Aside from their pitching staff, which was superb in both National League play-offs, the one constant the Los Angeles Dodgers have going for them against the New York Yankees in the 1981 World Series is their first baseman, Steve Garvey.
A slump for Garvey is four at-bats without a hit; two days without either a homer or run batted in; or nine innings when he doesn't save at least one L.A. infielder an error, usually by digging an impossible throw out of the dirt. He led all Dodgers in this year's playoffs with a .328 batting average, 13 hits, three homers, and six RBIs.
The last time Steve missed a regular-season game was Sept. 2, 1975. Since then his name has appeared on 945 consecutive lineup cards, fifth on baseball's all-time Ironman list behind Lou Gehrig (2,130 consecutive games), Everett Scott , Billy Williams, and Joe Sewell. Only Gehrig's figure seems beyond him.
One thing New York pitchers will try to do in this series is keep the hitters who are batting ahead of Garvey off the bases in case Steve's in the kind of groove that can put a ball into orbit.
In a city where theatrical and athletic images often fluctuate between bad and worse, Garvey could sell his pet parrot (if he had one) to the town gossip and never have to worry. A few years ago a county in central California even named a junior high school after him.
Steve is always at the park at least three hours before game time; he'll answer any reporter's questions concerning baseball (although he won't discuss his personal life); and he has a pleasant disposition that never seems to change.
Part of this may stem from the fact that as a boy he acquired an unusual sense of values from having to take care of an invalid grandmother while his mother worked. This included cleaning, food shopping, and often preparing dinner.
The one thing you cannot afford to do against Garvey if you are a pitcher is give hime a ball waist-high that he can reach out and drive into the stands.
In Game 4 of the National League Championship series against Montreal, the one the Dodgers had to win or try again nest year, Expo pitcher Bill Gullickson had been frustrating L.A. hitters all afternoon, especially with men on base.