Former Indians Manager Dave Garcia Dies at 97
Vince Guerrieri | On 23, May 2018
Dave Garcia, a baseball lifer whose eight-decade career included stints coaching and managing the Indians, died Tuesday at the age of 97.
Garcia died in San Diego, where he had been in long-term care, but prior to that he could be spotted at Petco Park. His baseball career started in 1938 when the East St. Louis native was signed to a contract by the St. Louis Browns following a tryout. He got beaned and was promptly cut in spring training. The year after, a knee injury derailed him. He had a decent year in 1942, but World War II intervened, and he served three years in the U.S. Army Air Forces. After that, baseball was his career – and a lengthy one.
He bounced around the minor leagues for the better part of the next two decades, first with the Giants and then, starting in 1969 with the expansion Padres. The following year, he was added to Preston Gomez’s staff as a third-base coach. After more than 30 years, he’d finally made the major leagues.
In 1975, he was added to Frank Robinson’s coaching staff in Cleveland, and two years later he became the interim manager of the Angels after the firing of Norm Sherry. But Garcia gave way to Jim Fregosi in the middle of the 1978 season, and the following year, he was on Jeff Torborg’s coaching staff in Cleveland.
Torborg was fired in July 1979 and Garcia was tapped to succeed him. It was supposed to be on an interim basis, but he ended up serving as manager through the 1982 season, making him the longest-serving manager since Al Lopez more than 25 years earlier. (Garcia announced in May of that year he’d resign following the season, but the team’s 78-84 sixth-place finish in the American League East meant he probably would have been fired.)
Rumors swirled that Garcia’s successor in the Indians dugout would be then-Athletics manager Billy Martin, who was fired at the end of the 1982 season, but he returned to the Bronx the following year. Instead, the Indians hired Mike Ferraro, who went 40-60 the following year before being replaced by Pat Corrales.
Garcia’s record in Cleveland was 247-244, the first Indians manager to finish with a winning record since Birdie Tebbetts resigned in 1966, and the last one to do so until Mike Hargrove in the 1990s! Garcia’s winning record is even more remarkable given how bad the Indians were at the time.
Media members spoke well of Garcia too. Plain Dealer writer Chuck Heaton called him “One of the finest gentlemen to hold the Cleveland reins,” saying he had all the qualities of a good manager – but none of the players, a fact Garcia was sanguine about in his exit interview.
“I don’t think a manager can turn a team around on his own,” Garcia said. “At least, I don’t think I was capable of doing it.”
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project