Garvey’s Kids Speak Their Mind

Steve Garvey touts ‘family values’ in his Senate bid. Some of his kids tell another story

The nickname “Mr. Clean” has lingered since the height of Steve Garvey’s fame as a sweet-swinging first baseman for the Dodgers and Padres, as much a reflection of his success on the field as the wholesome, All-American image that followed him off of it.

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(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Charming. Handsome. Unfailingly polite. Eager to sign autographs. Devoted to helping charities. A media darling. A successful businessman. All with a made-for-television grin.

Garvey is “a devoted family man,” read a biography once posted on his website. “As a father of seven children, Garvey understands that in the ever-changing world we live in there is a great necessity of being a man of honor, integrity and quality.”

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Now, as the Republican front-runner in the race for a California U.S. Senate seat, Garvey has avoided detailed policy positions, instead relying on his name recognition and clean-cut image. His campaign website describes him as a “true role model,” he praised the party’s value of “personal responsibility” in a recent interview, and he called in an op-ed to “restore moral integrity in Congress.”

But the reality of Garvey’s life is more complex. The 75-year-old has struggled with debt, been repeatedly sued, faced a bitter divorce, and got two women pregnant before quickly marrying a third woman, his current wife, in a scandal that briefly made him a national punchline in 1989. He pledged in interviews at the time to take “moral and financial responsibility” for the children.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the two children involved in the paternity imbroglio, now adults, told The Times that their mothers repeatedly tried to arrange meetings and phone calls for the children with Garvey, but he declined to communicate.

Also speaking publicly for the first time, Garvey’s oldest child from his first marriage said he cut off almost all contact without explanation about 15 years ago in a move that she still finds painful.

Krisha Garvey, 49, said she is not active in politics but agreed to speak to The Times about what she characterized as “complete abandonment” of herself and her three children by her father because she felt it was important for voters to understand that her father’s public image hasn’t always reflected his personal life.

“There’s something lacking in him, something not authentic,” she said. “To be a man of the people, to truly have experience of being a totally complete, loving family man … I wouldn’t want the people of California to buy into that just because he hit a ball really well.”

Now both 34, the two children Steve Garvey had with the two different women in 1989 said in a joint statement that they have no partisan or ideological position on the Senate race. They have moved forward with their lives without the father they’ve never known.

“In our childhoods, multiple efforts were made through attorneys to arrange a meeting or even a phone call with Mr. Garvey, but he declined every opportunity,” Slade Mendenhall and Ashleigh Young wrote. “Thus, we have never known him, and our only relationships with him were through the family court system.”

Young told The Times the only time she has spoken with Garvey was a chance encounter in line at a Park City, Utah, ski lodge shop when she was in middle school that was “very brief and a bit awkward.” Mendenhall said he has never met or spoken with Garvey.

Garvey’s campaign did not respond to detailed questions from The Times about his children, his financial dealings and whether his public image has matched his private conduct, but instead released a statement.

“The challenges I faced after retiring from Major League Baseball four decades ago were pivotal in shaping the person I am today,” the statement said. “The lessons learned about personal accountability and integrity have made a profound, lasting impact on my life. I’m the luckiest man to be happily married to the love of my life, Candace, for the last 35 years, which I believe demonstrates my growth and commitment to family values. These experiences have equipped me to better understand the adversities others face in their lives, and to serve the public with empathy and integrity, something that has been lacking in Washington, D.C.”

After a quiet start in his first run for public office, Garvey, a Palm Desert resident, has hit the campaign trail. Stops in recent weeks included California’s border with Mexico, the Salton Sea, an almond company in Kern County, a Compton bakery, a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, a homeless encampment in Sacramento, and meeting with Jewish community leaders in Pleasanton.

Garvey’s campaign did not respond to detailed questions from The Times about his children, his financial dealings and whether his public image has matched his private conduct, but instead released a statement.

