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The Intimate Steve Garvey : The Former Dodger Hero Tells How His Perfect Life Became a Perfect Nightmare

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<i> Peter J. Boyer, a former Times reporter, is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair</i> .

IT IS SUNDAY morning in the middle of nowhere--Bloomington, Ill., actually--and Steve Garvey has a little time to kill. He’s sitting in his hotel room, talking about baseball, particularly about his swing. It wasn’t so much a swing, really, as a ritual. He eagerly hops off the bed and offers a demonstration.

Stepping to the imaginary plate, he raises his right hand to his invisible helmet and then tugs gently--almost daintily--at the front of his shirt as he settles into his batting stance. Hands together high at his chest, left foot aligned precisely with the inside corner of home plate, which he has tapped lightly with his phantom bat. A brief, perfect stillness, then WHOOSH, the Garvey swing. It is not spontaneous and pretty, like the long, loping stroke of Darryl Strawberry, but short, straight, vicious. It is not an act of the heart but of the mind, an effort carefully calculated to maximize efficiency. And it is always the same. Even here, at age 40, two years after baseball, in this $39 room at the Holiday Inn, it is the same ritual performed over a 19-year career in the big leagues: 8,835 at-bats, 8,835 wordless sermons on the art of control.

Control. It is what Steve Garvey meant as a ballplayer. It is how he transformed himself from a wild-throwing liability into one of the most prized first basemen of his time, a 10-time All Star, the only first baseman ever to play an entire season without committing an error. It is how he played for more than nine years without missing a single game, 1,207 consecutive games, the longest streak in the history of the National League.

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Control is what Steve Garvey meant off the field as well; it framed his urge to be not just a ballplayer but also a role model. He said “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am,” he didn’t drink or smoke, he made bedside visits to hospitalized kids. Control is what allowed him to spend long hours after the ballgame, indulging fans (even the rude ones) by signing autograph after autograph and indulging reporters (even the rude ones) by answering their questions until they ran out of things to ask.

And that utter control is why Steve Garvey commanded attention when his life went haywire. In February, Garvey went public with an account of his complicated romantic life--a bizarre, cross-country tangle in which he got two women pregnant and married a third. With any other ballplayer--almost any other celebrity, for that matter--it might have been a one-day headline, a snack for the quick-chewing trash compactors of the daily TV gossip shows. But this was Steve Garvey, the man whom a town had named a school after, the man who once said, “I walk around as if a little boy or a little girl was following me.” In an age of mere superstars, he had wanted to be a hero. And he still does.

In a few minutes, there will be a knock on the door from the promoter of a local baseball memorabilia show who will deliver Garvey to the 400 or so fans who have paid $7 for each signature that Garvey will apply to the bats, baseballs, gloves and posters they have brought. Some of them have driven hundreds of miles to get to the hotel. Before the knock comes, Garvey edges warily toward the subject that has scarred his life--”my situations,” he calls them.

“People were interested because I was the all-American boy on a pedestal with feet of clay,” he says of the reaction to his troubles. “Of course, the cynics and the critics just reveled in it. But the average fan has compassion for me. He says, ‘Hey, this happens to people; it happened to Steve; how does he handle it?’ ”

How he handled it, of course, was in characteristic Steve Garvey fashion. He went on television in San Diego. He gave interviews to newspapers and magazines. He appeared on Larry King’s TV show and on “A.M. Los Angeles.” At each stop, he calmly explained that he had thought the women involved had used birth control but that he planned to “accept my responsibility” and provide financial and parental support for his unborn children. A man in control.

And Garvey maintained that apparent equanimity throughout the summer, even as his ex-wife, Cyndy, made her way across the country on a book tour, acidly portraying Garvey as an unfeeling “sociopath” on a scale with serial killer Ted Bundy.

