I Was The All-Star Game MVP … Twice!
This article was written by Rory Costello
It simply should not have taken six years for Gary Carter to get into the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best catchers of his era, and many observers put him in the top ten in major-league history. He was an outstanding defender with a strong arm who did all the other things expected of a receiver. He combined that with a powerful bat – Carter’s 298 homers as a catcher are sixth-most at that position – and a gung-ho competitive spirit. A broad grin and pumping fist were The Kid’s visual trademarks.
Carter’s best years came with the Montreal Expos in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but he was still in his late prime when he joined the New York Mets in 1985. Carter was the final ingredient that helped a promising young club become a World Series champion in 1986. He became the team’s cleanup hitter and handled its excellent pitching staff. One of those hurlers, Ron Darling, called Carter the moral compass of the hard-living squad.
Knee injuries ground Carter down – in part because he always wanted to stay in the lineup. His last season as a full-time regular came at age 34 in 1988, though he hung on for four more years. Subsequently, he stayed involved in baseball as a broadcaster with the Florida Marlins and Expos. He then coached and managed in the minors, independent ball, and college, but his hopes of returning to the majors went unfulfilled. Alas, Carter also died in 2012 at the too-young age of 57.
For the definitive account of this man’s youth and family background, one must turn to Before the Glory (2007), by Billy Staples and Rich Herschlag. All the details one could want are in Carter’s chapter, as told by The Kid himself. Of necessity, this story offers only a tiny selection.
Gary Edmund Carter was born on April 8, 1954, in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles. He was the second of two boys born to James H. Carter and his wife Inge. Jim Carter, a mechanically minded man from Kentucky, moved to California after World War II to work in technical jobs in Hollywood. When Gary was born, he was working as an aviation-parts inspector for Hughes Aircraft Company. (The aerospace industry was a big employer in Southern California.)
Inge Charlotte Keller was born in Chicago in 1929. Her parents were German immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1920s. Gary later attributed his athletic ability to Inge, a champion swimmer, although Gary himself said, “Funnily enough, I’m a terrible swimmer.” His older brother Gordon was also good enough to be a second-round draft pick of the California Angels in 1968 and the San Francisco Giants in 1971. Gordy played two years of Class A ball (1972-73) in the Giants organization.
Gary Carter started playing Little League at age six, but he also loved and was talented at football. In 1961, the National Football League sponsored the first Punt, Pass & Kick contest. At the Los Angeles Coliseum, seven-year-old Gary became the national champion in his age group. He was a finalist again two years later, but lost in sub-zero conditions in Chicago.
When Carter was 12 years old, his mother died at age 37 after a battle with leukemia. This crushing loss at a young age was at the root of Carter’s later charitable work, raising funds for leukemia research and on behalf of children with other disorders. Jim Carter took on the role of both parents, making great sacrifices for his boys. In addition to his job in procurement for McDonnell Douglas, another aerospace/defense company, he coached Gary at various levels of youth baseball and supported him in all his sporting endeavors. Brother Gordy was also a mentor and role model for Gary.
Carter followed Gordy to Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, California (the family had moved there when he was five). There he was a three-sport star, becoming captain of the football, basketball, and baseball teams. He was also a member of the National Honor Society. In football, he was a high school All-America quarterback and received nearly 100 scholarship offers. He signed a letter of intent with UCLA. (If he had played for the Bruins, he would have competed with and/or backed up Mark Harmon, who went on to become a well-known actor.) Carter suffered torn knee ligaments in his senior year, however, and had to sit out the football season. Noted sports surgeon Dr. Robert Kerlan warned him that one more bad hit could end his athletic career.
That prompted Carter to turn pro in baseball instead. The Expos had selected him in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft. He had played shortstop, third base, and pitcher for Sunny Hills – and only six games as a catcher. But scout Bob Zuk, special assignment scout Bobby Mattick, and farm director Mel Didier looked at the ruggedly built teenager (6-feet-2, 205 pounds) and envisaged him behind the plate. Zuk also craftily downplayed his interest in Carter, which enabled Montreal to draft him earlier than other teams expected.
Although Carter was totally raw as a receiver, his ascent through the minors was rapid. He played in rookie league and Class A in 1972 and jumped to Double A for 1973. He got his first promotion to Triple A at the end of ’73 and needed just one more year at that level in 1974, when he became the Topps Triple-A All-Star catcher. He never returned to the minors except for a brief injury-rehab stint in 1989.
According to Carter, he got his enduring nickname – “The Kid” – during his first spring training camp with the Expos in 1973. “Tim Foli, Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen started calling me Kid because I was trying to win every sprint. I was trying to hit every pitch out of the park.” One history of the 1986 Mets, Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won, wrote that pitcher Don Carrithers (an Expo from 1974 to 1976) sarcastically hyped “The Kid” as a way to get the goat of incumbent catcher Barry Foote. Pearlman then went on at length to describe how Carter’s naïve enthusiasm rubbed a lot of his teammates the wrong way. Another nickname – “Camera Carter” – later came from his love of doing interviews. “Lights” and “Teeths” were two more labels that captured the behind-the-back sniping in Montreal.
Yet there wasn’t anything phony about Carter – his chatty, cheery exterior truly reflected what was in his heart. As Ira Berkow of the New York Times wrote upon Carter’s induction to Cooperstown, “He delighted in relationships.”
In that first camp in 1973, Montreal assigned Carter to room with John Boccabella, a veteran catcher. “Boc” was traded for Carrithers toward the end of March 1974, and after the deal, Boccabella said of Carter, “He impressed me both as a player and a person. He learns fast and I think he has the stuff to become a superstar.”
Boccabella’s personal influence on Carter was even stronger. The veteran was a man of deep religious faith who attended Mass daily and had led Sunday services for the Expos. Carter, who had lost his faith after his mother died, found it again. As his daughter Christy recalled in 2013, “John Boccabella led Dad to Christ and he accepted Jesus in his heart.”
Carter told Montreal sportswriter Ian MacDonald about this himself in 1977. He called Boccabella “a beautiful guy. Always enthusiastic. Always up. Always reading from the Scriptures or [basketball coach John] Wooden’s book. I had met Wooden two or three times when I was being recruited by UCLA but I hadn’t read the book until Boccabella gave me a copy. It was overwhelming. It reinforced everything that I believed in and gave me the physical strength to practice my beliefs – to be happy to be alive, to be enthusiastic, to not fill your life with hate over the stupid things…I learned a lot from ‘Boc’ and I’ll always be grateful to him.”