“The challenges I faced after retiring from Major League Baseball four decades ago were pivotal in shaping the person I am today,” the statement said. “The lessons learned about personal accountability and integrity have made a profound, lasting impact on my life. I’m the luckiest man to be happily married to the love of my life, Candace, for the last 35 years, which I believe demonstrates my growth and commitment to family values. These experiences have equipped me to better understand the adversities others face in their lives, and to serve the public with empathy and integrity, something that has been lacking in Washington, D.C.”

After a quiet start in his first run for public office, Garvey, a Palm Desert resident, has hit the campaign trail. Stops in recent weeks included California’s border with Mexico, the Salton Sea, an almond company in Kern County, a Compton bakery, a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, a homeless encampment in Sacramento, and meeting with Jewish community leaders in Pleasanton.

Garvey’s strength, the professor said, boils down to his name recognition with members of a “certain generation” who remember Garvey’s exploits with the Dodgers and Padres in the 1970s and 1980s.

The one-time Dodgers batboy was selected for 10 All-Star games, won a Most Valuable Player award, set a National League record by playing in 1,207 consecutive games, earned four Gold Gloves for his defense and helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1981. He was as dependable as bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 110 Freeway that runs near Dodger Stadium, collecting 200 or more hits in a season six times and ranking among the games-played leaders in 10 seasons. The faithful who packed stadiums to watch him play loved the clean-cut, aw-shucks, God-fearing superstar.

“He collects art, not phone numbers,” legendary Times columnist Jim Murray wrote in 1974. “He’s on the team bus more than the driver. His idea of a good movie is one where everyone keeps his clothes on and the good guys win. He visits crippled children’s hospitals, not discotheques. … Garvey is hopelessly addicted to malted milk and getting to bed early.”

He was as smooth in front of television cameras and microphones as he was scooping up ground balls to first base. He appeared on game shows, sitcoms, talk shows, even the cover of Sport magazine eating apple pie festooned with American flags. Companies flocked to use him as a pitchman for products like Vitalis Hair Tonic and Swanson Hungry-Man frozen dinners. A junior high school in Tulare County was named after him. Garvey and his then-wife Cynthia — he filed for divorce in 1983 — were called Ken and Barbie in newspaper stories that cast them as a Southern California ideal.

“He was the face of the franchise save for [Dodgers manager] Tommy Lasorda, as much as any player had been maybe since they came over from Brooklyn,” said Jason Turbow, whose book “They Bled Blue” chronicles the team’s path to the championship in 1981. “In many ways, he was the Dodgers.”

The adulation reached such heights that in an interview with Playboy magazine in 1981, Garvey said he had been “approached by very high-profile” Republicans and Democrats about running for office and “either I start at the U.S. Senate or nothing.” He hoped to “develop ideas and principles that will set examples for people.” If a political career materialized, Garvey told the interviewer, he would consider trying for president because “I know if I were elected to that position, it would be nothing short of my complete, total dedication.”

But the attention sometimes grated on other players.

“Some of his teammates thought the Garvey persona was too neat, his near-immaculate lifestyle too perfect, and that what they were witnessing in his daily embraces with the media, in his publicized visits to semi-invalids in hospitals and in his marathon autograph and photo sessions was nothing more than image making,” Sports Illustrated’s William Nack wrote in 1982. “What they believed they saw was a cynically calculated polishing of the … image for personal gain — a businessman, blasphemy of blasphemies, in [legendary Dodgers player] Gil Hodges’ uniform.”

In an autobiography released in 1986, Garvey insisted the virtuous image was the real thing: “All that autograph-signing and hand-shaking and cheek-kissing, that’s how I am and have always been. … Some guys can’t be bothered, but when I look into those little faces, I can’t say no. I remember when I was a kid and ballplayers had time for me — it made me happy.” He talked about the need for positive role models and that there should be “at least one straight arrow among the swingers.”

But in early 1989, less than two years after his final game with the Padres, Garvey was accused of getting two women pregnant — including one he was engaged to — before marrying a third woman, his current wife, after a brief courtship. He tried to explain what happened in a series of interviews. Both women, he said, led him to believe they were using birth control.

Bumper stickers proclaimed: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.”