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What no one would have guessed through all of this is that Garvey has his own story to tell, a surprising and slightly harrowing story about a perfect life unraveling, of a private life that for the last decade has been as anguished as his public life had seemed ideal. Now, stung by Cyndy’s attacks and pressed by his new wife to fight back, Garvey has decided to tell his side of this strange and convoluted story.

TWO DAYS after the baseball show, Garvey is back in San Diego, in the offices of the Garvey Marketing Group, the center of his life after baseball. It had always been one of the things Garvey had been certain about, life after baseball, so certain that a key element of the business he started when he was still playing ball was a placement service to help other athletes (i.e., those less certain about the future than Garvey) make the transition from sports to real life. That, and a marketing operation designed to find product endorsements for athlete clients would, Garvey figured, give him a solid base as a businessman from which he could segue into his real calling, a career in politics.

But when the end came in 1987, Garvey was no more ready to make the emotional adjustment than most athletes are. This was partly because Garvey’s exit from baseball didn’t go according to plan. He was 38 and in the final year of his contract with the San Diego Padres, and although he had always said it would be his final year, he had begun to think that if he still had what it takes, he might try to squeeze another year out of baseball, maybe two.

Then, in a meaningless game early in the season, his body betrayed him. While he was trying to stop himself in the middle of a swing, a tendon in his shoulder popped. After a 2 1/2-hour operation, the doctors told him he wouldn’t play again that year. “That’s the first time I had really been vulnerable to anything,” Garvey says. “Suddenly, it was over; the season was over. I wasn’t going to play again that year; my contract was up. And I went home and started walking around the neighborhood. I was, like, drained, you know? Just . . . drained.”

He still held hope for a recovery, and although the Padres didn’t offer him a contract, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with which he had known his greatest glory, said they would be willing to take a look at him for the 1988 season. His arm began to heal. But then he started having knee problems, and tests showed that he had arthritis. Garvey had always taken care of his body and it had responded, but now his body had suddenly become a mysterious stranger. He told himself that he’d get back, report to spring training and win a job with the Dodgers. But he couldn’t run, he couldn’t swing, he couldn’t move without pain. In January, 1988, he retired.

“I have never talked about it,” he says now of the feelings of loss and bewilderment that he felt at the end of his career. “But I know that that’s what happened for a year-and-a-half period there.” Pause. “Once that happened (leaving baseball), it’s as if . . . it’s not a mid-life crisis, but . . .”

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Not a mid-life crisis? In 1988, he was for the first time in his life without direction. His business wasn’t exactly booming--the job-placement service had been transformed into a nonprofit consulting service--and anyway, the marketing aspect of it was mostly run by his partners. He roamed the country, making speeches and appearing in charity events, and his romantic life became hopelessly complicated.

He broke off with a woman he had lived with in San Diego for almost four years, former waitress Judith Ross, but he didn’t sever their relationship completely. While still occasionally seeing her, he also dated another San Diego woman, sales representative Cheryl Ann Moulton, and in the early summer of 1988, he began a serious romance with a third woman, Rebecka Mendenhall, a Cable News Network producer in Atlanta. He was looking for something, he says, but he didn’t seem to know quite what it was. By Thanksgiving, when Becky pressed Garvey to make a commitment or move on, he proposed. “I was backed into a corner; I had to make a decision. I said, ‘Well, I love her. . . . I don’t love her as much as I think you need to, but maybe if I can make a commitment, I will grow to love her enough to marry her.’ And so, we were engaged on Thanksgiving. For all the wrong reasons, which is very atypical of me.”

By then, he had already learned that Cheryl Ann was pregnant and expecting in February, although he didn’t yet tell Becky about it. He spent the Christmas holidays with his fiancee and his family, then went back to San Diego and stayed with Judith, and, having second thoughts, he decided to call off the wedding. Two weeks later, at a ski tournament in Utah, he saw Candace Thomas, a Los Angeles interior designer he had met the year before. He proposed to her, and all hell broke loose.

