"Why don't you people let him take a shower?" snarled Jay Johnstone at the crowd surrounding Steve Garvey. "Why don't you let him dry his plastic hair he got from Mattel . . . short little creep in his elevator shoes."
Somewhere in a thicket of reporters, Garvey smiled. Nothing else would do. Once, it was assumed that polyurethane coursed through his veins. This season, with its personal travails (his separation from his wife and children), has given him a blood type.
Just before he hit the two-run home run, his first of this series, in the top of the eighth, the score was tied, 1-1.
Now, an hour later, the game won and the series tied, Garvey stood, arms folded across his chest, as composed as ever. Tires screeched. Rubber burned. It sounded like the Hell's Angels were taking a detour through the clubhouse.
Dusty Baker (three for four, with three RBI) and Ken Landreaux boogied to the music and Garvey had to interrupt his briefing, briefly.
He couldn't name that tune ("Burn Rubber on Me," the Gap Band). It figured.
The Dodgers, led by Rick Monday, clambered on top of a picnic table and began crooning, derisively, "Fol-der-eee, fol-der-aaa . . . " That, Garvey recognized. He knows a fight song when he hears one.
Now, he was fighting off reporters, who were asking -- politely, deftly -- questions he didn't want to answer about the effect of his personal life on his season (.281, 10 home runs, 64 RBI).
"I have always been able to separate my personal life and my professional life," he said. "Throughout my life, I've always had people who tried to put them both together unfairly. It's about time people separated them. I think the average reader is tired of people opening up Steve Garvey's life on the pages of America's newspapers. I think they'd rather hear his thoughts on the game and the players and leave it at that."
Surely, it was suggested, there would be added incentive for him to meet the Yankees in New York (where his children now reside with their mother).
"Sure," he replied, with the greatest equanimity, "we haven't beaten the Yankees. We want to beat 'em. We lost two to them."
Just as surely, he knows there will be taunts from the stands, as there have been in several cities -- San Francisco, Atlanta and, today, Montreal -- about his personal problems. He does not respond overtly. "It would be showing a crack, a crack in which they get a wedge and get at you."
But he hears them, especially in cities, he says, that don't have as many fans, like Atlanta.
"One fan motivated me a lot today," he said.
No, it wasn't just before the home run. It was before the game. It was sufficient.
Gullickson had started him off with sliders, and so, another one was a fair guess. The first pitch to him in the eighth inning was up a little, fair game.
On Friday, Jerry White, a nobody who's not expected to do it, hit a three-run homer to win the game for his team. Today, Garvey, the somebody, who is supposed to do it, did.
This one will undoubtedly go on Garvey's "Rollodex (of memories) that sometimes flies open." Later, you can turn "to a certain card, and there's a certain deja vu to another time and another place."
There was, he said, a feeling of euphoria. "It's a very high feeling when you do something that's very difficult to do. But you can't get too high, you have to keep your emotions under control. You can't let your emotions fluctuate . . . I guess I get back to reality quicker than others. I know what happens if you allow your emotions to fluctuate."
Although he said he didn't want to talk about it, you couldn't help feeling that he was speaking not so much about the emotions of a moment but a season, and what he had been through.
"That's a pretty good summation," he said.
Someone more neurotic would be less dispassionate, less maddeningly even, less in control. "I don't hit writers," he said, smiling. "Did I ever yell back?"
No. Instead, he wonders aloud what became of the American flag that had been hanging in center field on Friday and asks after the pigeon with the injured wing that was marooned behind second base early in the game.
"You'll have to blame Joe and Mildred Garvey," he said, because he was always this way. "Probably didn't cry as much (as other kids) as a child. An only child, who was spoiled and played hard."
His teamates know he has been playing with pulled heartstrings.
"We knew he was hurt. He showed it," Baker said. "He's human. He showed it by showing anger and frustration during games and by not having the kind of year he's capable of having, though he still had a great year, considering.
"I like the man," he said, pointing at a reporter. "I love everybody. But I don't like everybody. You know what I mean?"