During a “Golden Girls” episode that spring, the character Sophia Petrillo quipped: “I just hope I’m not carrying Steve Garvey’s baby.”

The Times described the situation in a headline as an “accidental double play” and assured readers that Garvey’s long-discussed political prospects remained intact. He promised in the same story to “accept the moral and financial responsibility” for the children because “there is a right way and wrong way to deal with moral situations, and I believe this is the right thing to do.”

But in early 1989, less than two years after his final game with the Padres, Garvey was accused of getting two women pregnant — including one he was engaged to — before marrying a third woman, his current wife, after a brief courtship. He tried to explain what happened in a series of interviews. Both women, he said, led him to believe they were using birth control.

Bumper stickers proclaimed: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.”

During a “Golden Girls” episode that spring, the character Sophia Petrillo quipped: “I just hope I’m not carrying Steve Garvey’s baby.”

The Times described the situation in a headline as an “accidental double play” and assured readers that Garvey’s long-discussed political prospects remained intact. He promised in the same story to “accept the moral and financial responsibility” for the children because “there is a right way and wrong way to deal with moral situations, and I believe this is the right thing to do.”

Among his other endeavors, Garvey offers to film personalized videos for fans on Cameo for $149.

“Once I started doing this, it’s been amazing, the amount of well wishes and satisfaction that I’ve had in doing something special for the fans,” Garvey said in a promotional video. “We’ve just had a great Mother’s Day run and the videos that came back of crying and laughing, it was so heartwarming.”

Amid pitches for Cameos and other products, Garvey’s Instagram feed portrays a family man. Garvey posing for a family photo on Christmas. His youngest daughter preparing to attend the Stagecoach Festival. On the Dodger Stadium field with her: “Special #Dad #Daughter night at the #2022 All-Star Game.” At the Kentucky Derby the same year with his wife. The caption read: “One more memorable event to our life experiences.”

(Garvey had two children with his first wife, two children with two different women in 1989, and three children with his current wife, in addition to two children she brought into their marriage.)

Garvey’s oldest daughter, Krisha, fondly recalls childhood memories of her father, including him still wearing his Dodgers uniform when he would jump in the pool at the family home in Calabasas with her and her younger sister, Whitney. (Whitney Garvey could not be reached for comment.) Krisha said she is athletic and competitive like her dad, an avid tennis player who remembers his coaching when she was young. His words echo in her mind every time she steps on the court: “Happy feet, happy feet.”

Steve Garvey dedicated his autobiography published in 1986 to Krisha and Whitney and, as part of the dedication for another book in 2008, mentioned “my children” and Krisha’s oldest son.

About 15 years ago, she said, her father stopped calling and taking her calls. It shocked her. She didn’t understand what had happened. One day, she said, she caught him on the phone. He told her “this is how it’s got to be, Krish” but otherwise did not explain the estrangement, she said. The little communication between them largely consisted of brief texts, emails, and phone calls she initiated, according to Krisha.

The hurt and confusion, she said, has left her crying “like a little girl” on almost every one of her birthdays in the past decade and a half.

She said it was “shameful” that her father hasn’t tried to have a relationship with her three sons — his grandsons. In an email sent to him in March 2011 and shared with The Times, she attached a photo of one of her sons playing tee-ball and wrote, “Dad, I still don’t know how you sleep at night. You’ve lost so much you won’t ever get back.”

His absence, she said, has motivated her to turn her “boys into men who are accountable.”

“He has not been accountable, not to his family,” she said.

Among the handful of interactions with her father since the severing of the relationship was a call from him in September to let her know about his Senate campaign. Krisha recalled that he asked how her life was going and said he would probably run, but would keep his family out of it. Those isolated conversations have felt “cold,” she said, like a “sensitivity chip” was missing and he was going through the motions with little or no feeling.

Krisha, an esthetician and artist who co-owns an apparel shop in West L.A., said she believes that a politician “needs to have dignity, to be grounded” and she wonders about his character.

“I think my dad is very simplistic. He can tell you a good stupid dad joke and keep it very superficial and very light,” she said. “He can talk around a thing really well, and he can sell a thing. What’s underneath all that though? It’s questionable.”