Garvey had experienced, in other words, a mid-life crisis that belongs in the Hall of Fame of mid-life crises, but Garvey, so controlled, can’t say it. “I don’t think in terms of crisis,” he says. “I think it’s just a chapter that’s closed.”

As chapters go, it has been a pretty bleak one. The revelations about the women transformed his prized reputation into a piercing embarrassment. The man one writer called “a cinch for the Hall of Fame and maybe the halls of Congress” became the object of jokes in David Letterman monologues, and in San Diego Garvey bumper stickers (bearing such one-liners as “Steve Garvey is Not My Padre”) became a cottage industry.

Garvey, an intensely devout Catholic, was deeply humiliated when, at a social gathering, Bishop Leo T. Maher of San Diego loudly rebuked him, calling him a “sociopath” and urging him to resign from the board of the University of San Diego, a Catholic institution, which Garvey did.

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His marketing business is teetering, and his dreamed-for political career--which once seemed inevitable--has been cast into question.

But dwarfing it all, haunting his days and nights, has been The War, a seven-year feud between Garvey and his ex-wife, Cyndy. They had once been “Ken and Barbie,” the perfect couple, but they became combatants in a dispute so vicious that, as Garvey has it, Cyndy has become a skilled psychological terrorist, threatening to kill him on at least two occasions. Garvey’s lawyer, in turn, has tried to put Cyndy in jail. Their two teen-age daughters, once the centerpiece of their marriage, have become both hostage and booty.

This is a subject that lives beneath Garvey’s skin, touching all of his nerves, all of the time. As he talks about it, tears come to his eyes, and his voice grows almost inaudibly soft. “I can’t tell you the stories,” he says. And then he does.

He has rarely seen his daughters this year except in divorce court and in court-ordered sessions with a psychologist. So deep is the alienation between Garvey and his daughters--Krisha, 14, and Whitney, 13--that in one session with the psychologist, the therapist had to block the door to keep the girls in the same room with their father. “We’re talking about all these years battling, battling just to see my daughters,” he says, “battling to talk to them on the phone, and not being able to talk to them for weeks at a time. . . . I cry from time to time. All the trips I’ve made to Los Angeles, sometimes going up there and they’re not there. . . .”

And that, to hear Garvey tell it, is only the beginning. The confusion and disarray of Garvey’s life is particularly jarring when considered next to the compulsive order and the dreamlike perfection of his life as it had been, or at least, his life as it had seemed. That life was neatly and innocently summarized in the two-line legend on one of his baseball cards: “Steve was once Dodgers’ spring training bat boy. He had a junior high school named after him in 1977.” That card said everything about destiny and a dream come true; Garvey was, in that better time, all he ever wanted to be--a Dodger, and a hero.

“HELLO, MR. GARVEY,” the waitress said. “We haven’t seen you since the incident.”

Garvey is sitting in the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and the waitress’ greeting has lifted Garvey’s mood.

What incident?

Garvey dives eagerly into the story. A few weeks earlier, he and a business associate were lunching at the club when an elderly woman collapsed to the floor. The two men rushed over to the distressed woman, Garvey comforting her and holding her hand while his associate tried to resuscitate her. Alas, by the time the ambulance arrived, Garvey says, “she was gone.”

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It is a sad story, of course, but an opportunity for Garvey to regain his place as hero, even as would-be hero. Heroism, chivalry and dreamy white-knight scenarios are deeply embedded in Garvey’s psyche, reaching back to his childhood in Florida.

He was born in Tampa, where his parents, Joseph and Mildred, had moved from Long Island because Millie’s mom needed warm weather for her health. Stevie was an only child; his universe was a world of adults, his parents, his grandparents. Joe worked as a bus driver, Millie as a secretary in an insurance firm, and in their household there was a premium on organization and teamwork.

Of course, every couple wants an organized and helpful child, but Stevie took it into uncharted zones that sometimes left even his parents a bit baffled. In the mornings, he made his bed and helped clean up after breakfast before going off to duties as a student crossing guard. He washed the car, mowed the lawn, took out the garbage.

