There was little suspense as to what Mike Garman would do after high school.
He was dominant in three sports at Caldwell High — football, basketball and baseball — but it was on a pitcher’s mound where he truly belonged.
In the spring of 1967, the hard-throwing right-hander knew he would be selected high in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but he didn’t know where.
Garman, then 17 years old, was a lock to become the first player from Idaho selected in the first round, and there was even talk of him being taken first overall. As it happened, the Boston Red Sox picked Garman with the third overall selection. The New York Yankees used the first overall pick on first baseman Ron Blomberg, who later became the first designated hitter in major league history. The Chicago Cubs picked shortstop Terry Hughes second overall.
Forty-four years later, Garman remains the highest drafted player from Idaho and one of seven players with Idaho ties to be selected in the first round.
“I was kind of disappointed that I wasn’t picked No. 1, everyone told me that I was going to be,” said Garman, who lives in Caldwell. “It’s still a nice thing to be the No. 1 pitcher in the nation drafted.”
During his junior and senior years of high school, scouts from every MLB team attended games to see the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Garman dominate with his mid-90s fastball and hammer curveball. It was not unusual for him to strike out 17 batters in a game.
“He was very dominating,” said Garman’s brother, Steve Garman. “Kids were scared to bat against him. I’m sure he threw in the mid 90s back then. He dominated every game.”
Things have definitely changed from the time Garman was drafted to this year’s draft.
On Monday, the players selected atop this year’s MLB Draft will be on televisions across the country via the MLB Network.
It was not the same in 1967. Garman simply received a phone call from the scout who recommended him to the Red Sox and he was interviewed by the organization’s play-by-play broadcaster, Curt Gowdy.
“It just was a different era,” Garman said. “I never would have believed just how things are done today compared to when I signed.”
Garman said he has never told anyone how much he actually signed for on June 9, 1967, but he did say it was under $100,000.
The third overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft, Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado, signed with the Baltimore Orioles for $5.25 million.
“Mike, he came too early,” said Steve Garman, who played quarterback at the University of Idaho and later played two years in the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system. “They didn’t pay out the big bucks like they do now.”
Garman used his signing bonus to purchase a home in Caldwell, a place he and his family — wife, Linda, and sons, Greg and Sean — called home for years.
But from that spring of 1967 until he threw his last pitch in the big leagues on Sept. 29, 1978, Garman said his family also called 54 difference residences home.
He played for the Boston Red Sox (1969-1973), St. Louis Cardinals (1974-1975), Chicago Cubs (1976), Los Angeles Dodgers (1977-1978) and Montreal Expos (1978).
His best season was 1975 with the Cardinals, when he posted a .273 ERA and 10 saves in 79 innings pitching out of the bullpen.
He pitched in a World Series with the Dodgers in 1977.
He was called up to the Red Sox and made his major league debut on Sept. 22, 1969 against the New York Yankees at Boston’s Fenway Park.
“Standing out there for the National Anthem, if there would have been a hole I could have jumped into, I would have right then,” Garman said. “It’s really one of those things that you’ve thought about your whole life.”
The then-19-year-old struck out six, walked six and held the rival Yankees to three runs on five hits. He also went 1-for-3 at the plate as Boston won 4-3 to give Garman his first big league win.
He still has the ball from that game.
“I’ve got it in the closet somewhere with a lot of other stuff,” he said.
After his retirement from the game, Garman returned to Caldwell. He worked with his brother, Steve, farming orchards and corn seed in Wilder. Later he took a job at Farm Bureau Insurance in Caldwell, where he still works.
“I got traded for him and now he’s a now my insurance broker,” said Bill Buckner, a Boise resident, whom the Los Angeles Dodgers sent with Ivan de Jesus to the Chicago Cubs for Garman, Rick Monday and minor leaguer Jeff Alberts in 1977.
What Garman hangs on to more than anything are the memories of the stories from his days facing the likes of Buckner, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
“Stand out there pitching, is one thing that I’ll cherish my whole life,” Garman said. “I never got tired of it. As far as the travel and being away from family all those years, that wasn’t the best thing.”