Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Steve and Cyndy Garvey were known as a clean-living, conservative couple whose perfect family life mirrored their perfect looks. Freelance journalist Pat Jordan’s article about them in Inside Sports magazine includes Cyndy discussing her dissatisfaction with the marriage and wishes for an affair. The Garveys sued the magazine and Jordan for libel, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract but settled out of court. The article was the beginning of the end of the Garveys’ marriage and perfect image.

Summary of Event

Steve and Cyndy Garvey were media darlings during the late 1970’s, appearing in various magazine spreads with their two young daughters. The pair, married since 1971, frequently appeared on television together talking about their perfect family and their devotion to one another. Steve, who was a star baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had political aspirations and was considered the perfect family man, and Cyndy was starting make a name for herself as the cohost, with Philbin, Regis Regis Philbin, of the Los Angeles morning television show AM Los Angeles. [kw]Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems, Magazine Reveals (July 28, 1980) [kw]Garvey’s Marital Problems, Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve (July 28, 1980) Baseball;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Paternity suits;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Jordan, Pat Garvey, Steve Garvey, Cyndy Inside Sports magazine Libel cases;and Steve Garvey[Garvey] Marriage;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Baseball;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Paternity suits;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Jordan, Pat Garvey, Steve Garvey, Cyndy Inside Sports magazine Libel cases;and Steve Garvey[Garvey] Marriage;Steve Garvey[Garvey] [g]United States;July 28, 1980: Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems[01890] [c]Publishing and journalism;July 28, 1980: Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems[01890] [c]Popular culture;July 28, 1980: Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems[01890] [c]Families and children;July 28, 1980: Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems[01890] [c]Women’s issues;July 28, 1980: Magazine Reveals Baseball Star Steve Garvey’s Marital Problems[01890]

Steve and Cyndy Garvey with their daughters, Whitney and Krisha, in 1978.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the spring of 1980, freelance writer Pat Jordan was contracted by Inside Sports magazine to write a story about the couple, popularly known as Ken and Barbie, a reference to the popular toy dolls with seemingly perfect physiques and lives. The unflattering article, “Trouble in Paradise,” which appeared on newsstands on July 28, 1980, in Inside Sports, was based primarily on taped conversations with Cyndy. Jordan depicted the couple as drifting apart, and Cyndy was portrayed as an angry, somewhat empty woman who felt trapped by her image. Cyndy also appeared as a neglected “baseball wife” considering an affair. In her 1989 memoir The Secret Life of Cyndy Garvey, she reveals that she already had an affair before the interview with Jordan in 1980.

Cyndy also claims in her memoir that Jordan told her that his article would be about the struggles of baseball families, so she assumed that other baseball wives would be interviewed for the piece as well. This would not be the case. She also claims that the conversation between herself and Jordan was so relaxed that she did not even realize that he had begun to tape-record their discussion.

The article breaks down the couple’s story into sections such as “The House,” “The Wife,” “The Job,” and “The Husband.” It notes that they have money, but not taste. Cyndy is quoted as saying, for example, “I’ll only go with my husband to talk shows if I have a vehicle of my own. I can sing you know. I can dance, I can talk. I can chew gum.” She also shares her feelings of frustration about her husband being withdrawn, even distant, when he is not on the road with the Dodgers, and she shares her anger about having been alone when their first child, a girl, was born; Steve was playing for the Dodgers in the World Series at the time of their daughter’s birth. She also is cynical about her husband’s political ambitions, noting that in a decade she would be a “senator’s wife.”

Jordan portrayed Steve more sympathetically, however, casting him as a calculating person, but a person who also loves his wife and who cannot understand why she is upset. Jordan wrote, “Steve Garvey is infatuated with his wife. He has loved her in the same way for 10 years, and now that that is no longer enough for her, he is confused.”

Cyndy took most of the blame for the revelations in the damaging article. Many readers felt sympathy for Steve. Cyndy recalls in her memoir a time when she was listening to a radio call-in show on her way home from work. Callers said she was an “ingrate” and a “bimbo.” In a letter to the editor in the November 30, 1980, issue of Inside Sports, Dani Torre, married at the time to New York Mets manager Joe Torre, wrote that “Cyndy needs help” and “Bravo to the real good boys who play ball, and their women, who plan babies for the off-season.”