Stevie also cared for his grandmother, who had a nerve disorder that left her arms and hands virtually useless. Every day after school, he would go to her house to help out, vacuuming, peeling potatoes, sometimes making supper. When “Nanny’s” condition worsened, she had difficulty going to the toilet, so Stevie helped her with that, too, even wiping her afterward.

And, he was neat, fastidiously neat, maddeningly neat. His bed was always made and his small room was kept just so, each of his little things in its proper place. His little shoes were all nicely paired, toes pointing in the same direction; his shirts hung neatly together in the closet, separate from his crisply creased pants. When someone had been in his room, he could tell, and he’d get on his folks about it. “He was so neat,” says Millie, “it was almost pathetic.”

Stevie loved sports, but mostly he loved baseball, the game that became the focus of his dream. He would play out elaborate imaginary games--playing nine innings, both sides--by tossing the ball up to himself and hitting it. At night, he’d carefully fill out the lineup for the next day’s “game,” and if he misspelled a name or if his writing wasn’t neat enough, he’d erase it and do it again. In his dreams, his team was the Brooklyn Dodgers. And then, his dream came true. His father came home one day and told him that he would be driving the bus for the Dodgers, who were in Florida for spring training. What’s more, he said, Stevie could skip school and serve as bat boy.

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Later, when other kids were trying tobacco and alcohol, Steve was taking private catechism instruction from the Catholic Church. He wanted to be even more devout than his parents, so he began to attend Mass with the parents of one of his friends, who were more regular churchgoers.

He was one of those teen-agers who had a series of “marriages” in high school, staying with one girlfriend until they broke up, then moving directly into another long-term relationship. Such relationships can lead to trouble; but Garvey says he remained a virgin until he reached college. He was the embodiment, in short, of a type that a later generation would call a control freak.

And then came the big leagues. If Steve Garvey was a young Arthur in baseball cleats, then Dodger Stadium was his Camelot. He loved hanging around with the fans before and after the game; if there were 50,000 people in the stadium, it sometimes seemed that he made time for them all. In the age of millionaire shortstops and drugs, Garvey was an irresistible novelty to sportswriters. Was he really this clean-cut? Had he really been a bat boy? The headline over the first major profile of him in The Times summed up the reception he got in L.A.: “Steve Garvey is Just Too Good to Be True.”

As a Dodger, he went to charity events, hosted banquets, visited the sick. One Sunday afternoon, he gave a performance that even the greediest image peddler wouldn’t have dared to conceive. It was Nuns’ Day at Dodger Stadium, a promotional event at which nuns paid a dollar for admission. The stands were splotched black with the habits of thousands of the Dodgers’ most pious fans. A PR staffer asked Garvey before the game if he would visit a little girl named Annie Ruth, seated above the dugout. She was crippled, injured in a gymnastics accident, and a fan of Garvey’s. So Garvey went over and chatted for a while, and then, as they parted, Annie Ruth asked Garvey: “Will you please get a hit for me?”

While he walked to the field, Garvey, the good Catholic boy, prayed, “Oh, God, please let me get a hit, so she can think it was for her.” As it happened, he was in the worst slump of his career, three hits in his last 50 at-bats. But of course, Garvey lived in a dream. He had the best day of his career, five hits in five at-bats, three doubles and two homers, including a grand slam. For Annie Ruth. On Nuns’ Day.

But if Garvey was a hit with the fans, he was not winning friends on the team. It is not easy to be the teammate of a saint, and many Dodgers felt he was making the rest of them look bad. Their resentment began to show. After Garvey hit a home run, they would sometimes stare coldly away as he strode past, withholding the usual congratulatory hand-slapping. Once, when he was thrown out trying to bunt, several Dodgers stood up in the dugout and applauded.

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AT HOME, THE tension was just as thick. While Steve and Cyndy Garvey seemed to the world to be the dream couple, their marriage was one long breakup.