Told of the personalized video messages her father sells for $149, Krisha teared up.

“He doesn’t acknowledge his [eldest] daughter, her birth, that’s upside down wrong,” she said.

Mendenhall and Young, the two adult children who said they have never known Garvey, emphasized in their statement to The Times that their other relatives taught them the value of family and they “never wanted for love.” Their mothers introduced the half-siblings when they were 3 years old and they remain close. Mendenhall is a lawyer in Georgia; Young is a stay-at-home mother in Japan.

“Now,” they said in the statement, “as adults looking back as well as forward to the next generation of our family, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, we are ever more committed to being present for the ones we love, for every ballgame, every dance recital, every birthday, and every Christmas. We know that so much of life begins with simply showing up, and we would not miss a second of it — not for the world.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Comments

  1. Brenda F Torres says

    Who knows you better than your kids, but sometime they can be brutally honest too! Know this: You are the one who made them that way…

  2. Garvey running as a republican?? Sounds more to me like he’s a RINO. He isn’t even telling us anything he’ll do as gov. Is this the best that the Kommie-fornia republicans have to offer?? Years ago we took a chance on an actor, but he wasn’t the LEAST bit messed up like Garvey….and wasn’t afraid to say anything, either. I just don’t like the idea that Garvey might turn into another Arnold S. and be just another run-of-the-mill democrat in disguise.

  3. No worries. Garvey has no chance of being elected in Kalifornia.

  4. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    Adam Schiff will win the first spot of the top two. Let’s say Steve Garvey comes in second. Does anyone with a brain between their ears think all the Porter and Lee voters will vote for Garvey in the general election? Of course not! They will vote for Schiff.

    If it’s Schiff vs Porter, we will have eight months of watching the two Democrats go after each other and spend millions of dollars in the process … money they would have spent on down ballot races to defeat Republicans.

    The Democrats are praying that Garvey makes it to the top two, so they don’t have two popular Democrats – Adam Schiff and Katie Porter – attacking each other for eight months. And spending millions of dollars in the process. (Money the Dems would have used to go after Republicans in down ballot House races.)

    Didn’t you all see what happened in the Newsom recall? We lost!!! We couldn’t even get rid of the disastrous Gavin Newsom.

    If you are a Republican who cares about California, do NOT vote for Steve Garvey!!! There are three other Republicans (all much better qualified than Garvey). Vote for James Bradley, Eric Early OR Denice Gary-Pandol.

    REPUBLICANS … do NOT vote for Steve Garvey! Make it a Schiff vs Porter race where they will spend time and money going after each other. Money that would have been spent on down ballot Republican House (and other) races!!!

  5. Robert Rees says

    I won’t vote for Garvey and it’s not because of his unsavory history with divorce and neglect of children. I don’t think that he has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. He’s a rino. However, let’s post more about “shifty” shift, who like “don” joe biden is the consummate liar, and should be held accountable for his actions in the lies he perpetrated in the Trump farce.

  6. I will take Garvey over anyone with a D behind their name. Though he won’t get elected in CA, he has more common sense than anyone on the left.

  7. I can’t stand Shiff-head or the other two insane female demorats
    I will vote for Steve Garbage and hold my nose. The balance of the US Senate is a numbers game. Trump will need those GOP seats to impeach many of Buy-dung’s cohorts snd those that conspired to ruin his life with lies an mock.trials like the J6 sham conducted by 2 RINO’s and Pelosi.
    Schiffhead lied everyday on the floor of the Hoyse to stir up lies and conspiracy against Trump. Do not reward this major league liar with your vote.

  8. The press release Garvey issued about his personal life speaks volumes toward his suspect character. He’s learned his lesson? Right. The primary is a month away and Garvey has no substantive policy statements to make. Before knowing about what a creep he is when it comes to women and the children he co-created, he might fit in Washington perfectly given the low ethical standards there. The three Democrats are all disasters. Ultimately, it appears the Feinstein seat will be occupied by a loon with a Dem suffix. California dreaming, for sure.

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