Playing winter ball in Puerto Rico also aided Carter’s development. He played for the Caguas Criollos in the 1973-74 season. Montreal sent a number of its prospects to Caguas, which was loaded with future big-leaguers. One of them, Otto Vélez, called that club the best Puerto Rican team he ever played on – they became league champions and went on to win the Caribbean Series. Vélez told author Thomas Van Hyning, “There was no envy on that team, though there were many who could really play. Gary Carter wanted to become a better player, [Mike] Schmidt had to overcome a season with a lot of strikeouts.”
Carter started that winter in Instructional League, but a month into the Puerto Rican season, Caguas needed a backup catcher. Montreal’s general manager, Jim Fanning, recommended the 19-year-old, who became the youngest member of the Criollos. He got a chance to play when the regular catcher, Jim Essian, got hurt. As was true everywhere Carter played, the fans loved him for his enthusiasm and desire to win. In the Caribbean Series, Carter hit a homer off Pedro Borbón of the Dominican Republic and was named the catcher on the series all-star team.
The Expos called Carter up to the majors for the first time in September 1974. He made his debut at Montreal’s old Jarry Park on September 16. On September 28, also at Jarry, he hit his first of 324 regular-season homers in the majors. It came against a great pitcher, Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. In 27 at-bats, Carter got 11 hits for a .407 average.
Carter wore uniform number 57 in that brief appearance. The following season, Carter was assigned the number 8, and considered it fate. “I was born on April 8. I got married on February 8. We moved into our first home in California on November 8. And look at all the great players who wore No. 8. Carl Yastrzemski. Willie Stargell. Yogi Berra. Bill Dickey. Joe Morgan. Cal Ripken, Jr. All Hall of Famers. So when I was assigned No. 8, I remembered all those things and figured it would be a lucky number for me, and it was,” Carter wrote in 2008. He wore it for the rest of his career.
Carter played with Caguas again in the winter of 1974-75. He hit .261 with five homers and 32 RBIs; of interest was that he alternated between catcher and third base. Though the Criollos wanted him behind the plate, Jim Fanning sought to get him action at third and in right field. The experiment at the hot corner was curious, since one of Montreal’s other prize prospects was third baseman Larry Parrish.
The Criollos made it to the league finals once more, and had they repeated as champions, the resulting trip to the Caribbean Series would have endangered Carter’s wedding date. The Bayamón Vaqueros won in seven games, though – and so, on February 8, 1975, Carter married his high school sweetheart, Sandra “Sandy” Lahm. At the time, Sandy was training to be a flight attendant. The couple spent their honeymoon in the Expos’ training camp at Daytona Beach! They later had three children: Christina (“Christy”), Kimberly (“Kimmy”), and Douglas James (“D.J.”).
In March 1975, sportswriter Brad Willson of the Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote a spring-training feature about Carter and his enormous promise. He quoted Karl Kuehl, who had managed Carter in the minors and in Instructional League, as well as Jean-Pierre Roy, the Montreal native and former Brooklyn Dodger who later went into broadcasting with the Expos. They both gave glowing assessments – but what mattered even more were the opinions of Fanning and manager Gene Mauch.
Fanning said that Carter’s tools were as good as those of any player they had, but added, “He also has the intangibles not all the others possess – desire, determination, and hustle. He’s a superkid.” After much deliberation, Mauch said, “Gary Carter is a highly gifted, intelligent young man. In every league in which he’s played, he’s adjusted to the caliber of play. In Double A, Triple A and winter ball he had some difficulty at first. But he adjusted; that’s where the intelligence comes in. I’ve seen players who can run better and who can hit better but I’ve never seen a better package. I’ve never seen someone who loves to play the game more.”
Carter finished second in the voting for National League Rookie of the Year in 1975 behind San Francisco Giant pitcher John “The Count” Montefusco. He was also named to his first of 11 All-Star teams. That year, however, he started 80 games in right field and only 56 behind the plate. Carter and Barry Foote continued to share the catching duties for Montreal in 1976, though Carter missed most of June and July after breaking his thumb in a “spectacularly ugly” outfield collision with Pepe Mangual. It was his worst season in Montreal.
The Expos had a new young star in right field: Ellis Valentine, who had power and a cannon arm. Carter seized the catching job from Foote in 1977. From then through 1984, he started 89% of the games that Montreal played and posted an OPS of .823 (simple averages of seasonal statistics are distorted by the strike of 1981). He won three Gold Gloves in succession from 1980 through 1982 and was runner-up to Mike Schmidt for the NL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1980. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers were consistently high.
At the plate, Carter was an imposing figure. Players were not nearly as bulked up in that era, and Carter had one of the burlier upper bodies in the game then. He gave the impression of using his upper half and especially his forearms when he swung – it was a chopping horizontal stroke, like a lumberjack attacking a tree. He stood up almost straight at the plate, with just a slight knee bend; he held his bat high and nearly vertical.
As a receiver, Carter cited his own hard work and natural progression with experience, especially once he could focus on catching full-time. He also seconded the opinion that Norm Sherry, whom Expos manager Dick Williams had hired as catching coach after the 1977 season, had been a very helpful tutor.
Carter remained one of the best in the game at stopping enemy runners. From 1974 through 1976, he threw out 49% of would-be base stealers (49 of 99). That ratio remained at 40% from 1977 through 1984 (481 of 1189). Larry Bowa, who stole over 300 bases in the majors, offered extra insight in 2003. “This guy put a little fear in you when you were on first base even if you got a good jump…A lot of catchers were on ego trips, they didn’t want you to steal, so they would call just fastballs...I respect Gary Carter because he would call breaking balls. He was not intimidated by any base stealer. He would call his game.”
The Expos became one of the better teams in the National League in the late 1970s, thanks to Carter, Parrish, Valentine, André Dawson, pitcher Steve Rogers and other members of a homegrown core. In 1981, they made it to the postseason for the only time in the franchise’s history. Carter was 8 for 19 with two homers as Montreal beat the Phillies in five games in the NL Division Series. He was 7 for 16 in the NL Championship series against the Dodgers, and drew a walk in the bottom of the ninth after Rick Monday’s homer had put L.A. ahead. The Expos could not get the tying run in, though, and their chance for a pennant was gone. They fell back to third place in 1982, despite another strong year from their catcher.
