“Garvey Beat Mumps To Reward Write-In Voters”
By Dan Schlossberg
An untimely bout with the mumps couldn’t keep Steve Garvey from honoring his write-in election to the 1974 National League All-Star lineup.
He not only played all nine innings in the game at Three Rivers Stadium but won the first of his two All-Star MVP awards.
A man without a position during 1974 spring training, Garvey was a part-time outfielder and scatter-armed third baseman, unable to make accurate throws because of a schoolboy football injury. Then the Dodgers moved him to first, shifting incumbent Bill Buckner to left field, and a star was born.
Relaxed in the field, Garvey caught fire at the plate. An old friend in Tampa noticed and launched a write-in campaign that began with the minor-league Tampa Tarpons.
Stories about the pick-Garvey movement made the national press, prompting the dodger publicists to promote it.
“There was no Internet voting then,” Garvey remembers, “so any interested fan had to put my name on their ballot and include their name and address. I was thrilled when I won – what a honor! It was only the second time that happened (Rico Carty in 1970).
“Then I started to feel weak the Thursday before the game. I thought it was a severe case of the flu and missed that whole weekend series in Los Angeles. I knew I had to go to Pittsburgh because when people write your name in, you have to show up. But on Monday morning, the day before the game, they told me I had the mumps.”
Garvey attended the All-Star luncheon on Tuesday, then went to the ballpark. The antibiotics were kicking in but he still hadn’t swung a bat in five days.
“I thought I’d take batting practice and get loosened up,” he told USA TODAY Sports last week, “but it drizzled and they cancelled batting practice. We finally got a little infield but I felt like I was walking on eggshells. I was trying to keep my balance and get my head clear. I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be interesting.’
“When I got up in the first inning, I was felt woozy at the plate. The first pitch was a slider and I swung and missed, almost falling on my face. I caught myself, said a few ‘Hail Mary’s’ and then singled up the middle. In the field, I knocked a ball down and caught another in the dirt so I was starting to get my bearings.
“In the third inning, I doubled in a run and we got a rally going. Later on, (manager) Yogi Berra came over to me and said he was going to take me out and put Tony Perez at first base. But I reminded him he’d already used Tony as a pinch-hitter and then put in a pinch-runner for him. So I had to keep playing.”
Garvey went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in the NL’s 7-2 victory. “It was really the first big game of my career,” he said. “And winning the All-Star MVP award was a great energizer. With the exposure from the All-Star Game and the Dodgers in a pennant race, it kept my energy up. I look back at that season very fondly.”
The articulate infielder went on to win MVP honors in both the NL Championship Series and the regular season, giving him an unprecedented three-MVP season.
And it all started because of an All-Star Game write-in campaign not likely to happen again.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 35 baseball books and host of the weekly Braves Banter podcast. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.