Perhaps no man is an island, but Steve Garvey often feels like he is becoming a fortress.
"Why do I constantly have to defend my basic human feelings?" Garvey asked quietly as he sat in a T-shirt soaked with sweat and champagne in the Los Angeles Dodger clubhouse Saturday night.
"Thousand of people were cheering for me today. Millions were rooting for me on TV. Does anybody know how good that feels? How much you want to be worthy of it? And keep it that way.
"Why is it so hard to understand that I want to put something back into the game, that I want to be an example for people?"
A Dodger teammate walked past Garvey and said, "Break it up, Steve, Cindy's waiting." The words had a sarcastic edge.
There the galling image was again. Steve and Cindy Garvey, the Ken and Barby Dolls of baseball.
Garvey gave a tired, forebearing grin. For the millionth time he would have to swallow the putdown comeback that sprang to mind. One more needle in his thick hide.
"These so-called pressure games are a pleasure to me," said Garvey, awaiting the start Tuesday of the World Series against the New York Yankees. "They're no pressure at all, really, I'll tell you what pressure is. It's being 29 years old and having a school named after you.
"You can't wake up one morning and chuck it all and go to Tahiti."
Garvey never wages up thinking of Tahiti. He'll settle for Chavez Ravine, and TV commercials, talk shows, Rotary luncheons autograph sessions and interviews.
"I'll never deviate from the path toward what I have to accomplish. I know that for certain, I'm doing what I've always wanted to be doing. It's a weight, but it's a nice weight.
"There's no place in the country I can go and not be recognized. But that's all right. I'm a ham. Those people want Steve Garvey to say hello to them, and how can I honestly say, no?
"They believe in me. But I'm the one that's asked them to. Sometimes when they ask for an autograph, I say, 'How about a handshake instead? Then we'll really be buddies.'
"If they like that better, so do I."
There was a time when this Frank Merriwell life would have been simple. Being a hero was as safe and manageable and ritualistic as taking batting practice or lifting weights.
But a cynical age distrusts, sometimes seems to hate, the appearance of flawlessness. In a time when political candidates promise to admit their mistakes, rather than not to make any, Garvey's roll can be perplexing.
"Sometimes I feel like people are chipping away at me, trying to find the hidden crack. yes, it makes you feel like some kind of fortress," said Garvey, not with great feeling, since it has been a familiar emotion for years.
"But when they chip away at Steve Garvey, they always seem to come out the losers. It seems like the fans mass behind me even more than before," he added with a touch of menace.
The latest to discover that truth is pitcher Don Sutton, the only L. A. player booed during his playoff introduction by the normally idolatrous Dodgers fans.
Garvey points at a huge carton of mail in his locker. "That's four days' worth," he said. "Somehow, I'll manage to answer it all. They all tell me that I was right to fight Don. They said it was the only thing a man could do.
"It was just the last straw," Garvey said of Sutton's August remarks implying, if not directly saying, that Garvey was "a Madison Avenue image, a facade>"
I've had to hear that kind of stuff pretty regularly for quite a while," said garvey. 'I just had to draw a line some place. I had to stand up for my family and my integrity."
Few people close to the Dodgers doubt that the wrestling match with Sutton inspired Garvey to the finest September of his career: a .430 final month, 46 hits in his last 29 games.
"People always tell me how strong I am," said Garvey, looking at his Popeye arms. "But my real strength is in my ability to concentrate, to block things out, when it's really important to me.
"I think that explains my success in these (postseason) games. People who fall are people who can't concentrate, who can't achieve a state of controlled aggression.
"I have little tricks. Once I get to the park, I keep as busy as I can. If I sit in one place too long, I start to get too tightly wound. That's the worst possible thing.
"Oh, yes," said Garvey, annoyed with himself. "I almost forgot.I'm not a heavily religious person, but I've found it really helps to say to yourself, 'Lord I put my life in your hands.' It takes pressure off."
Garvey, in his state of maximum calm, maximum concentration, maximum self-confidence, is a hitter without a weakness.
"Garvey is awesome, frightening, when he's hitting like he is now," said Philadelphia's Randy Lerch. "I threw him a fast ball low and in, it wasn't even a strike. But he crushed it...I still can't believe he hit it halfway up the bleachers."
"Steve's something, all right," said Phillie Mike Schmidt. "He'll come out of his grave to hit line drives in the playoffs.
"That's what sound fundamentals do for you under pressure, I guess. He's like a little rock up there."
Garvey's normally alert, bemused face gets quiet, withdrawn and a trifle mysterious when playoff, World Series and All Star game statistics are mentioned. They are his greatest pride.
"Kinda hard to explain, isn't it," he said, face exploding in a lantern-jawed grin.
Garvey hit .389 with 22 total bases and four homers in last week's four playoff games against the Phils, the unquestioned MVP performance. Yet that .389 mark actually lowered his career average in "spotlight" games to .394.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound first baseman has hit .367 in three playoff series, .378 in two World Series and .500 in five All Star games. His slugging average for all 28 games (109 at bats) is beyond all probabilities-.752, a mark that is 250 points above his career slugging average.
To those who chip away at the walls of Fortress Garvey, to those who laught at the son of the one-time Dodger bus driver, those numbers are his concluding argument.
Brinkman in Game 6 and Vargo again in Game 7.
Vargo and Haller will be working their third World Series and Kibler and Springstead are appearing for the second time. It is the first World Series for Brinkman and Pulli.
Serving as official scores for the Series will be Bill Liston of the Boston Herald-American, Gordon Verrell of the Long Beach Independent and Jack Lang of the New York Daily news.