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

September 24, 1989|PETER J. BOYER | Peter J. Boyer, a former Times reporter, is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair .

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."

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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