In the world of baseball, it really doesn’t get much bigger than former MSU great Steve Garvey. The legendary MLB/Spartan first baseman was honored by having his No. 10 was officially retired at the annual MSU Baseball First Pitch Dinner.
During an interview on Spartan Nation Radio at the dinner, Garvey told Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. about his experience being recruited to Michigan State. As one of the nation’s top baseball prospects, he received more than 25 scholarship offers coming out of high school in 1966. Garvey wanted to play football in addition to baseball in college, but many of the schools offering scholarships him seemed hesitant to allow this. MSU, however, was a different story.
During his official visit to East Lansing, Garvey “just happened” to run into Spartan Head Football Coach Duffy Daugherty at Jenison Field House. Knowing exactly what he wanted, the MSU football and baseball coaches had a simple message for the young Steve Garvey. “They said come up here and you can play whatever you want, and we’ve got 20,000 co-eds so you’re bound to get a date.” His decision became a no brainer, saying “I don’t know if that was the closer, but it was impressive, and I decided to come to Michigan State.”
Garvey told Spartan Nation Radio that he had originally planned on becoming a teacher and coach after finishing college. Major League Baseball, however, got in the way of those aspirations. Garvey left MSU for the L.A. Dodgers in 1968, beginning his 19 year career in professional baseball. As one of the best players of his generation, Garvey accomplishments include 10 MLB All-Star Game appearances, the 1974 National League MVP, and two NLCS MVP awards in 1978 and 1984.
Known throughout baseball as guy who consistently did things the right way, Garvey was given the nickname “Mr. Clean” during his playing days due to his high character and personal integrity. His on the field achievements are matched by an off the field humility that is reinforced by his deep faith.
“Any of us who were blessed to be able to reach the ultimate level and then to stay there and perform over a long number of years can look back and say, you know, I took advantage of what God gave me and I worked hard and I think I’ve repaid him. I’ve lived my life as a disciple for not only God but for the game of baseball.”
During his interview, Garvey was asked to weigh in on the issue of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, a problem that has tarnished the game he loves dearly. “Those of us’ he said, “who understand the game and the history of the game realize that it needs to represented the right way, it needs to be played the right way.”
Younger generations of players, he stressed, must be educated so they “don’t get weak” and succumb to the pressures of cheating. Instead of saying “hey I’m as good at that guy and he’s taking PEDs, I’m going to take them too because I’m not going to let him show me up”, Garvey said players must be told to check their egos in their lockers “and go out and play the game the right way.”
He also urged for consistency in Hall of Fame voting, saying that “nowadays, you have to be black and white in your perception. Either you perceive these guys to have taken PEDs and abused the sport or they didn’t.” For that period, from late 80s to mid-2000s, “they (the Hall of Fame) are going to have to create their own wing” with players separated by “eras and generations.”
As one of the greatest players to come out of MSU, in any sport, Garvey understands his importance to Michigan State University. Aware that he and other former Spartan players “have a torch to carry” Garvey has always used his platform as a well-known public figure to represent MSU in a positive way. When players “keep that in mind” and realize their responsibilities, “I think ultimately you can make a difference.”
As a great ambassador for the Spartan Baseball program, and for MSU in general, Steve Garvey exemplifies the true character of a Spartan. He is a class act in every way and we here at Spartan nation would like to thank him for his innumerable contributions to MSU, both on and off the field.
This article first appeared in Spartan Nation Magazine in January of 2014. If you are not a subscriber to the 100% FREE magazine you should be. CLICK RIGHT HERE TO DO IT NOW AND FOR FREE!