Los Angeles Dodgers legendary first baseman Steve Garvey hosted a celebrity softball classic and youth baseball clinic Saturday at Eddy D. Field Stadium on the campus of Pepperdine University. The festivities benefited the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the ALS Association.
ALS, commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is named after the New York Yankee Baseball Hall of Famer who died of the illness at age 37 in 1941.
“[Gehrig] was an idol both on and off the field,” said Garvey, the 1974 National League Most Valuable Player. “He played the game like a professional, and went out there every day for the fans. Once he came down with ALS, he handled it with dignity and honor, and never gave up. He is an inspiration to all of us.”
The event began with a “family fun festival,” which included carnival games such as ring toss and pop-a-balloon, as well as an autograph stage and a silent auction.
Next, local little league players participated in a baseball clinic with instruction from former Dodgers players. Garvey taught hitting to the children, Kenny Landreaux instructed about defense, Rudy Law showed the players proper baserunning technique and Jerry Reuss explained to the little leaguers how to pitch effectively.
“When I was a kid, nobody came out to talk to us,” Law said. “Today’s clinic means a lot to the kids. It also means a lot to me to be able to be out there sharing information with the kids.”
After the clinic, the little leaguers watched their heroes compete in the Lou Gehrig Home Run Derby. The participants included Garvey, former San Diego Padre Kurt Bevacqua, 1988 American League Most Valuable Player Jose Canseco, “Desperate Housewives” actor James Denton and former Dodger Todd Zeile. Conseco decisively won the contest. He not only smashed the ball over the outfield fence, but also past a higher net installed to protect cars in the parking lot.
The event culminated with the Steve Garvey Celebrity Softball Classic, which pitted former Dodgers against a team of celebrities. Some former players, such as Canseco, proved they could still hit. Other players were quick to request pinch runners.
“I cannot run anymore,” former Dodger and Minnesota Twin Landreaux said. “I can hit it, but I do not know who is going to run for me. But we are just out there to have some fun.”
Celebrities included Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Jacobson of “House,” “Austin Powers”’ Vern Troyer, and Carl Weathers from “Rocky.” Fox Sports Net television analyst Petros Papadakis called the game.
Denton, who co-owns a minor league baseball franchise, wore Gehrig’s No. 4 Yankees jersey as part of a ceremony that took place before the celebrity game. He delivered Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest man on the face of the earth” retirement speech.
The talent and experience of the ballplayers proved too much for the celebrities, and the baseball legends won 10-8.
While the ballplayers and celebrities appeared to have fun, they played competitively against each other. Pete Rose, the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player and Cincinnati Reds legend, managed the celebrity team. As he presented the winning trophy to Garvey, Rose said with a smile, “Congratulations. But, by the way Steve, the Reds are in first place.”