GARRY TEMPLETON : Former Santa Ana Valley High Standout Making Padre Fans Forget Ozzie Smith
Garry Templeton is so cool it’s hard to imagine he would work up a sweat playing handball in a sauna. He is as calm as elevator music.
He is, of course, a shortstop, the eye of the storm in the middle of a baseball diamond. Yet Templeton could almost wear a three-piece suit to work, and not often send it to the cleaners.
When he stands at the plate, he looks as if he is waiting for an ambling bus rather than a 90 m.p.h. fast ball. But he’ll hit the latter as easily as you and I can catch the former.
Garry Templeton plays the game of baseball as naturally as a rose blooms or a colt romps in a field.
Ironically, this talented man has spent his last four years in the wiry--yet wide--shadow of Ozzie Smith. Templeton has not been alone, of course, but it has been much more personal to him, because Smith happened to be the man the Padres had traded to St. Louis to acquire his services.
What’s more, it was a strange trade. The Padres traded Smith away more because they didn’t like his agent than because they didn’t like him. The Cardinals simply did not like Templeton and considered the trade a cleansing.
Templeton, at 29 a mature family man and team leader, does not care to dwell on those tempestuous days in St. Louis. He tries to put them behind him like a bad chapter in a good book.
“I’m just thankful that the Padres got me out of a bad predicament,” the former Santa Ana Valley High School baseball and football star said. “I’ve had great support from the fans and the organization over here. When I was hurt, they could have given up on me.”
Templeton has never worn a sandwich board which declared that he was hurt. Others, such as Manager Dick Williams, had to explain he was playing on knees fit more for a rocking chair than shortstop.
“A lot of things go with the knees,” Templeton said. “A lot of times I was concentrating on my knees more than on my job.”
About the only thing a baseball player can do without using his knees is sit in a whirlpool, and Templeton refused to do that.
So he went out and worked on his defense.
“I thought I better,” he mused. “I wasn’t doing nothing at the plate. I concentrated on the routine play--getting the out--rather than on being flashy. I used to do things to impress the crowd. A lot of hot dog.”
Templeton does not play shortstop as if it is an extension of the sport of gymnastics. He does not play as if each play will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 by a panel of judges in tuxedos.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Ozzie Smith,” said Jack Krol, a Padre coach. “He’s a great ballplayer and a much flashier shortstop. He’s probably the best defensive shortstop. . . .”
Krol hesitated and held his thumb and index finger a hangnail apart.
“But,” he continued, “only by this much. Tempy gets to balls Ozzie has to dive for.”
Meanwhile, the knees are healthier than they have been at any time since the days of his youth in St. Louis. Templeton has been reborn offensively. He is a force even in the No. 8 spot in the batting order, a position usually occupied by a hitter as disposable as paper plates.
And, just as importantly, he is a force even when he is not hitting or fielding. Bad boy? Don’t tell it to Dick Williams.
“If I had to name a captain,” Williams said, “he’d be my captain.”
No longer is Templeton the trinket St. Louis surrendered to acquire a Manhattan of a shortstop.
In fact, Templeton’s offensive resurgence and defensive improvement have Williams convinced the Padres just might have the best of what the Cardinals call The Ozzie Smith Deal.
“Tempy’s the best shortstop in the National League,” Williams said, “considering everything. He’s in a class by himself. That’s my opinion, and I’ll admit it’s biased.”
The All-Star balloting, currently in progress, is not a measure of the relative talent of individuals at a given position. It may not even be a measure of respect. Instead, it is a measure of popularity and recognizability.
In the All-Star balloting, Templeton is running a distant second this year. Naturally, the leader is Ozzie Smith.
“The way fans’ vote kind of tees you off,” Krol said. “They’re really leaving the right man off the team.”
“Ozzie’s popular,” he said, “but people are beginning to realize I can play defense like Ozzie and hit and run with the best of them. Ozzie’s a good shortstop, but I think I’ve got more tools to work with.”
Templeton does not seem to harbor hopes that a last-minute burst of support will push him past Smith and into a starting position for the National League in the July 16 All-Star Game.
However, he wants to be there.
“I’d like to go,” he said. “If I have to go as a utility man, I’d love to go. I’d love to represent the San Diego Padres.”
A few years ago, back in St. Louis, Templeton supposedly said he would not go to the All-Star game as second best. Something like: “If I’m not starting, I’m not departing.”
This was typical of the misunderstood Templeton of those St. Louis years.
“It was nothing I actually said,” he recalled. “It came from somewhere else and I got stuck with it. It’s a long story, and I don’t really want to get into it.”
A long story and, apparently, a wrong story.
Garry Templeton is very comfortable and very happy these days. He plays for a team made up of All-Star candidates, and things are going splendidly.
In fact, his teammates might have been his stiffest competition for a position on the National League team.
Third baseman Graig Nettles, first baseman Steve Garvey and outfielder Tony Gwynn are ahead at their positions and catcher Terry Kennedy and outfielder Kevin McReynolds are right behind the leaders. Pitchers Andy Hawkins and LaMarr Hoyt are among the leaders in wins, and Rich Gossage is second in saves.
How many Padres can possibly be included on a 28-player NL roster which must have representatives from each of the 12 teams?
Since the Padres happen to be the NL champions, Dick Williams will be the manager of that team. However, the decision is not his alone. In fact, NL President Chub Feeney met with him the other night to contemplate the composition of the team.
“We can’t take everybody we’d like to take,” Williams said, “but I think I can take a pretty good majority. After all, we’re the National League champions and we’re leading again this year.”
Williams and Feeney went through a list of names at each of the positions, and Garry Templeton can pack his bags.
Two names were listed at shortstop. You can probably guess who they were and in which order Dick Williams had them listed.