Ahead of the 1983 season, Sports Illustrated put Carter on its cover, proclaiming him “The Best in the Business.” In the accompanying feature article, Ron Fimrite covered Carter’s game and personality in depth. Among the notable points, in summary:
Batting: It wasn’t just about slugging for Carter – he had worked to cut down on his strikeouts. “I’ve learned to be more disciplined,” he said. “If you want a sacrifice, I’ll do it. If you need someone to go to right field on the hit-and-run, I’ll do that.”
Fielding: Aside from his strong arm and quick release, Carter excelled at all the other valuable catching skills – framing pitches, blocking the plate, and calling the game. Fimrite also observed, “Carter’s nonstop commentary behind the plate has been known to drive even the most single-minded and level-headed hitters to distraction.”
Character: Beyond the ceaseless boyish enthusiasm (which caused cynics to doubt his sincerity), the genial Carter could also get angry on the field. He once shattered Bill Buckner’s bat and the two came to blows. Johnny Bench called Carter, “a fiery, forceful, aggressive player.”
In February 1982, Carter had signed a seven-year contract for roughly $14 million plus incentives – then the sport’s richest deal, or close to it. “He’s a franchise-type player,” said Expos president (and general manager) John McHale. “If you can ever justify paying that kind of money, he’s one who earns it.” The Expos could not make it back to the playoffs, though, and owner Charles Bronfman was disappointed because he was also losing money on the club. In September 1983, Bronfman said, “Two months before Carter signed the contract, we were perfectly aware we were making a mistake. The next day and a month later we still knew we were wrong. I’ll know it until my dying day. And I’m not just saying that because Carter had a bad year.”
Indeed, Carter had fallen off with the bat while battling assorted injuries. He bounced back in 1984, but Montreal still finished fifth in the NL East. The club decided it was time to reload and get value for their star. (John McHale also said that Carter wanted out, though Carter denied that he broached the idea.) That December, after lengthy talks, the Expos traded the catcher to the Mets. They got four players in return: infielder Hubie Brooks, catcher Mike Fitzgerald, outfielder Herm Winningham, and pitcher Floyd Youmans. Brooks moved to shortstop and gave the Expos some solid (if not huge) years. Fitzgerald was a good defender, though not a big hitter, whose career was spoiled by a badly broken finger in 1986. Perhaps the biggest setback for Montreal was the talented Youmans, who developed arm and substance abuse problems.
Meanwhile, Carter fit in immediately with the Mets. On Opening Day 1985, he hit a game-winning homer in the 10th inning at Shea Stadium, smacking former Met Neil Allen’s 1-0 curveball over left fielder Lonnie Smith’s head and the fence. The delighted Met fans roared and Carter got his first-ever curtain call. “I learned right away that New York was going to be different,” Carter wrote later. “I was now playing for a special breed of fans. If hitting a walk-off home run in your first game with a new team is not special, I don’t know what is.”
He set a career high with 32 homers that year while making less visible yet invaluable contributions. Manager Davey Johnson later called Carter “a one-man scouting system.” Both Johnson and Ron Darling observed how important the catcher’s detailed knowledge of hitters was to working with the talented but young staff.
Carter was back on a home field with natural grass at New York’s Shea Stadium, which helped ease his main physical concern. In a 2010 interview, he referred to “that god-awful Olympic Stadium [in Montreal] that tore our knees up, ’cause I’ve had 12 knee surgeries and both my knees replaced.” Torn cartilage was a concern in mid-1985, but he gutted it out with a brace and waited until the season was over before getting arthroscopic surgery.
The Mets could not overtake the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, but ran away with the NL East in 1986. Carter had his last truly big year, remaining a near-constant in the lineup except for a two-week stretch on the sidelines in August. (He hurt his thumb diving for a ball during one of his occasional starts at first base.) He finished third in the NL MVP voting.
During the National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, Carter got just one hit in his first 21 at-bats. But in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game Five, with the count full, he hit a game-winning single. It was a grounder up the middle, past Astros reliever Charlie Kerfeld (who, according to some viewers, had taunted Carter by showing him the ball after making a behind-the-back play in Game Three). Carter said after the game, “I kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to come through here.’ I knew it was just a matter of time.” At that point – he had no idea of the drama to come – he also said, “It’s at the top of all the games I’ve ever played in.”
After the Mets finally overcame the Astros – the concluding Game Six was an excruciating 16-inning battle – they faced the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Carter was 8 for 29 (.276) with 9 RBIs. He cracked two homers in Game Four at Fenway Park as the Mets tied the Series. Yet his most crucial hit came three days later, in Game Six. Carter’s single in the bottom of the 10th sparked the most improbable two-out, three-run rally that snatched the championship away from Boston.
In 2012, teammate Bob Ojeda said, “If you watch the video with Gary walking to the plate, you see that sense of determination...in his step, in his swing. . .he was not going to make that out. You can see [it] in his face.” Carter told reporters exactly the same thing after the game. According to first base coach Bill Robinson, when Carter reached base, he let loose a rare expletive –“No f***ing way” – to intensify the statement. (Carter is credited with coining the euphemism “f-bomb” in 1988.) It’s also noteworthy that he had donned his catcher’s gear, ready to play another extra inning, when the winning run scored on the ball that got by Bill Buckner.
In April 1987, Carter published the first of his three books, A Dream Season. That year, the physical pounding of his position became harder to endure. Ahead of the 1988 season, the Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel wrote, “It took six cortisone shots [for Carter] to get through last season – to sustain a troublesome ankle, knee, shoulder, back and elbow. No wonder his offensive production slipped (.235, 20 HR, 83 RBI).” Carter said, “I was hurting every day last year. I should have been put on the disabled list several times, but they weren’t disabling injuries. In my early- to mid-20s, a lot of the type of injuries I have today were easier to shake off. You learn to appreciate the good days in which you feel like a human being.”
