The kid wasn't playing every day, and he wasn't even a kid anymore. The Dodgers didn't trust him in the field, so they stuck him on the bench.
He had heard the Montreal Expos might play him every day, if only the Dodgers would trade him. So Steve Garvey walked into the office of the general manager, Al Campanis, and asked what the Dodgers intended to do with him.
"We still think you're an integral part of the team," Campanis told Garvey.
There would be no trade. Good thing -- for the Dodgers, for their fans, for baseball history and ultimately for Garvey.
"A week or two later, everything changed," Garvey said.
It is 35 years later, and Garvey remembers the date by heart: June 23, 1973.
On that day, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds, the Dodgers started a new infield combination. Garvey played first base, with Davey Lopes at second base, Bill Russell at shortstop and Ron Cey at third base.
That infield would play together for the rest of that season -- and eight more, setting the most durable of baseball records.
"It's very special we got to play together for so long," Russell said. "But you had to produce. You had to win."
And they did, in unlikely fashion.
The Dodgers did not groom this infield. Russell and Lopes came up as center fielders, but coach Monte Basgall converted Russell to shortstop and Lopes to second base. Cey came up as a third baseman, but so did Garvey.
The Dodgers gave Garvey two years there, watched too many errant throws sail past first base and gave the job to Cey. They tried Garvey in left field and right field, without excitement. And then, in a spell of exasperation more than a stroke of genius, Manager Walter Alston asked Garvey whether he could play first base.
"I had played one game in triple A and one game in Little League," Garvey said. "I wasn't going to tell him that."
In 1974, his first full season at his new position, he won the first of four Gold Glove awards and was selected the National League most valuable player. Fans voted him into the All-Star game -- as a write-in candidate.
By the time the Dodgers broke up that infield, Garvey had been an All-Star eight times, Cey six, Lopes four and Russell three.
The Dodgers never finished lower than third during that nine-year run, with four trips to the World Series. They lost to the Oakland Athletics in 1974, to the New York Yankees in 1977, to the Yankees again in 1978.
In 1981, the infield got one last chance. The Dodgers survived three elimination games against the Houston Astros in the division series, then two elimination games against Montreal in the National League Championship Series.
The Yankees awaited. The Dodgers lost the first two games of the World Series, then won the next four. In the last three games of the Series -- the last three games the infield played together -- Lopes led off, followed by Russell, Garvey and Cey.
"It was kind of a storybook year," Russell said. "We finally won the World Series, and we beat the Yankees. We knew it might be our last hurrah together."
DODGERS 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN L.A.
Infield of dreams
Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey made history by playing together for nine seasons
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