Eric Gagné

June 03, 2007

WHEN CLOSER Eric Gagné came into games at Dodger Stadium a few years ago, the words GAME OVER flashed on the scoreboard. That's the respect you get for converting an unheard-of 84 straight save chances. Then Gagné had two elbow surgeries and one for herniated disks, missing most of 2005 and '06. Now in Texas, he had allowed just one run in 1013 innings through Sunday—he did miss two weeks with an injury, but only to a muscle in his buttocks. At 31, the bespectacled Canadian may be back in the zone.

On coming to Texas
It was an easy adjustment. The guys are so positive, it's a good place to start again. I thought [Dallas] would be a country place, but it's glitzy and has great restaurants. My favorite steak house is N9ne.

On his trademark glasses
In Double A, I couldn't see the [catcher's] signs, and I knew I needed glasses. I have an astigmatism, and my vision isn't stable, so I can't get Lasik. I have scars on my corneas from playing hockey, so I can't put contacts in. I wore those ugly goggles until Oakley said they'd custom-make my glasses.

On growing up in Mascouche, Que. (pop. 30,000)
It's a French Canadian community near Montreal. I played hockey from the time I was three until I was 19. Then the Dodgers called and said I could get paid to play baseball. I said, "Sounds like a plan."

On his parents
My dad [Richard, 53] has been a city bus driver for 37 years. My mom [Carole, 51] has been a waitress since she was 17. She still puts in 60-hour weeks at a Greek restaurant. I've asked them to retire, but they say they'd be bored.

On his wife, Valerie
I've known her since I was 12. Her brothers and her ex-boyfriend played hockey and baseball, so I knew her from the rinks and the fields. I used to call her a groupie. We didn't start dating until I was 20, but I married her twice. She was having a hard time going back and forth from Canada, so we got married in L.A. for the paperwork. It was just the two of us. But she's Italian, so her family wanted a real big wedding. We did it again in Montreal in front of 320 people.

On his three kids
Faye is 6 1/2, Maddox 3 1/2 and Bluu 1 1/2. People think I named Maddox after Greg Maddux, but it's because I love Angelina Jolie. When she named her son Maddox, I thought it was cool. And people think Dodger blue with Bluu, but it was the name of a store we saw, and she was born in Arizona, where there's always a blue sky.

On how he learned English
I enrolled in Seminole State junior college in Oklahoma to play [in 1995]. I didn't speak any English, and I started learning by watching Seinfeld and Mad about You. Then I would tape my classes, and my teammates helped me translate them. The guys were awesome. When you're learning a language you're shy about talking, but they encouraged me. That's why I bond with the Dominican players who don't speak the language well—I understand how they feel. When people are laughing and you don't know if they're laughing at you, it's hard.

On closing
I used to be a starter [1999--2001], but mentally I'm a closer. I've always been aggressive. My strength is being emotional on the mound. I like the challenge of failure, the pressure of [knowing] if I mess up, just one pitch could cost us the game.

SI.COM

PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT SEALE PHOTOROBERT SEALE (GAGNÉ)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)