That spring, Davey Johnson also made Carter a co-captain of the Mets. In 2012, Johnson said, “I had a captain of the team – Keith Hernandez, he ran the infield – before Gary got there, but after seeing what he did, he was so special, I made him a co-captain. It was an honor he deserved.” The drop-off continued, however: even though Carter still started 116 games behind the plate, his basic batting line fell off to .242-11-46. His caught stealing percentage also hit a career low of 19%. He was 6 for 27 in his final postseason activity, as the Mets lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The decline was even more severe in 1989 – Carter played in a career-low 50 games after knee problems forced another arthroscopy, costing him nearly three months from early May through late July. He hit just .183-2-15 in 153 plate appearances. The Mets released him (and Hernandez) after the season. In typical form, Carter said, “I know I can still play this game. I know there will be an opportunity out there.”
In January 1990, he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants. He platooned with another veteran, Terry Kennedy, who had been with the Giants during their pennant-winning season in 1989. Nonetheless, he still had the desire to play every day and didn’t want to hang on if he wasn’t contributing. Indeed, he made a respectable comeback (.254-9-27 in 92 games).
Even so, Carter became a free agent again, and did not sign with another team until March 1991. This time it was the Dodgers, the team he had followed as a boy. He made good on a non-roster invitation from manager Tommy Lasordaand backed up Mike Scioscia. When Scioscia was sidelined by a broken hand, Carter played every game for two straight weeks, including both ends of a doubleheader against the Braves. He did another creditable job (.246-6-26, while throwing out 32% of base stealers).
Late 1990 and early 1991 marked the release of a series of baseball novels for young adults under Carter’s aegis. The Gary Carter’s Iron Mask books followed a youth named Robbie Belmont – who wore number 8 and had been converted to catcher – from high school to the majors. Carter did none of the writing, but he signed the introductions and shared in the royalties. In 2014, author Robert Montgomery said, “I did meet with Gary before a game for an hour interview, and found him high-energy and very forthcoming. I sent him a few follow-up questions after the interview, which he promptly answered.”
Carter did not file for free agency after the 1991 season, and the Dodgers placed him on waivers. As a result, he returned to Montreal in 1992 for his final year as a big-leaguer. He said it was something he’d always had in the back of his mind. At age 38, his teammates still called him “The Kid.” As it developed, he played more than any other catcher for the Expos that year, and though he didn’t hit much (.218-5-29 in 95 games), he still helped the team rebound from sixth place to second in the NL East. Carter went over the 2,000 mark in games caught and the 1,200 mark in RBIs in 1992, both milestones he wanted to achieve.
Carter’s career ended on an upbeat note. At Olympic Stadium on September 27, he drove in the game’s only run with a double. As he told it in 2004, “I had announced my retirement, and [manager] Felipe Alou said, ‘You will catch that game.’ In the seventh inning, in my last at-bat, I got the opportunity. Felipe Alou was going to pull me out of the game. He said, ‘Go on up there. Whatever happens, happens, but this is your last at-bat.’ It turned out to be a game-winner in front of that fan appreciation crowd. Nice way to finish.”
After retirement, Carter became a color commentator on television for the Florida Marlins. He held that job for four years, but his contract was not renewed after the 1996 season. Shortly thereafter, he returned once more to the Expos, working in their TV broadcast booth from 1997 through 1999. His main focus in 2000 was golf with the Celebrity Players Tour. Carter felt a desire to get back on the field, though – as early as 1998, he had expressed managerial ambitions. In 2001 and 2002, he was a part-time roving catching instructor in the Mets minor-league system. He took on that role full-time in 2003 and became minor league catching coordinator in 2004.
Off the field, Carter’s strong character manifested itself again in 1995, when the Internal Revenue Service began investigating active and retired ballplayers for failing to report income earned from appearances and autograph signings at baseball card shows. Under the microscope were Met stars Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Hernandez, Darling, and Carter. But when the IRS subpoenaed Carter to appear before a grand jury, they found that he was as honest about his taxes as everything else in his life. Carter spent $25,000 in accountants’ fees to produce his invoices and receipts. When he left the witness stand and the courtroom, he said, “There was nothing the US Attorney’s office was ever going to be able to question me about.” Carter was swiftly dropped from the probe.
On another front, the Gary Carter Foundation began operations in 2000. Its mission, through its own donations and funds raised externally, is to better the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of children in addition to supporting faith-based initiatives. Among the endeavors it supports is the Autism Project of Palm Beach County, Florida. The Carter family made its home there for many years.
Carter was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003, his sixth year of eligibility. The vagaries of the process are well known, but his pattern was still unusual. In his case, “first-ballot” bias may have reflected his lack of milestone career numbers, yet Carter suffered an odd dip in his second year before gaining momentum. The voting disparities between him and two other top catchers of his day – Carlton Fisk and Lance Parrish – were also peculiar.
Carter’s Hall of Fame plaque shows him in an Expos cap. He suggested that “it would be nice to have a split hat” that also featured the Mets, but the decision rested with the Hall, and he abided by it. During his induction speech, Carter grew very emotional as he honored his parents’ memory – Jim Carter had died that January, less than a month after his son was voted in – and thanked his brother Gordy.
In 2004, the press bandied Carter’s name about as a future manager of the Mets after some grooming in the minors. He drew some flak for lobbying for the job with the big club that September, while Art Howe was still the incumbent. Carter got his first opportunity as a skipper in 2005 and led their rookie-ball club in the Gulf Coast League to a 37-16 record. He then had another winning season with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League (high Class A). In both 2005 and 2006, Carter was named Manager of the Year in his league. The Mets offered him a job with their Double-A affiliate, Binghamton, for the 2007 season. He turned down that promotion, however, citing the rigors of the long Eastern League bus rides.
Carter was also disappointed not to have landed a coaching job with the Mets’ major-league squad – he wanted to bring his experience and inspiration. He hinted that it might have helped as the club folded down the stretch in 2007. As it developed, he took all of 2007 off. In 2008, though, he returned to managing with the Orange County Flyers (based in Fullerton) of the Golden Baseball League. That March Carter again voiced his desire to manage the Mets, while Willie Randolph still held the job. He stayed in Orange County and again was named Manager of the Year.
For the 2009 season, Carter was skipper of another independent team, the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. After his year with the Ducks, he became head baseball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. That was near his home in Palm Beach Gardens. Carter joined his daughter Kimmy, who had been a star catcher in softball at Florida State University from 1999 through 2002. She was named head softball coach at PBA in 2007.
