Friday, August 3, 2007
More Hits and Errors: The Annals of Substance Abuse in Baseball, cont'd
* Two-time American league batting champ (1951 and 1952) Ferris Fain retired to his farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, where he became a two-time loser (1985 and 1988) busted for growing hundreds of pot plants.
* In 1962, Red Sox pitcher Gene Conley climbed off the team bus in the midst of a New York City traffic jam and disappeared. Three days later, he was discovered at Idlewild Airport, trying to board a plane for Israel without a ticket or passport but with plenty of liquor in his system. Conley later explained, "I don't know why I did it."
* Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on LSD in 1970. "The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't," Ellis later said.
* Basestealing champ and Rookie of the Year Tim Raines developed his own distinctive head-first sliding style early in his career. The purpose was not so much to get him to the base quicker as to protect the vials of cocaine he frequently kept in his back pockets.
* The 1983 Cy Young winner, LaMarr Hoyt, exhibited the control that made him such an effective pitcher when he stuffed 1000 valiums into his underwear in Mexico and tried to drive across the border with them in 1986. Unfortunately, customs officials had timed his delivery, and Hoyt ended up spending 45 days in jail.
* The Phillies of the early 1980s, a team known as the Wheeze Kids because of the advanced age of such former superstars as Pete Rose and Joe Morgan, eventually revealed the secret of their perpeutal youth: Greenies, or little green amphetamine pills, which the team swallowed by the handful. "Pete Rose was having trouble with his weight," the Phillies' Dr. Feelgood later testified, "and he needed some help with his thirty-eight year old body."
But there's always hope for redemption: Billy Sunday of Ames, Iowa, was a speedy rookie outfielder -- sort of the Coco Crisp of his day -- playing for Cap Anson in Chicago in the 1883, enjoying the temptations of big-city life, when he came wandering out of a saloon one night and heard his mother's favorite hymn, "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" He stumbled over to the mission where it was playing and suddenly got religion. He stopped drinking and devoted his life to the Lord. Sunday's career as an evangelist lasted three times as long as his baseball career.