Cyndy was, in almost every way, Garvey’s opposite. He was cool and controlled; she was emotional and temperamental. He was single-mindedly focused; she was uncertain about her place in the world.

At first, that had been part of the attraction. Cyndy had come from an unstable home. She asserts in her new book, “The Secret Life of Cyndy Garvey,” that her father, an Air Force officer, was a detached and unloving man whose only attention to Cynthia and her two brothers came in the form of regular beatings. Her mother, she says, suffered a nervous breakdown when Cynthia was in college. To Cynthia, Garvey, the baseball hero at Michigan State, so sure of his future, so calm and gentle, was her escape to a happy life.

And at first, it seemed just so. They were married during Garvey’s rookie year with the Dodgers and, as his fame grew, so did hers. Her status as the local hero’s wife gave her high visibility, a circumstance enhanced by her intelligence and stunning good looks. After shining brightly on a segment on Dodger wives on Regis Philbin’s “A.M. Los Angeles,” she was hired as Philbin’s co-host.

But soon, Cyndy began to resent that her identity was bound up with her husband’s, and she loathed the role of “his lovely wife, Cyndy.” She was angered by Garvey’s refusal to do anything about the snubs they received at the hands of the other Dodger players and their wives. She began to realize, she says, that the stability she hoped to find in her marriage was made almost impossible by the itinerant and public life that a ballplayer lives.

Garvey couldn’t understand his wife’s unhappiness. She had a home, celebrity, money and two beautiful kids, and if his work meant that he was away a lot, well, he had only so many years to play ball. “Cyndy looked at this life as a burden, as an interference on her life,” Garvey says now. “But she married a ballplayer. You make those decisions and you make the most of it.”

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Cyndy had a frightening temper, Garvey says, and sometimes their angry exchanges took a violent turn: “She used to just explode.” (“Anybody compared to Steve Garvey has a temper. He’s a robot man,” she responds.) He says that when Cyndy discovered that she was pregnant with their second child, Whitney, she became so angry at the prospect of being even more tied to her unhappy domestic situation that she grabbed a kitchen knife, pointed it at him and said, “How could you have gotten me pregnant again?” (Cyndy says, “It wasn’t the best news in the world,” but as for wielding the knife, “it did not happen.”) Characteristically, he reacted by retreating silently to the bedroom.

When, after the 1980 season, in their eighth year of marriage, Garvey said that he intended to accompany the team on a tour of Japan despite Cyndy’s objections, she had an affair with a film producer she met on an airplane. It lasted several months, and although Cyndy didn’t know it at the time, Garvey was having an affair with Judith Ross, whom he had hired as his secretary. Cyndy and Steve stayed together, but the strain was nearly unbearable to both.

And then Marvin Hamlisch came along. As Cyndy tells it in her book, she had known the composer as a guest on her show. Hamlisch sensed that she was unhappy, and one day over lunch he proposed that she introduce him to Steve so that he could determine for himself the state of the Garvey marriage. She agreed, and that night Hamlisch went to the Garvey home. The two men disappeared into the den for two hours, after which Hamlisch, looking pale and shaken, kissed Cyndy goodby and left, and Garvey said to her, “I think you should go with him.” Cyndy was shocked. “He was giving me away,” she wrote. “This was too much, too insensitive, too cold-blooded, even for Steve.”

Garvey remembers a slightly different scenario.

He says Hamlisch did come over to the house and that he and Garvey did indeed repair to the den and talk for two hours. “I just questioned him,” Garvey says. “I said, ‘Why would you do this, knowing that we were married? What are your intentions?’ ” Hamlisch told him that he was interested in Cyndy’s happiness and that she wasn’t finding it in her marriage. Garvey then told his wife, “Obviously, you feel there’s no hope left here, and that you have to escape. If that’s what’s best for you, I give up.”

