The Italian restaurant off Highway 57 in Brea, Calif., has a
limited menu, which is fine with Garret Anderson. "Everything
pretty much tastes the same," says the California Angels
leftfielder, by way of offering an entree recommendation. "After
all, when you get right down to it, there are really only two
This is an article from the March 12, 1996 issue
This is not a complaint; it is an observation in which Anderson
takes great comfort. Let others sample life's rich
banquet--he'll have the usual. "I like sameness," Anderson says.
"I like things simple and familiar, and I don't like a lot of
detail. I'm a Plain Jane." Thus the 6'3", 190-pound Anderson
limits his wardrobe to unadorned T-shirts and jeans--garments he
has insisted on ironing himself since the fifth grade--and gets
seriously bummed when his cleats supplier changes styles on him.
He watches his favorite movies over and over, "to pick up things
I missed the first time," he says. Is it any surprise, then,
that the flick he has viewed more times than any other is Back
to the Future, about a guy who travels back in time?
And speaking of travel, Anderson doesn't, much, except when work
requires it. Which is not to say this 23-year-old homebody isn't
After an inaugural major league season in which he finished a
close second in the voting for American League Rookie of the
Year, Anderson is on the brink of stardom. "He is going to be a
very special player," says Angels manager Marcel Lachemann, who
called up the low-key lefty from Triple A Vancouver in June and
then watched him emerge with all the subtlety of a
jack-in-the-box. In July, Anderson hit a sizzling .410 with
seven home runs and 31 RBIs and became the first rookie ever
named the AL Player of the Month.
When California went through an epic slump in August and
September, Anderson cooled off as well, but he finished the
season with a .321 average, 16 home runs and 69 RBIs in just 106
games. "Last year we saw in Garret a guy who can hit for average
and for power and has a great ability to drive in runs," says
Angels first base coach Joe Maddon. "Those are three attractive
A fourth is Anderson's natural lefthanded swing, a quick and
fluid stroke that has been compared to that of Ken Griffey Jr.
"Garret has that hitter's mentality too," says Maddon. "He
really believes he can hit the ball." Indeed, when it came to
making hay on an 0-2 count last year, no one in the majors was
better than Anderson, who batted .405 in that situation.
Anderson may not yet have Barry Bonds's gilded glove in
leftfield, but neither does he project any Bondsian arrogance or
churlishness. With what he calls his "monotone personality," he
maintains a low profile in the clubhouse. "He has earned the
respect of his teammates for the quiet way he handles himself,"
says Maddon. "He never tries to bring attention to himself, and
he's not boastful, except maybe in one respect: When he does
something really good, he can't stop smiling."
Manny Alvarado, Anderson's coach at Kennedy High in Granada
Hills, Calif., still carries a black-and-white photo of that
megawatt beam. The picture is from 1989, Anderson's junior year,
and was taken right after he hit a three-run homer that sent
Kennedy to the L.A. city championships; as he trots home,
Anderson flashes an I-just-won-the-lottery grin. "His nickname
in high school was Cadillac," says Alvarado, "because he made
everything look so smooth and easy."
Although scouts initially mistook that fluidity for
laziness--"Some guys couldn't believe Garret was actually
hustling out there," says Alvarado--Anderson was plucked in the
fourth round of the 1990 draft by the Angels, a team that played
in his backyard but had somehow escaped his notice. "Honestly,
as a kid, I didn't know they existed," says Anderson. By the end
of 1994, after he had led Vancouver in hits, doubles and RBIs,
Anderson was ready to get to know his hometown team. He was
pared from California's 25-man roster last May but was recalled
in June when Eduardo Perez fizzled at third and Tony Phillips
vacated leftfield to replace him. "When we sent Garret away last
May, he thought we had made a mistake," says Lachemann. "It
didn't take him long to come back and make us think maybe we had."
No matter how good a player he becomes, it's unlikely that
Anderson will develop delusions of self-importance. "I remind
myself to not let it change me," he says. "I don't want to get
Anderson got his grounding from his mother, Lieta Smith, who
gave birth to Garret at the age of 15 and essentially raised him
by herself. From Smith, Anderson also got his passion for '70s
R&B music, his simple tastes and his dulcet voice, which--his
quiet clubhouse image notwithstanding--is in frequent use. Smith
laughs at the notion that her son is the silent type. "Are you
kidding?" she says. "When he was little, I used to offer to pay
him to stop talking."
Anderson could happily spend the whole day chatting with his
wife of three years, Teresa, and never leaving their apartment.
Smith changed jobs frequently, and moving with his mom from one
Southern California city to another when he was young gave
Anderson a yearning for a permanent hearth. "It hurt to move a
lot as a kid," he says. "If it were up to me, I'd live in the
same house my whole life."
As it is, Anderson has yet to live in any house at all, and he
looks forward to someday building his own. But don't expect a
palace. "It'll be my space," he says. "So of course it won't be
anything out of the ordinary."