In May 2011, Carter began to experience headaches and forgetfulness. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. His case was inoperable, but he fought it with a course of radiation and chemotherapy, displaying the same positive outlook and competitive fire as always. Kimmy chronicled the grueling battle in an extensive journal on the website CaringBridge.org. The account was filled with hope and faith, which continued even after a magnetic resonance imaging scan showed the presence of several new spots on Carter’s brain in January 2012.
Carter’s assistants had taken over his coaching duties at Palm Beach Atlantic, but he visited his team on February 2, 2012, when it opened its season in Jupiter, Florida, against Lynn University. It was his last public appearance – two weeks later, he died in hospice care. He was survived by his wife, three children, and three grandchildren.
The Expos retired Carter’s uniform No. 8 in 1993, and it retains that status with the Washington Nationals (which the Expos became after the 2004 season). There have been frequent calls for the Mets to do likewise. In May 2013, the city of Montreal renamed a section of a street – adjacent to Jarry Park – Rue Gary-Carter. The following month, it inaugurated Gary Carter Stadium in Ahuntsic Park. A crowd of old Expos diehards greeted Gary’s widow Sandy and daughter Christy, who emphasized how much Montreal meant to the Carter family.
Gary Carter captured essential parts of himself in the titles of his two other books, The Gamer (1993) and Still a Kid at Heart (2008). Yet to round out the picture, one may choose from among the many tributes this man received from his teammates after his passing. Perhaps the most fitting came from Darryl Strawberry, “I wish I could have lived my life like Gary Carter…He was a true man.”
This article was wrtten by Maxwell Cates
Steve Garvey was the epitome of the Southern California cultural icon in baseball spikes. Photogenic, fan-friendly, and media accessible, he projected the image of an All-American success story and devoted family man. As a Los Angeles Dodger in 1974, he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award after starting the All-Star Game at first base as a write-in candidate. In 1984, then a member of the San Diego Padres, he delivered a clutch home run at a critical moment in the National League Championship Series. During the intervening decade, Garvey rapped 1,995 base hits and drove in 1,025 runs for a sterling .303 batting average. By the end of the 1980s, however, his baseball career was a fading memory and his image became that of a human being who erred like any other.
In a Tampa hospital on December 22, 1948, Joseph and Mildred Garvey welcomed the birth of their only child, a son they christened Steven Patrick. Both Joe and Millie were transplanted Long Islanders and Joe passed on his love of baseball, and specifically the Brooklyn Dodgers, to young Steve:
“I always had balls available for me because we had 11 grapefruit trees in the backyard. In the spring I’d take the little hard grapefruits that had fallen off and I’d hit them with a broomstick. I’d be the whole Dodgers lineup … Neal, Gilliam, Campanella, Snider, Hodges.”
Fate smiled on Joe Garvey, a bus driver for Greyhound, when in March 1956, he was assigned to drive the defending world champion Brooklyn Dodgers to spring training in Vero Beach. Joe asked permission for his 7-year-old son to be the Dodgers’ batboy. It was a position young Steve held for the following six springs whenever the Dodgers came to Tampa.
One particular player impressed Steve both on and off the field. As Mort Zachter chronicled in his biography of Gil Hodges, Steve was amazed at how the taciturn first baseman “always seemed to have time for autograph requests … asking how he was doing in school and Little League, and even taking a few minutes to play catch with him.” Zachter identified Hodges as the player Steve intended to emulate. Millie Garvey remembered the ambitions of her young son:
“Steve was about nine or ten when we asked what he would like for Christmas. He said a new baseball glove … but when I asked him where he’d seen the glove [he wanted] and how much it cost, he told me $25. I was shocked. That was a lot of money and I told him so. He said, “Mom, look at it this way: $25 now will bring $25,000 later on.”
Though Garvey was small for a high school athlete at 5-feet-7 and 165 pounds, that did not prevent him from excelling at Chamberlain High, both on the diamond and the gridiron. Batting .472 in his junior year and .465 as a senior attracted the attention of scouts throughout Organized Baseball, as well as Danny Litwhiler, head coach at Michigan State University. Garvey rejected an offer from the Minnesota Twins in 1966 to play for Litwhiler in East Lansing.
The Dodgers’ selections in the 1968 amateur drafts are considered to be the greatest in the history of the sport. Then based in Los Angeles, the Dodgers drafted Davey Lopes in January before selecting Bill Buckner, Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek, Joe Ferguson, Bobby Valentine, Geoff Zahn, and Doyle Alexander in June. The Dodgers’ shopping spree continued when, in the first round of the secondary phase, they drafted Steve Garvey. Litwhiler gave a glowing report of his young third baseman:
“Steve was an awesome hitter in college. He hit towering home runs. But it was his mental toughness that was so impressive. He could accept the defeat of striking out. … My only question about his making it was his defense. He didn’t have the arm for left field. He was acceptable at third, but no more than that.” After Garvey spent parts of two seasons at Ogden and Albuquerque, the Dodgers deemed his skills ready for the major leagues. At Albuquerque in 1969 Garvey batted a robust .373 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs, and 85 RBIs in the thin New Mexico air, and the Dodgers called him up. In his major-league debut, on September 1, Garvey struck out against Jack DiLauro of the New York Mets as the Dodgers defeated the eventual world champions, 10-6.
The dawning of a new decade brought challenges to Garvey’s burgeoning baseball career. A college football injury limited his fielding range as a third baseman. When he began the 1970 season 2-for-23, he was optioned to Spokane at the end of April. Recalled after the rosters expanded in September, Garvey managed to improve his average to .269, but his fielding remained a problem. With 14 errors at the hot corner in 1971, hecklers began to chant, “When Steve Garvey plays third base, it’s Ball Night at Dodger Stadium.” To make matters worse, a Mike Marshall screwball fractured his wrist in June, sidelining him for five weeks. In only 85 games in 1972, Garvey made a league-leading 28 errors. Rumors began to circulate that his days in the Dodgers’ organization were numbered.
