BETTY FORD CLINIC – Today is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. But this post is not meant to make light of the seriousness of addiction or the violent nature of the drug trade in any way. The prevalence of drugs in our society is such that we can fill a solid Major League Baseball starting lineup, with an All-Time MLB Abuse Team. Maybe talking about it can help change things. To that end, here are my nine men out…
Starting Pitcher Denny McLain: McLain is the last pitcher in Major League Baseball to win 30 or more games during a season (31–6)— a feat that you can be certain will never be duplicated again. The colorful righty served time in prison for cocaine trafficking in his post playing career among other assorted crimes.
Relief Pitcher Steve Howe: A former Rookie of the Year in 1980 for the Dodgers, Howe liked his booze and cocaine so much he was suspended an astounding seven times during his career. When you’re banned that many times you’re reinstated about the same number of times. Baseball commissioners, hamstrung by the players union, refused to send the correct message to drug abusers during the 80’s era of excess.
First Base Willie Mays Aikens: A short-lived slugger for the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, Aikens had his own demons when it came to drugs during and after a semi-successful playing career. Toward the end of the 1983 season, Aikens pleaded guilty to attempting to purchase cocaine and sentenced to three months in prison. In 1994, Aikens was sentenced to twenty years in prison on four counts of crack cocaine distribution and one count of use of a firearm during drug trafficking.
Second Base Alan Wiggins: During his career with the Padres and Orioles, Wiggins struggled with drug addiction, which resulted in multiple arrests and suspensions from baseball. His drug problems prompted a 1985 trade from San Diego to Baltimore. The second sacker may be more famous for being diagnosed with AIDS and in 1991, was the first MLB player known to die of the disease.
Shortstop Dale Berra: At the cocaine distribution trial of Curtis Strong, more commonly known in baseball as the Pittsburgh Drug Trials, Yogi’s son testified that he shared nose candy with other members of the Pirates including the Pirate Parrot mascot. Trouble with the white powder continued a year after his retirement when arrested on possession charges in 1989.
Third Base Ken Caminiti: Alcohol, steroids and cocaine dot the dossier of this former Gold Glove and MVP winner. Camo died in the hallway of a “friend’s” South Bronx tenement building after overdosing on a speedball. Lincoln Hospital is a helluva place to be wheeled into, but this is where it all ended for the talented Caminiti.
Outfield Tim Raines: With a nickname of “Rock” and his documented early use of coke, you give a second thought to origins of the moniker. Getting closer to the HOF, Raines has allegedly been quoted as saying the reason for his trademark head-first slide was to keep the crack vial always kept in his back pocket from breaking.
Outfield Otis Nixon:Had a lengthy journeyman career and always looked like he had that aging disease or forgot to put his dentures in his mouth. A veteran of over 1,700 ballgames, Nixon had his addiction problems and followed him on and off the field well into his retirement.
Outfield Lonnie Smith: Another plaintiff in the Pittsburgh trials, Smith had the nickname of “Skates” due to his clumsy defensive footwork in centerfield. In 1987 and addicted to cocaine, he considered murdering Royals GM John Schuerholz whom Smith accused of having him blackballed from baseball.
Come back tomorrow for a guy who doesn’t blow, DJ Eberle.