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The prodigal son returns

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Steve Garvey threw out the first pitch at the Spokane Indians game last night, wearing a 2014 Indians jersey even though his eldest son, Ryan, was in the visitor's dugout, a member of the Tri-City Dust Devils. And if that doesn't make you feel ancient, then you must be under 30. Read on.


••••••••••

• Before we get to Garvey, we want to acknowledge we've used the word “ancient” in two consecutive columns. That's a record. But Garvey's smiling mug, which was all over the television news and the newspaper this morning (and just to the right here), made me feel ancient. And also reminded me of Dorian Gray. You know, the Oscar Wilde character who never aged, though the portrait in his home did. Garvey looks almost the same as he did when he manned first base for the Dodgers in the 1974 World Series. Or the 1977 Series. Or even the 1978 and 1981 ones. That's how I remember him. Yes, Garvey was part of the greatest minor league baseball team ever, the 1970 Spokane Indians, where he was a fixture at third base. He hit .319 that year, belting 15 home runs and driving in 87 in 95 games. He also had 26 errors, most of them coming on throws that might have ended up in Hillyard for all I know. See, Garvey had an arm that could be only described as scattershot. That's why, when he came up to the Dodgers in 1971, the word around my neighborhood was, if you wanted a major league baseball, sit behind first base. Lower deck, upper deck, it didn't matter. Garvey might throw you one. It's also why Garvey, listed at 5-foot-10, was moved to first base by Tommy Lasorda. It ensured a lineup spot for Ron Cey, sure, but it also got Garvey's bat in the lineup and eased the former Michigan State defensive back's mind a bit. And Garvey became a heck of a first baseman, even coming up with a way to add a couple inches on his height. I learned his little secret in 1982, when I made a September road trip with the Dodgers to Cincinnati and Atlanta, covering the team for the Orange County Register. It was my one and only experience on the road with a major league baseball team and I made sure to live it to the fullest. I ate Italian food at 1 in the morning in Cincy with Lasorda at a hole-in-the-block restaurant that stayed open just for him. I drank until the sun came up in Atlanta with another reporter and a couple umpires, including Joe West, in an after-hours club that West held membership in. I locked myself out of my Atlanta hotel room in only my underwear and Pedro Guerrero helped me get a key. I talked Legion baseball in the bowels of Fulton County Stadium with Atlanta reliever Al Hrabosky. The Mad Hungarian had attended Anaheim's Savanna High, whose Legion team I had coached the past two summers. And I spent the entire flight back from Atlanta chatting with Garvey, who explained to me he put his heels on the bag at first when he set up to catch a throw. That added two inches to his height and made him a bigger target. It must have worked, because, despite his height, Garvey, the 1974 National League MVP, won four consecutive Golden Gloves in the mid-70s. By the way, that road trip was one of Garvey's last with the Dodgers. At the end of 1982, he became a free agent and moved down the road to San Diego. He helped the Padres to the 1984 World Series and is one of a select number of baseball players who has had his number retired by two teams. But what I really remember about Steve Garvey was how nice he was to my wife at LA International that long-ago September day. As we got off the plane, Kim was at the gate to meet us (see, it was a long time ago). And I introduced her to her favorite Dodger. Garvey made her feel like the most important person in the world. She hasn't forgotten. When I said last night I was going to write about my interactions with him this morning, Kim immediately said, “don't forget to mention I held his coat,” while we waited for our luggage. Yes, she did. As I recall, I had to hold my own. It seems like a million years ago.

•••

• WSU: Next up for the Pac-12 blog on ESPN.com is the ratings for linebackers. … The Pac-12 has more players nominated for the nations's top defensive award than any other conference. … California's search for an athletic director could take a while.

• Idaho: The Vandals made an addition to their football coaching staff and two of their players are up for awards. Josh Wright has all the information in this blog post.

• Golf: The annual Lilac Invitational gets underway today at the Fairways. Jim Meehan has an advance of the tournament that promises to be a warm affair, with temperatures in the high-90s all weekend.

• Indians: Chris Derrick walked down memory lane with Garvey last night in this feature and also had the game story of the Indians' 3-1 loss to the Dust Devils along with a blog post.

• Seahawks: Want to buy a season ticket? Too bad. They are all sold out. So is the waiting list. And, I'm sure, if there is a waiting list for the waiting list, it's probably full too. … Russell Wilson went national with his thoughts on race in the NFL in this Sports Illustrated piece. … Richard Sherman was ranked seventh among NFL players. … There is a draft today. Really.

• Mariners: The M's are currently on the pitching merry-go-round, what with the All-Star break coming up and their rotation all of a sudden in flux. Taijuan Walker was optioned to Tacoma – the idea is to keep him on his regular rotation through the break – and Stephen Pryor was called up. Then, after Pryor threw in relief of battered Roenis Elias in the 8-1 loss to the Twins, he was sent back down and Lucas Luetge was recalled. To get through today, the M's will start Tom Wilhelmsen, who has been pretty successful as a reliever. It seems a bit frazzled to me. … One guy who never seems frazzled is manager Lloyd McClendon.

• Sounders: The Sounders scored twice in extra time last night and knocked rival Portland out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 victory. The two Sounders goals came after a well-deserved red card had knocked the Timbers down to 10 men. The call didn't make Portland coach Caleb Porter happy. Neither will the fine he is sure to receive. … The teams meet again Sunday in MLS play at CenturyLink Field. … The Sounders will face Chicago in the Cup semifinals in August. … After Germany's 7-1 rout of Brazil in the first semifinal, the second, won by Argentina in a shootout, seemed a bit staid.

•••

• It's Thursday. The weekend beckons. It also July 10. It would have been my father's 89th birthday. So I want to say “Happy Birthday Pop” and leave it at that. Until later … 


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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpe) Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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