It was the benevolence and ingenuity of a Dodgers teammate that led to Garvey’s break at stardom. Steve began the 1973 season on the bench and remained there through the end of June. As the team suited up for a June 23 contest against the Cincinnati Reds, manager Walter Alston was faced with lineup issues. With Von Joshua and Manny Mota both injured, who was going to play left field? Bill Buckner remembered:
“The Dodgers tried Steve Garvey at third base and at left field. Except for pinch-hitting, his career was not looking too well. He could play some first base at Albuquerque [in 1969] and he played well. I suggested this to Alston and rest assured, I never played first base again. Alston moved me to left field.” The experiment worked. Although Buckner continued to see action at first base, Garvey batted .304 while improving his fielding percentage to .993 after the transition to first base. Meanwhile, Garvey’s personal life was changing. He graduated from Michigan State with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971; on October 29 that year, he married Cynthia Ann Truhan.
After eight years in the wilderness, the Dodgers were ready to contend again in 1974. They traded for Jimmy Wynn from Houston, Mike Marshall from Montreal, and by June commanded a torrid eight-game lead over Cincinnati. As for Steve Garvey, expectations were modest to the point that his name was not even included on the All-Star Game ballot. That's where the new first baseman defied all odds. By June Garvey was batting .338 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs. Fans began to notice, and in the weeks leading to the All-Star Game on July 23, Garvey was receiving nearly as many votes as Tony Perez. In the end, Garvey beat Perez by nearly 20,000 votes. It was only the second time in baseball history (Rico Carty in 1970 was the first) that a player was voted to start an All-Star Game without appearing on the ballot.
At the game in Pittsburgh, Garvey went 2-for-4 with a single against Gaylord Perry and a double against Luis Tiant. Augmented by some fancy fielding in the 7-2 victory for the National League, he was named the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player. Even more impressive, Garvey was ill and remembered "my mouth was full of cotton, all dry from the antibiotics," when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn presented the Arch Ward Trophy to him.
For the regular season, Garvey led the Dodgers to a division title with 200 hits, 21 home runs, and 111 RBIs, scoring 95 runs, batting .312, and making only eight errors at first base. The Dodgers dispatched the Pirates three games to one in the National League Championship Series, highlighted by a 12-1 barrage in the deciding Game Four. Garvey hit a pair of two-run home runs and captured the NLCS MVP. Although the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Oakland A's, Garvey capped his 1974 campaign by winning the National League MVP as well. Perhaps most noteworthy given the obstacles earlier in his career, Garvey won the first of four consecutive Gold Glove Awards at first base.
Not everybody agreed with Garvey's selection. Finishing second with 233 votes to Garvey's 270 was Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals. Although he set a new single-season record with 118 stolen bases, the achievement was underplayed by many of the writers. As Brock remarked in 1975, "a good deal of it had to do with ... the old prejudice ... about base stealers ... that they do it for personal gain, not for the welfare of the team.” He continued, "It's true I didn't win it, but it's not true I lost it. I earned it.” The MVP fracas was Garvey's first introduction to controversy. It would not be his last.
At 25, Garvey had developed into one of the most consistent players in the National League. Yankees scout Clyde Kluttzeven compared him to "a right-handed Lou Gehrig.” Batting .319 in 1975 and .317 in 1976, Garvey recorded only three errors in over 1,500 chances in the Bicentennial year. On September 3, 1975, after sitting out the day before, Garvey played the first of 1,207 consecutive games. Garvey was Lou Gehrig. Along with Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and Bill Russell, he formed part of a Dodgers infield that remained ironclad until 1981.Garvey was selected to the All-Star Game each of those years. In 1977 the Dodgers rewarded their superstar, now the father of two young daughters, with a six-year, $1.971 million contract that expired in 1982. Garvey hit 33 home runs in 1977, one of four teammates to reach the 30 plateau in a season the Dodgers returned to the World Series under new manager Tommy Lasorda. Off the field, Garvey took his star to Hollywood in 1975 when he was featured in the television movie Hey Coach. Appearances on The Mike Douglas Show, Fantasy Island, and the Mickey's 50 documentary about the Disney character soon followed.
Garvey’s rise to stardom could not have been better timed. As the decade of the 1970s evolved, millions of young Americans grew weary of the constant images of explicit violence, illicit drug use, and gratuitous sexuality, not to mention higher taxes on stagnant wages. Paradoxically and in spite of the permissiveness of the times, they began to gravitate toward more traditional values and ideals. William C. Berman chronicled this political phenomenon in his book America’s Right Turn. Berman described the young Americans as “militants” and observed this conservative revival among Democrats as well as Republicans, transpiring in all 50 states, “…not just in the sunbelt.” Berman continues:
“Those militants … were engaged in a cultural civil war … over such matters as the definition of the family, the content of public education, the role of the media … and the various court definitions affecting personal values.” These debates “touched on longstanding national conflicts, which were rooted in the profoundly different belief systems and operating codes separating moral traditionalists from social liberals of a secular persuasion.”
Not surprisingly, Berman’s “moral traditionalists” were dissatisfied with acceptance of the rebel and the scofflaw as protagonists in sports and entertainment, while authority figures including police officers were now considered to be antagonists. They sought heroes who reflected their values. In an era when outspoken iconoclasts like Reggie Jackson, Dave Kingman, and Dave Parker dominated the headlines, the populist right became more comfortable with the wholesome images of Nolan Ryan, Gary Carter, and George Foster. In football, Roger Staubach raised eyebrows when he proclaimed that “I like sex as much as Joe Namath does; I just have it with one woman.”
In was amid this political climate that as “the Gipper” ran for president, “Steve Garvey, All American” became a star both at Chavez Ravine and on Madison Avenue. Garvey was well dressed and clean shaven with every hair in place and did not chew tobacco, swear, or wear jeans. Garvey attended church frequently, was always available to the media for a quotation, helped elderly women across the street, and signed thousands of autographs until every kid had one. A school in the San Joaquin Valley even rededicated itself as the Steve Garvey Junior High School. Tommy Lasorda remarked that “if [Garvey] ever came to date my daughter, I’d lock the door and not let him out.” Even in Cincinnati, young Petey Rose came to dinner one night wearing a Steve Garvey T-shirt until his father made him change into a Pete Rose T-shirt.
Although Los Angeles fans and media loved him, Garvey had hordes of adversaries in other National League cities and those in the Dodgers clubhouse who were watching his every move. Joe Garvey conveyed that his son’s image was nothing new — even in high school during the turbulent 1960s he wore slacks and monogrammed sweaters. The observations of the elder Garvey, however, did nothing to convince his son’s Dodgers teammates of his authenticity.
