Steve Garvey

Steve GarveyThe Dodgers have had numerous first basemen of note in their long history, including their years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Eleven players have appeared in at least 500 games at first for the Dodgers, six of them have been All-Stars. But none of the first basemen, not one of them, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The two most controversial candidates have been Gil Hodges and Steve Garvey. Both played on many pennant-winning teams for the Dodgers and both earned reputations as “clutch” players. Both men were noted for their nifty work around the bag, but Garvey’s reputation was mostly undeserved. Both players were part of famous lineups: Hodges was a member of the famed “Boys of Summer” team that included Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee Reese, among others; while Garvey combined with Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and Bill Russell to form the longest-running and (arguably) best infield in baseball history.

Both Garvey and Hodges spent the maximum 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, with Hodges topping 50% support numerous times. Garvey’s vote totals were not nearly as high, but he continues to be included on veterans committee ballots from time to time. Much of Garvey’s appeal seems to be his high batting average and several 200-hit seasons. Of course, he was well regarded in his era and was an important player in several pennant races. He was “Steve Garvey,” Mr. Squeaky Clean and immensely popular and famous. That counts for something.

Hodges was overshadowed during his playing career by more flamboyant teammates and better sluggers in the league. But among first basemen in his era, he was at or near the top year in and year out. Still, he didn’t make the Hall of Fame despite also adding to his resume by managing the Miracle Mets to the World Series title in 1969.

Probably neither player will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame, and Hodges has long since passed, so he wouldn’t be around to enjoy the honor. Garvey’s image has suffered in retirement, and that hasn’t helped. But ultimately he’s on the outside because his counting numbers missed key milestones (he was 401 hits shy of 3,000, 28 homer shy of 300, and so on). His career batting average also took a nosedive in his last few seasons too. It went from a peak of .304 in 1981 to .294 when he retired six years later. Hall of Fame voters love a .300 career average.

Bruising the Braves

From 1981 to 1984, Steve Garvey had a 22-game hitting streak in games played at Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta. Garvey liked the ballpark, he hit six homers and six doubled during that streak and had 23 RBIs in the 22 games. The streak spanned his tenure with the Dodgers and Padres. It’s tied for the longest hitting streak ever for that ballpark, for players on the home or visiting team. The other player to hit in 22 straight in Atlanta was another visiting player, Pete Rose, who did it from 1973 to 1976.