In September, 1981, Cyndy quit her “A.M. Los Angeles” job, took the girls and moved to New York with Hamlisch. The dream marriage was over. For that matter, the dream was over, too. Garvey left the Dodgers in 1982, and though he had a brief time of glory with the San Diego Padres, his career ended with a whimper. All that was followed by his mid-life crisis and the troubles that beset him now.

WHEN THE new Mrs. Garvey looks at her husband, she sees nothing but the hero, and it shows. Candace Garvey is a jarringly pretty woman, 30 years old with soft blond hair, and two daughters of her own. She is effusive (saying things such as “he’s the man of my dreams”) and optimistic, as she would have to be, given the circumstances of her marriage to Garvey.

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Theirs was a most unusual courtship. They got together in January at Garvey’s charity ski tournament in Deer Valley, Utah. Afterward, Garvey went with Candace to Los Angeles, where he met her daughters. He then flew to Washington, where, as co-chairman of the Committee for the Presidency, he was to introduce George Bush and Dan Quayle at one of the inaugural balls. He pleaded with Candace to accompany him, but she wasn’t quite sure if she should go. He left without her, and then there occurred a bit of happenstance so astonishing as to convince Candace that her pairing with Garvey was divine intervention. As she was driving in Los Angeles with a friend, Candace mentioned that she wished she had gone to the inauguration with this new guy she was seeing. Who’s that? the friend asked. “Steve Garvey,” Candace replied. It happened that the friend was Marian Ruth, the mother of Annie Ruth, the disabled girl from Nuns’ Day. Ruth said that her son’s private jet was leaving for the inauguration in one hour and that if Candace knew what was good for her, she would be on it. She was.

After the inauguration, the happy couple went to Florida for the Super Bowl. On Jan. 22, Super Bowl Sunday, he asked her to marry him. He got down on one knee, popped the question and then said there was one more thing he had to tell her before she gave her answer: Another woman was carrying his child. But Candace accepted anyway, and they set a date.

The morning after, Garvey also told Candace about his complicated love life, about Cheryl Ann, about Judith and about Becky. And he told her about Cyndy and their long, bitter enmity. Then the telephone rang. It was Garvey’s father, Joe. He’d just received a call from Becky Mendenhall, who said she urgently needed to talk with Steve. Garvey called Atlanta and spoke to Becky’s mother. “I just knew, don’t ask me how, that when he came back, he was going to say that Becky was pregnant,” Candace recalls. Garvey spoke to Becky that night and assured her, as he had assured Cheryl Ann, that he would do the right thing and support their child. He also told her about Candace. Three weeks later, Becky filed suit against Garvey, seeking child support and damages that she claims resulted from his breach of promise--such as the cost of her unused wedding dress.

Candace allows that these developments were “a little scary,” but she was unshaken. She and Garvey were married on Feb. 18. She says she is willing to adopt the children Garvey fathered, an offer neither mother involved seems inclined to accept. Cheryl Ann gave birth to a girl, Ashleigh, in February, and Becky is due at the end of this month.

Steve and Candace live with her daughters, Shaunna and Taylor, in Garvey’s Del Mar home--an expensive new townhouse that Candace has transformed into a kind of Steve Garvey wing of a sports museum. The place is filled with LeRoy Nieman paintings, including some of Garvey. In the living room, there is Garvey’s Most Valuable Player trophy, framed magazine covers with Garvey in uniform, and in front of the fireplace stand two of Garvey’s four Gold Gloves--awarded each year to the best defensive player at each position.

Which brings up the story of the dumpster. When Garvey and Cyndy broke up, Garvey says, she had some of his most prized mementos from baseball. He later got a call from the Padres organization: Someone reported that he had found one of Garvey’s Gold Gloves in a dumpster in Malibu. “She scratched it and ripped it and threw it in the dumpster,” Candace says.

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THERE ARE MANY such horror stories about Cyndy, and over supper in a Del Mar restaurant run by a friend, Garvey tells them with a kind of detached bemusement. “She is just . . . I’m looking for the word . . . obsessed.”