As early as 1975, Betty Cuniberti of the San Bernardino Sun wrote that Garvey “doesn’t have a friend on this team. As someone who did not smoke or drink, the perception was that Garvey was judgmental of teammates who did. Several teammates were resolute that Garvey’s photographs and autographs were not initiated on his own volition, but rather as a means to gain popularity in order to generate endorsements.” Cynthia even pleaded with him, “[C]ouldn’t you drink a beer or two? They’ll like you better.” As a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1986, Davey Lopes expressed where he and his teammates were coming from:
“The problem was that he was presented as better than we were. The press did that. The organization did that. Nobody can question that Garv came to play. … It was all the other stuff. It created a tension that never went away, that never eased.”
In 1977, Garvey underwent a colossal slump, batting only .205 in 45 games from July 4 through August 24. Although his batting average recovered, it was the only season between 1974 and 1980 in which he failed to hit .300. There was more than enough perverse pleasure in the Dodgers clubhouse when Garvey hit into a double play or was thrown out at home plate. He hit .316 with 202 hits and 113 RBIs in 1978, but again found himself at the center of controversy when teammate Don Sutton agreed to an interview with Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
A mercurial personality from rural Alabama, Sutton was not convinced that the media image of his first baseman was the genuine article. As Sutton told Boswell on August 15, "[A]ll you hear about on our team is Steve Garvey, the All-American boy. Well, the best player on this team for the last two years — and we all know it — is Reggie Smith. As Reggie goes, so [go] us. ... Reggie doesn't go out and publicize himself. He doesn't smile at the right people or say the right things. He tells the truth, even if it sometimes alienates people.” Five days passed without controversy but on August 20, as the Dodgers prepared to play the Mets at Shea Stadium, Garvey expressed displeasure to Sutton over his published remarks:
"We are a team," he reminded the pitcher, adding, "If you have something to say to me, say it to my face.” There are different interpretations of the events that followed but all parties agree that within moments, Steve Garvey and Don Sutton fell to the floor in a battle royal, "clawing and scratching each other.” The press dubbed the incident “the Grapple in the Apple.” Milton Richman, who covered the incident for United Press International, recalled seeing that Sutton "leaped at Garvey and shoved him into the lockers.” As four of the larger players on the team separated the two, Joe Ferguson remarked that if the fight continued, "maybe they'll kill each other.”
A bruised eye did not prevent Garvey from completing a sterling season for the Dodgers: "Afterwards I went out and got a couple of hits against the Mets, and hit something like .430 [actually .369] for the rest of the season.” Much like the 1974 season, Garvey won the MVP Award in both the All-Star Game and the NLCS. At the All-Star Game in San Diego, he rapped a two-run single in the third inning before igniting an eighth-inning rally with a triple to win the game, 7-3. In the NLCS, Garvey hit four home runs and a triple in a 3-games-to-1 win over the Phillies. For the third time in five years, however, the Dodgers lost the World Series. After losing a one-game playoff to the Astros in 1980, the Dodgers behind rookie ace Fernando Valenzuela were once again poised for greatness in 1981.
The new decade brought more opportunities for Steve Garvey, both on Elysian Park Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. In 1980, he played a cameo role in The Gong Show Movie. The following year, he hosted The Steve Garvey Celebrity Sports Classic for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, his favorite charity. Notwithstanding a midseason strike that eliminated two months of the season, Garvey batted only .283 with 10 home runs and 64 RBIs. With the Dodgers having clinched the first half before the strike, Garvey saved his heroics for the postseason. Entering Game Four of the NLCS, he hit safely in every playoff contest. Everyone remembers the Rick Monday home run, but in Game Four Garvey put the Dodgers ahead, 3-1, with a two-run homer off Montreal's Bill Gullickson. After losing to the Yankees in 1977 and 1978, the Dodgers finally defeated the Bronx Bombers to win the World Series in 1981.
Expectations were high on the Dodgers to repeat as world champions in 1982. Uncharacteristically for an impending free agent, meanwhile, Garvey suffered an off-year, failing to reach .300, 200 hits, 20 home runs, or 100 RBIs. Under general manager Al Campanis, signing the team's own free agents did not comply with the Dodger Way. Since players earned the right to free agency, the only Dodgers free agent to re-sign with Los Angeles had been Bill Russell in 1980.The team had traded Davey Lopes to the Oakland A's in spring training and would trade Ron Cey to the Chicago Cubs in 1982. Meanwhile, first-base prospect Greg Brock was tearing up the Pacific Coast League, batting .310 with 44 home runs for Albuquerque. Garvey remembered the negotiations with the Dodgers:
"Final offers had to be made. [Peter O'Malley] said his final offer was $5 million for four years, no incentives. We drew the line at $6 million for four years.” The erstwhile Brooklyn batboy would not be a Dodger for life, instead on December 21 signing a five-year, $6.6 million contract with the San Diego Padres. Ever conscious of his image, Garvey chuckled that he "looked like a taco" when he first adorned the yellow and brown colors of his new team. By now, Garvey was also beginning a new chapter on his personal life, as his marriage to Cynthia had ended.
On April 15, 1983, Garvey returned to Dodger Stadium as a member of the Padres to a chorus of 53,392 cheering fans. Though he was hitless in four at-bats, the contest was significant as it was Steve's 1,117th consecutive game, tying Billy Williams for the National League record. Garvey extended the streak an additional 90 games, to 1,207. He was batting .294 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs on July 29, the night the streak ended painfully:
"I was at third. One run was in and we had two men out. The second pitch to Garry Templeton was a fastball, way up. Bruce Benedict, the [Atlanta] catcher, never touched it, and I headed for home." Ninety feet later, pitcher Pascual Pereztagged him at the plate, "I put my hand back for support and felt my thumb — something happened.” Garvey broke his thumb in the collision and was out for the remainder of the season.
Manager Dick Williams observed that "Steve did help us" in his truncated 1983 campaign. "He worked hard, influenced the kids, and made it easier for us to get rid of more veterans who weren't producing.” Two new veterans who did produce in 1984 were Yankee imports Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage. Together with a core of young players centered on Tony Gwynn, the Padres were about to shed their reputation as divisional doormats, reaching the postseason for the first time in their history.
Garvey recovered from his thumb injury to play the entire 1984 season without committing an error. Though he was named to start the All-Star Game, his offensive numbers continued to decline; he batted.284 with only eight home runs. Williams wondered if Garvey "left his best days at Dodger Stadium.”
