Afternoon of a Centaur

Evolving (?) from fresh-faced wunderkind and secret marketing savant to reviled steroid-using superjock damned for his cleats of clay, Alex Rodriguez was the marquee baseball player of his era, reflecting Major League Baseball’s unprecedented financial growth—the man signed two contracts worth over $250 million—and of course its PR problems regarding the widespread player use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).

Our man in the stands Nathan Michael Corzine delves into A-Rod as drug user and symbol in his UIP book Team Chemistry. After all, you can’t write a book about pro baseball’s 150-year history with drugs and alcohol and leave out the modern-day PED poster boy. In observance of Alex Rodriguez’s final moments on the baseball field—at least until he decides next spring to mount a comeback everyone will moan about—let’s look at a Team Chemistry top five of under-the-influence baseball moments:

1. Flint Rhem, who led the National League in wins in 1926 while pitching for the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, disappeared from the team for a brief spell in 1930 just as the Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers were locked in a tight pennant race. When he eventually turned up, bedraggled and a little worse for wear, Rhem swore to manager Gabby Street that he had been kidnapped by gangsters (of the Dodger partisan variety) and forced, at gunpoint, to drink copious amounts of alcohol.

2. After games, trainers fitted [Sandy] Koufax with a rudimentary rubber sleeve that he was to wear while holding his arm in a bucket of freezing ice water. The cold usually managed to reduce the swelling in his elbow, which on some days grew as large as his knee. . . . But he also ingested a variety of painkillers including codeine. Struggling through pain with “every pitch,” he was occasionally injected with cortisone (though never with Novocain), and most controversially, toward the end of his career he was administered oral doses of Butazolidin. “It killed a few people,” Dr. Frank Jobe admitted of the [anti-inflammatory] drug that was primarily used in horse racing—often illegally.

3. Club president John McHale recalled instances where star outfielder Tim Raines “vaguely held the ball without completing a play or momentarily forgot to run the bases.” Raines had only recently admitted that he packed a gram bottle of cocaine in the hip pocket of his uniform pants for “short snorts between innings. Mostly he concentrated on sliding into bases headfirst, to protect his stash.”

4. [Sam] McDowell was one of just a handful of pitchers to twice fan over three hundred men in a season. He averaged almost a strikeout an inning, quite an accomplishment for a man about whom teammate Dick Radatz once said: “We thought he was stupid. Turned out he was never sober.” . . . The Yankees, knowing about McDowell’s drinking habits, assigned a full-time guardian to keep him out of bars. “I used to get HIM drunk,” says McDowell.

5. [LaMarr Hoyt] was detained by authorities and paid a $620 fine on February 10 when he tried to sneak Valium and marijuana across the Mexican border at the San Ysidro port of entry. Eight days later San Diego police found marijuana and an illegal switchblade in his car during a traffic stop. He was given three years’ probation for the misdemeanor. After a stint in rehab, and a poor performance on the playing field, he was arrested again at San Ysidro on October 28 when a customs agent noticed a bulge in Hoyt’s clothing. The border guards confiscated two bags containing nearly five hundred pills—Valium and Propoxyphene. Sixty days in prison and a suspended sentence did little to put Hoyt on the right path. He missed all of 1987 when Ueberroth suspended him after he was arrested for attempting to sell cocaine.