Cocaine was the drug du jour of the 1980’s, infiltrating virtually every walk of life. Its presence was felt on the diamond as well, as on this day, three members of the Kansas City Royals, and four Major Leaguers in total, were jailed for attempting to purchase cocaine.
There was a time in the 1980’s where cocaine was virtually everywhere. From the poorest neighborhoods to Wall Street, it was the drug of choice. The usage of cocaine extended to the baseball diamond as well, where quite a few players had their careers derailed, or even ended, due to their addictions.
That addiction even resulted in several prominent players serving time in prison. On this day in 1983, three members of the Kansas City Royals: Willie Wilson, Willie Aikens, and Jerry Martin, were sentenced to three months in jail for attempting to cocaine. Vida Blue, Martin’s former teammate on the Oakland Athletics, was also given the same sentence.
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Those sentences also resulted in further punishment. Each of the four players, along with reliever Steve Howe, were handed a one year suspension by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Blue, Martin, and Wilson were able to rejoin their teams on May 15, 1984, their suspensions overturned as they had fulfilled the requirements set forth by Major League Baseball to return to the game.
This would, sadly, only be the beginning. Just two years later, the Pittsburgh Drug Trials put a spotlight on how much cocaine had infiltrated the game. In this trial, players like Rod Scurry and Dale Berra were implicated, as was the Pirates mascot. Yes, the mascot.
While players like Wilson, Tim Raines, Dave Parker, and Keith Hernandez would overcome their addictions and continue to be productive players, others fell victim to the drug. Martin was out of baseball after the 1984 season. Aikens served 15 years in prison for drug trafficking. Alan Wiggins, a promising speedster, ended up dying of AIDS, which he contracted from IV drug use. And Howe was in and out of baseball, suspended seven times and given a lifetime ban in 1992 which was later overturned.
The 1983 drug scandal, where three members of the Kansas City Royals and Jerry Martin‘s former Oakland A’s teammate, Vida Blue, were sentenced to prison was just the tip of the iceberg. It was on this day in 1983 when we began to have a sense of how much cocaine had infiltrated the game.