The most durable player of his era, Garvey played a NL-record 1,207 consecutive games. Originally a third baseman with a suspect arm, he became part of baseball’s longest-running infield when he moved to first base. Ron Cey took over at third, and they flanked Davey Lopes and Bill Russell from 1973 to 1981.
Garvey projected his Mr. Clean image to the nation in a TV interview before the 1974 World Series when he explained that “I always try to act as though there is a little boy or a little girl around, and I try never to do anything that would give them a bad example.” His nickname, Senator, referred to his post-baseball political aspirations.
Garvey exploded as a NL star in 1974. He was elected to the All-Star team as a write-in candidate that year, and was voted MVP of the game. He followed this up by winning the NL MVP award, capping a nearly perfect season for the man whose father used to drive the Dodgers’ bus at Vero Beach during spring training.
Garvey’s name would not be left off the All-Star ballot again, and he was elected as a starter the next six years. In 1978 he became the first player to receive more than four million All-Star votes, and he was named MVP of the game that year as well. In ten All-Star Games he hit .393, and his slugging average of .955 is the highest of any player with more than 20 at-bats.
One of the great clutch players of his time, he retired with the NLCS career records for HR (8) and RBI (24) and was named LCS MVP in 1978 and 1984. He also hit .368 in the 1981 divisional series.
The winner of four Gold Gloves, Garvey retired with a .996 fielding average. In 1977 he hit a Los Angeles Dodgers-record 33 HR, the only time in a seven-year period when he failed to better .300 and 200 hits. With Cey, Reggie Smith, and Dusty Baker, Garvey was one of a record four Dodgers to hit 30 homers that year. He led the NL in hits twice and games played six times.
A tremendous Los Angeles favorite who had a junior high school named after him while still an active player, Garvey traumatized fans by signing with the Padres as a free agent in December 1982. On his first trip to Los Angeles as a Padre, he took out a full-page newspaper ad thanking fans for their past support. By the end of his career, lacking protection in the Padres’ lineup, Garvey’s unwillingness to take bases on balls and a parallel propensity for chasing bad pitches had taken their toll on his yearly statistics. Following the expiration of his five-year contract with San Diego, he discussed returning to the Dodgers, but an arm injury caused him to retire.
Garvey’s Mr. Clean image was tarnished two years after his retirement, when he admitted fathering the children of different women. He had earlier suffered the embarassment of a tell-all book by his ex-wife Cyndy.