That question would be answered in the NLCS against the favored Chicago Cubs, winners of the first two contests. Facing elimination, the Padres won Game Three, 7-1, to set the stage for a monumental Game Four on October 6. In the words of his manager, Garvey "controlled nine innings of baseball like few other hitters in the history of the game.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning; after Tony Gwynn broke the stalemate with a sacrifice fly, Garvey drove in the second run with a two-out double. The Cubs scored three but the Padres forced a tie in the fifth when Steve singled in Tim Flannery. San Diego extended its lead to 5-3 in the seventh but the Cubs scored two in the eighth off Gossage to tie once again. Lee Smith was brought in to pitch the ninth for the Cubs. If the Padres lost, they would go home. With one out, Tony Gwynn was on first with Garvey at the plate and Williams in the dugout:
"There was no way Garvey could pull us out of the fire once more and — BOOM! — my thoughts were interrupted by the loudest crack I ever heard. Then I saw the white ball heading towards the right center field fence. ... It really was going out of the ballpark, wasn't it? It was! After what felt like forever, the ball dropped into the stands and Garvey had his homer.” The Padres won, 7-5, on Garvey's home run and after winning the following night, they were going to the World Series. Garvey took home his third NLCS Most Valuable Player Award. More than three decades later, Padres fans consider the home run to be the greatest moment in franchise history. Legend had it that on an inbound flight to San Diego not long after, the in-flight service showed The Natural; during the famous home-run scene, passengers actually began to chant "GAR-VEY! GAR-VEY!"
The cultural divide between Garvey and his teammates remained pronounced in San Diego, but the players were able to resolve it in a more pleasant way. Goose Gossage remembered a swimming pool party at his home:
"On this particular evening ... Steve looked a little too suave for his own good. As he walked past the swimming pool, several guys tossed him into the shallow end. Head first. When Garvey came up for air, every hair was still in place. 'Perfect,' I muttered. 'Steve Garvey has to be the only guy in the world who could get tossed in a swimming pool and come out looking the same way he did going in.' ”
Although Garvey batted an even .300 during the 1984 World Series, the Padres lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers. By 1987, a damaged tendon in his left shoulder limited him to a .200 average with one home run and 9 RBIs in 78 official at-bats. In late May, Garvey learned that his shoulder would require surgery if he wished to prolong his career. Larry Bowa was managing the Padres at the time:
"On May 23 in San Diego," as Bowa remembered, "Garvey took his last major league [at-bat], a ninth inning pinch-hit appearance against Montreal's Neal Heaton. He flew out lazily to center field. A day later, Garvey began to prepare for surgery. There was not enough power left in the shoulder for him to make a comeback in 1988.” Steve's final numbers consisted of 2,599 base hits with 440 doubles, 272 home runs, 1,308 RBIs, and a near-perfect .996 fielding percentage.
On April 16, 1988, the Padres retired Garvey's uniform number 6, the first San Diego player to be so honored. After his retirement, Steve founded Garvey Communications, a television production company, while lending his name to corporate products including Sport magazine and Fleer Skybox. He continued to serve the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation as its honorary chairman, and he also founded a counseling firm for retired athletes. Appearances in television, film, and documentaries continued in the 1990s and beyond. A gentleman of leisure, Garvey enjoyed golf and skiing. He has also worked in alumni relations for the Dodgers.
In January 1989, Garvey met the former Candace Thomas, a divorced mother of two, at a benefit for the Special Olympics. After a whirlwind courtship with stops at the presidential inauguration for George H.W. Bush and the Super Bowl, Candace became the new Mrs. Steve Garvey on February 18. Before the ink on their marriage license had even dried, their nuptials would soon be tested.
The spring of 1989 was an inopportune time to be a baseball superstar. After the sport was jolted by scandals involving Pete Rose and Wade Boggs, two women filed paternity suits against Garvey. For a player who went to great lengths to preserve a family-friendly image in Ronald Reagan's America, the suits represented a precipitous fall from grace.
Although never a Steve Garvey fan, Dick Williams rushed to his defense. In the three years that he managed Garvey, Williams affirmed, "I never saw any of that. ... I never saw him in bars" and "he seemed as clean as his image.” To his credit, Garvey never denied the charges, as evidenced by the candor of this 2003 interview:
"Could I have been more careful? Yes. Are they my responsibility? Yes. They were two personal choices, and if I had them to do over again, obviously I would do them differently. I made two poor choices, but it happened. I didn't commit a felony, and I stood there and answered every question. I took responsibility. But what I did was out of character.”
Like Gil Hodges before him, Garvey was a mainstay as a Dodgers first baseman for over a decade, but like his idol, Garvey continued to be bypassed for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1986 he was considered one of the 10 active players most likely to be enshrined in the Hall. During his 15 years on the ballot, Garvey's high-water mark was 43 percent of the vote, in 1995. Bruce Markusen, author of the "Cooperstown Confidential" column, offered the following explanation:
"Garvey's Hall of Fame case has been hurt by SABRmetrics, which show him to be a weaker offensive player than originally thought. He never drew a lot of walks — and that worked against him. He was ... more of a line drive hitter who hit a decent but not overwhelming number of home runs per season.” Markusen continued, "On the other hand, he spent a large majority of his career playing at Dodger Stadium, a ballpark that has suppressed offensive numbers for years.
The call from Cooperstown notwithstanding, Garvey has been honored by the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame in East Lansing and the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame in New York. After many years in Utah, Steve and Candace returned to Southern California with their three children.
For a time, it seemed that if any player was destined to be a Los Angeles Dodger it was Steve Garvey. The former batboy broke in with his favorite team in 1969 and after switching positions from third base to first, became a model of consistency at the plate and on and off the field. The rise of his career was timed with an increasingly conservative undertone in America, and Garvey's image made him an appropriate spokesman for the movement. No longer a “Dodger for life,” Garvey hung his star in San Diego in 1982 and brought instant credibility to the Padres franchise. The indiscretions that were revealed after his retirement did not negate the positives. Rather, they made him human. Whether Cooperstown finds him worthy of membership or not, Steve Garvey remains an important link in Dodgers lore between Koufax and Drysdale on one end and Fernandomania on the other.