SAN DIEGO — In the 16 years Steve Garvey has been signing autographs--at least 16 million signatures--he says he has never heard one fan say: "Steve, hit us a bunt!" Or "Steve, hit us a sacrifice fly!"
No, says Steve Garvey, people want long fly balls over the fence.
"Ninety percent of the people feel home runs is what they want to see," said Garvey, though he has never taken a survey.
So there were many happy people Thursday afternoon in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Three home runs--by Garvey, Kevin McReynolds and Tim Flannery--propelled the Padres to a 6-2 victory over Steve Carlton and a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Winning pitcher Andy Hawkins (3-3) went six-plus innings and didn't want to come out in the seventh. Manager Steve Boros didn't consult him about it, though, and Craig Lefferts came sprinting in from the bullpen. Throwing fewer screwballs than usual, Lefferts pitched three scoreless innnings.
The crowd of 21,173 was pleased about the home runs. But the interesting thing is who hit them. Garvey has hit a lot of homers in the past; McReynolds should hit a lot of homers in the future and Flannery hits a lot of homers in his dreams.
Here's a look at their Thursday feats:
First, McReynolds. It was his seventh homer--to left field in the fifth inning--that tied the score at 1-1. He's back on track. Last year, he hit only 15, and didn't talk much.
Now, he's something of a blabber mouth.
"That's a bunch of crap," he said when someone suggested he had become a talkative kind of guy.
But he is yapping more. And Garvey--team philosopher--says this will help McReynolds. Over the last couple years, the Garv has slipped in a joke or two--some aren't too good--just to try to get McReynolds laughing and relaxed.
"I think I've made some subtle little jokes, and I think it'll come," Garvey said. "I think when Kevin starts feeling more and more comfortable, he'll be more and more glib. And when that happens, I think it'll raise him to another plateau.
"In this game, if you don't release some of your inner anxiety and frustrations, it'll eat at you from within and keep you from performing, I feel. The ways to release it are through humor, laughter, shouting . . . "
McReynolds is releasing it ever so slowly.
Success makes life comfortable, he said.
What brought success? Boros thinks advice from some old high school buddies did it. Some guys who used to play ball with McReynolds told him he was crouching too much in his batting stance. He stood straight up.
And the balls keep going straight out.
"Well, they can tell me how I'm not standing right, but they can't go up and swing for me," said McReynolds, who thinks he deserves some of the credit.
The best thing about his homers, though, is that they're coming at important times. He already has six "significant homers," a homer that breaks or creates a tie.
"I like seeing him up there with people on base now," Boros said.
Said Garvey: "Theoretically, Kevin should lead the team in home runs because of his pure talent. Potentially, he's a 25-plus home-run hitter."
Flannery's homer off Carlton--with Carmelo Martinez on base--broke the 1-1 tie. A couple at-bats after McReynolds' shot, Flannery hit a line drive to right that carried, hit the top of the fence and bounced over.
Known to intimate friends as "Muscles," Flannery flexed his.
"I'm not a home-run hitter," he said. "I hit line drives. I don't have a home run stroke. There was a man on first, so I was just trying to hit the hole (on the right side.) . . . I just swung, and he (Carlton) hit my bat."
Unbelievably, this was the first time Flannery had ever faced Carlton. Usually, Flannery doesn't start against left-handers, but with Bip Roberts out, Flannery's in.
"There've been a number of times I've been sitting over on the bench (when Carlton has been pitching) and been thankful I was there," Flannery said. "He's nasty."
Then he goes out and hits a homer off him. There's this left-handed batting practice pitcher named Jimmy Allen, who Flannery always tells: "I'm gonna homer off you." But he never does. Now, he homers off Carlton.
"I like it," Allen told Flannery.
Flannery: "I take a Hall of Famer deep, but I can't take you deep!"
Finally, there was the home run by Garvey in the sixth inning, and that made the score 4-2. It was his eighth homer, giving him the team lead. Garvey used to hit a lot of homers for the Dodgers, but his high as a Padre was 17 in 1985.
His explanation: "What can we blow this into? A new diet? Weight training? No, I've just made some adjustments. I'm generating more bat speed, and it's paid off. . . I don't see the fastballs like I used to. I guess that's kind of a tribute. But I have to be patient and capitalize on a pitch I can drive."
And Garv knows how to hit a home run. He drops his bat softly, he saunters around the bases--he'll throw a fist in the air on playoff-game homers, perhaps--and then he tips his helmet to the crowd.
"Yes, I tip my hat to them--both sides of the field," he said. "That's my way of thanking them. When people see it (homers), they stand and applaud, which is the greatest honor they can give you, so you should respond. It's not taunting your opponent."
But even the Garv has critics. According to Garvey, local broadcaster Ted Leitner said on the air: "How can a guy hitting .207 tip his hat?"
Well, the fans of San Diego called Leitner and told him why. They wrote him and told him why.
He's Steve Garvey.
Leitner said on the air: "I'll never do it again! I'll never do it again! I'm sorry!"
Padre Notes Bip Roberts, still bothered by the injury in his right groin area, tried to jog Thursday and could be back in uniform Monday in Montreal. . . . Steve Garvey committed his first error of the season Thursday. Garry Templeton fielded a ground ball and threw low, although it was catchable. Garvey just dropped it.