Retired Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey makes his living giving speeches about honor and integrity. In real life, it turns out he is a chiseler who stiffs the help, walks out on hotel bills, has been sued by his own attorneys and last year threw himself at the mercy of a court to avoid jail time for contempt in a child support case—representing himself because he couldn't afford a lawyer. The Times' Matt Lait and Scott Glover got the goods, then chatted with Garvey for two hours for a piece in Sunday's paper that also recounts the steps the mother of one of his children had to take to secure support. Quipped one attorney: "Once a Dodger, always a dodger."
The Garveys drove luxury cars, shopped in upscale boutiques and traveled extensively even as they were pursued by creditors. Garvey's gardener took him to small claims court to recover $1,773. A mirror installer did the same over $809. A caterer received a court order to seize valuable artwork from the Garveys until they paid her $14,000 bill.
Garvey owes attorneys more than $300,000, according to court records.
Many a former athlete has fallen on hard times, but Garvey — known during his Dodger days as "Mr. Clean" — is different. As his own financial troubles deepened, he continued to cast himself as a principled and accomplished businessman, charging up to $10,000 to give motivational speeches...But records show that the Garveys have made a habit of dodging payments on almost every type of expense. Phone, gas and electric bills have been delinquent. Checks to the local supermarket have bounced. Fed up with not getting paid, the Garveys' pediatrician wrote a letter in March 2003 stating that any future medical services provided to their children would be on a "cash only" basis.
Speaking generally, he blamed his debt on a combination of tax liabilities, financial support for most of his nine children and stepchildren and costly legal battles over business and personal affairs.
"Do I expect to pay every debt? Do I want to? Absolutely," said Garvey, now living in Southern California. "The day I'm able to be debt-free is the day I'm going to be the happiest guy around."
For those who never knew Garvey, he was the first baseman on the Dodgers teams of the 1970s that went to the World Series three times. He won the league MVP award in 1974, was an all-star ten times, and played in five World Series.
Photo: Associated Press