From Mad Dog to Mentor His days as a major league hothead are just a memory to Triple A skipper Garry Templeton

June 26, 2000
June 26, 2000

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June 26, 2000

From Mad Dog to Mentor His days as a major league hothead are just a memory to Triple A skipper Garry Templeton

A man is sitting in the manager's office at Edmonton's TELUS
Field, filling out a lineup card, humming a song. His head is
shaved. He has a gut and a sheepish grin. He wears wire-rimmed
glasses. His passion of passions is golf. You do not recognize
him. They say this is the skipper. They say he is Garry Lewis

This is an article from the June 26, 2000 issue Original Layout

How could it be? You remember Templeton. Not for his 2,096 career
hits, nor for being the first man to get 100 hits from each side
of the plate in a single season. No, you remember him for the
huge Afro and the fiery eyes and the me-me-me attitude and the
forbidding scowl and the contract squabbles and the refusal to
play in All-Star Games. Most of all, you remember him for Aug.
26, 1981. On that afternoon, in a game at Busch Stadium,
Templeton, then the St. Louis Cardinals' 25-year-old shortstop,
responded to the rowdy home crowd with a series of offensive
gestures--punctuated by a crotch grab that caused manager Whitey
Herzog to bolt from the dugout and yank his star from the field.

"He'll have to live with that the rest of his life, and it's not
going to be easy," said Gene Tenace, the Cardinals' catcher, who
was enraged by Templeton's antics. "The rest of his life, he'll
walk down the street and be labeled."

Templeton is reminded of the long-ago incident, of what Tenace
said at the time. Gently he rubs his thick black mustache, which
is sprinkled with gray. "Gene Tenace," he says, "can say whatever
he wants. I was a young, immature kid who made some mistakes."
Pause. "That was a long time ago. The past is the past."

Somehow, baseball mellowed Templeton, transformed him from
problem child with the Cardinals to savvy-yet-wobbly-kneed leader
during 91/2 seasons with the San Diego Padres to one of the
game's hot managerial prospects. He is in his first year with the
Triple A Edmonton Trappers, who, despite 51 roster moves since
the start of the season, were 33-34 at week's end, 11 games back
of the Salt Lake Buzz in the Pacific Coast League. It is
Templeton's style, even more than his appearance, that shocks. At
44 he is as low-key as they come, a student of the Joe
Torre-Dusty Baker school of managing.

"His biggest quality is his demeanor," says Leon (Bull) Durham,
the Trappers' hitting coach and Templeton's onetime teammate in
St. Louis. "He's not someone to get upset, no matter how bad
things get. We just lost five in a row. With some managers that's
a panic. Tempy's too cool. He teaches, not screams."

Templeton swears he's in this for educational purposes. Shortly
after the crotch grabbing St. Louis made a blockbuster trade,
sending Templeton to the Padres for another All-Star shortstop, a
wiry kid by the name of Ozzie Smith. Newspapers immediately wrote
of a potential time bomb--the hotheaded Templeton playing for the
hotter-headed Dick Williams. "But Dick Williams turned out to be
my favorite manager," Templeton says. "He was an instructor.
Yeah, he could scream and intimidate, but his passion was making
a baseball player a better baseball player. That's my love, too.
I learned tons from him."

After the 1991 season, having played 2,079 major league games and
having had seven surgeries on his left knee, Templeton retired.
He stayed in San Diego, where he spent two years competing on
several California amateur golf tours. The former shortstop never
thought about coaching until 1994, when Detroit Tigers vice
president of baseball operations and general manager Randy Smith,
who was then with the Padres, offered him a gig as a roving minor
league infield instructor.

Templeton spent two seasons as a rover, then two years back on
the links before, in 1998, he was named manager of the Cedar
Rapids (Iowa) Kernels, one of the Anaheim Angels' Class A
affiliates. Last season he led the Class AA Erie (Pa.) SeaWolves
to the Eastern League semifinals and an 81-61 mark. "I can't
imagine playing for a better guy than Tempy," says Edmonton
utility infielder Keith Luuloa, "but every once in a while he'll
say, 'If I were still playing... ' or 'This is what I would've
done.... ' It's rare, but...."

But, in the right mood, at passing moments--"If I didn't have all
my knee injuries," the manager says, "I'd definitely be in the
Hall of Fame. No doubt about it"--the new Garry Templeton still
resembles the old Garry Templeton. Somehow, that's comforting to

--Jeff Pearlman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Templeton began to settle down after the Cardinals traded him to the Padres.