The Garveys sued Jordan and Newsweek magazine Newsweek, Inc. (owners of Inside Sports magazine) for libel, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract, arguing that Jordan broke an oral agreement that his feature would be “favorable” to the couple and would focus on the “special challenges” they faced in their marriage. Cyndy later wrote that she was the one who had insisted on suing, while Steve had been concerned that the suit would interfere with his attempt to maintain his streak of consecutive games played. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, also named in the lawsuit, wanted to reprint the Inside Sports article but was blocked from doing so, temporarily. The Garveys sought the court’s help in preventing the newspaper from publishing the piece. Attorneys for Newsweek and the Herald-Examiner appealed, and the paper was cleared to publish the story. (The Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times reprinted the story first, though, the day after the Herald-Examiner was given permission to do so by the court.)

In July of 1981, the Garveys announced they had settled the suit out of court. The couple’s lawyer stated publicly that the suit was settled for “a lot of money,” which was not the case. Lawyers for Newsweek struck back. They noted that the Garveys’ attorney violated a written confidentiality agreement between parties in the lawsuit. The Garveys, Newsweek attorneys added, “dropped this $11.2 million suit for about 1 cent on the dollar.” In September of that same year, the Garveys separated; they divorced in 1985.


Steve continued playing baseball until May, 1987, ending his career with the San Diego Padres. Cyndy wrote her memoir. She tells her readers in the book that she had been physically abused by her father and was emotionally abused by Steve, whom she referred to as “a sociopath who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions.” She added, “If Ted Bundy [a serial murderer] is a 10, then Steve’s a 7.” Her memoir brought much-needed attention to domestic violence. Cyndy also claims that Steve did not provide child support (a claim he denied). That same year, two women sued Steve, claiming he was the father of their children. He later admitted that he had fathered children with two other women.

The paternity cases, coupled with Cyndy’s comments about him in the Inside Sports article, made Steve into a national joke of sorts. A popular bumper sticker of the time read, “Honk if you’re carrying Steve Garvey’s baby.” Later that year, Cyndy was sentenced to 130 days in jail for violating a court order that allowed Steve to visit the children. Steve did not run for public office, but he started his own company, Garvey Communications, in 1988 and also works as a motivational speaker.

It was no secret during the height of Garvey’s baseball career that he hoped to enter politics after retiring from baseball. Cyndy says in the article that she had been hoping for a more rewarding broadcasting career. “Trouble in Paradise” was the first crack in the Garveys’ image of perfection, leading to the picture-perfect couple’s separation within a year.

Neither Steve nor Cyndy recovered professionally from the bad press that began to appear after Inside Sports revealed the true couple behind the image. The divorce and the paternity suits ended Steve’s political ambitions, and Cyndy’s television career went nowhere. She had moved to New York in 1983 to host The Morning Show and was joined by Philbin, but she left the show in 1984. Steve and Cyndy’s marriage, seemingly untouchable, became the stuff of tabloids, talk-show television, and one-line jokes. Baseball;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Paternity suits;Steve Garvey[Garvey] Jordan, Pat Garvey, Steve Garvey, Cyndy Inside Sports magazine Libel cases;and Steve Garvey[Garvey] Marriage;Steve Garvey[Garvey]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fleming, Anne Taylor. “Garvey vs. Garvey: The Latest Chapter.” The New York Times, August 2, 1989. Discusses Cyndy Garvey’s thoughts about her former husband and her memoir, and examines Steve Garvey’s comments on the paternity suits against him.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Garvey, Cynthia, with Andy Meisler. The Secret Life of Cyndy Garvey. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Cyndy Garvey’s memoir details the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, as well as problems in her marriage to Garvey, who she claimed was emotionally abusive and having affairs for much of their marriage.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Garvey, Steve. My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from the Boys of Summer. New York: Scribner, 2008. Steve Garvey reminisces about his early years in baseball.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Going to Bat for a Marriage.” Time, August 25, 1980. Discusses the immediate aftermath of the Inside Sports article as well as the lawsuit against Jordan and attempts to stop the story from being reprinted.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jordan, Pat. “Trouble in Paradise.” Inside Sports, August 31, 1980. The article revealed that Cyndy’s frustrations with being a baseball wife and with being lonely and needing affection. This article was the first to hint of anything negative in the Garvey marriage.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reilly, Rick. “America’s Sweetheart.” Sports Illustrated, November 27, 1989. Discusses the messy divorce between the Garveys as well as Steve’s numerous affairs and the paternity cases against him.

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Categories: History