Although his marriage ended in 1981, Garvey says, the hostility between him and his ex-wife was escalating by the week. After spending a brief time in New York without finding a job, Cyndy returned to L.A., where she discovered that Steve had had an affair in the waning days of their marriage. As she writes in her book, she went to his office, which was provided by the Multiple Sclerosis Society (of which Garvey was national campaign chairman), and confronted his secretary and lover, Judith Ross. “So you’re his whore!” she said, pushing Judith out the door, “a paid-for charity whore!” Cyndy then picked up a baseball bat and proceeded to wreck the place.

She had been, by her own account, close to the edge for some time, and soon, she went over. Living in a Malibu beach house that she and Steve had bought as an investment, she stopped eating and slipped into a nervous breakdown. Then she tried to kill herself, taking an overdose of sleeping pills. When she recovered, she went into psychotherapy and learned, she says in her book, that she had been hiding her true self all these years behind the made-up, dippy baseball wife known to the world as Cyndy. She began to refer to herself as Cynthia.

Garvey, meanwhile, had moved to La Jolla and was living with Judith. This did nothing to calm relations with Cyndy, who refused to allow the girls to visit their father while he was living with his “charity whore.” So Garvey moved into a second home by himself and instructed Judith never to answer the phone in case it was Cyndy on the other end.

By 1983, Cyndy moved back to New York and got a job as Philbin’s co-host on a New York version of their old show. Garvey tells of flying to New York to see the girls and discovering when he arrived that they weren’t there. When he retired from baseball, and the Padres held a Steve Garvey night in his honor, the girls weren’t allowed to attend.

Garvey says Cyndy launched a psychological war against him, calling him on the road in the visiting clubhouse just to scream at him. One evening in Pittsburgh, when he didn’t come to the phone, she left the message that one of his daughters had been hit by a truck and then hung up. Garvey said he and the clubhouse manager spent the next hour calling hospitals to see if it was true (it wasn’t). He says she once physically attacked him, tearing the shirt off his back and kicking a dent in the door of his car. Typically, he walked away in silence from these episodes, which apparently only made matters worse.

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There have been many public scenes, Garvey says, sometimes in front of their daughters. A year after their separation, Garvey and his parents attended one of the girls’ T-ball games. Cyndy was in attendance. Millie and Joe were taking pictures of their granddaughters, and when they were finished, Millie walked toward her car to put the cameras away. “And all of a sudden, I’m walking down this incline, and I was knocked down,” Millie recalls. She says she looked up and saw her former daughter-in-law, bent over her in a rage. “And she had two small juice cans in her hand, and she was beating on me. Kicking on me and beating on me.” The spectacle of their mother, a tiny juice can in each hand, beating on their grandmother had to be a traumatic event for the girls, Garvey says. (Cyndy denies that she attacked her mother-in-law.)

On the advice of both their attorneys, Cyndy and Steve agreed to see a family psychologist in an effort to work out visitation rights. But those sessions turned into fight venues. They moved from one psychologist to another, Cyndy raging, Steve’s silence fueling her anger. Garvey says that Cyndy even threatened to kill him in one session. (Cyndy says it was an idle threat: “You know how you get mad at somebody and say, ‘I could just kill you!’? . . . But to Steve Garvey, that’s a direct threat.”)

Finally, this past summer, Steve and Cyndy worked out a visitation agreement. He would see the girls once a week, every other weekend and six weeks during the summer. Things seemed to be improving. Cyndy was working on her book and in therapy. And Garvey was seeing his daughters.

Then, Garvey’s love life exploded in his face, and The War resumed.

The discovery that Garvey was engaged to Becky infuriated Cyndy, and once again visitation with the girls became a matter of dispute. So Garvey fought back. His lawyer, Dennis Wasser, is one of the toughest divorce attorneys in the business, specializing in high-profile cases (he represented Billie Jean King in her palimony suit and is representing Jane Fonda in her divorce from Assemblyman Tom Hayden). Wasser asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frances Rothschild to find Cyndy in contempt of court for defying the visitation agreement, seeking five days in jail for each count.

