” was followed by a gradual devaluing of his accomplishments on the field, former reverence for his ability to collect hits and RBI replaced by notice of his inability to get on base as often or hit for power as effectively as many of his lesser known peers. History has hollowed Steve Garvey.

The again, history says that Ford and then Carter led this country after Nixon’s resignation. But if a whole country is dreaming, couldn’t it be said that the figure nearest the center of that dream is the leader? Couldn’t you make a case that in the amnesiac years where Vietnam ceased to exist, those years between the faraway intimations of defeat and the coming of the supreme amnesiac American Dreamer, Ronald Reagan, Steve Garvey minded the store? Couldn’t you make a case that Steve Garvey, the people’s choice, the write-in candidate, the proud hero, was the leader of America Dreaming?

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to vote for Steve Garvey.

*Wilker also has a book coming out this April, now available for pre-order.

This is a fan-written post that is in no way affiliated with or related to any of the authors or editors of True Blue LA. The opinions reflected in this post do not necessarily reflect those of True Blue LA, its authors or editors.

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