At the suggestion of Cyndy’s attorney, entertainment lawyer Gerry Margolis, Garvey agreed to undergo psychological counseling with the girls. A few days later, Garvey says, he heard a sports reporter on the radio announce that “Steve Garvey has been ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment” (which is roughly Cyndy’s description in her book). Garvey drove to Los Angeles for 14 sessions, but the girls showed up at only three of them. In April, the psychologist, Dr. Frank Williams, concluded that the girls’ antipathy toward their father needed to be remedied and suggested time spent together. The girls refused. It was clear that they no longer saw him as anything resembling a hero.

In court during the summer, the Garvey vs. Garvey war took on the aspect of tragicomedy, a battle that would be almost amusing were it not so charged with anguish. There was that morning in June, when Cyndy, Steve and the girls had an appointment with the mediator in the hope of finding a visitation solution they could present to the judge in a session that afternoon. But Cyndy never arrived, and a new court date was set for July 31.

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This time, Cyndy was there, and it was a session at least worthy of “Divorce Court.” Garvey’s lawyer made an issue of Cyndy’s verbal abuse of his client and of Candace. Garvey testified that even as he was on the stand, Cyndy, staring at him in the courtroom, mouthed the words “I’ll get you!” Candace, who is dyslexic, reported that during one break, Cyndy taunted her by holding up a newspaper and saying, “Do you want me to read this to you?” Cyndy became so excited that the bailiff had to admonish her twice.

Although she didn’t intend to take the stand herself, Cyndy wanted Whitney and Krisha to testify that they didn’t want to be with their father. But Judge Rothschild, uncomfortable with this approach, urged one last effort at a mediated visitation agreement, and the two sides were successful. It was agreed that Garvey would see his daughters, without Candace, for a week at the end of August.

When the moment came to pick up the girls, however, they were not there. Garvey roamed the campus of Marymount High School, which the girls attend, and saw no sign of Whitney or Krisha or their mother. Cyndy’s attorney says it was an unfortunate case of a missed rendezvous; Garvey’s attorney filed another contempt complaint. Another court date was scheduled for Sept. 15.

None of this was part of the dream. Garvey’s glory with the Dodgers had been dulled by his being the center of disharmony. His storybook marriage had become a grim melodrama. Early this month, Garvey finally did see his daughters for two brief and timorous meetings, but he is not sure when he will see them again or how long it will take to win back their hearts.

His finances are strained. Garvey Marketing had to be pared down and moved to smaller offices, and this year, it expects to break even at best. Garvey now has his own radio talk show in San Diego, which could pay him up to $250,000 a year; that sounds like a lot, except that he is scheduled to pay Cyndy $125,000 next year as part of their divorce settlement. He currently pays $4,500 a month in child and spousal support, plus educational expenses, and his legal bills are mounting. He inherited some heavy debts that Candace brought to the marriage, and so, on weekends, he has begun to accept more paying speaking engagements and baseball-signing shows.

As for his political career, Garvey says, that is still open: “I really think there is a certain destiny in my life to lead people. And people are able to relate to those who have been in crisis, and how they’ve handled crisis.” That may be wishful thinking. At the Republican convention last summer, there were whispers that Garvey might run for the Senate in 1992. No such whispers are heard just now.

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One thing Garvey says he is sure of, however, is his new wife: “She is the woman of my dreams.” And he is sure that he will be spending a good deal of time in court. Even if the contempt motions and visitation disputes with Cyndy are resolved, no truce between them has endured for long.

And so he will sit on the bench outside divorce court, a place that has become all too familiar to him, and sign autographs. It is strange how people don’t think twice about approaching him, even in divorce court. And it is strange how readily he obliges.

But then, that is something Garvey is sure of, too. It is what heroes are supposed to do.

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