Sunday, August 6, 2017

Awesome night card, pt. 275: the drug decade

I can't go a week without reading something about the opioid crisis in this country. The U.S. has a drug problem, perhaps a bigger problem than ever, and I fear that even if this particular issue goes away, there always will be a problem with drugs.

I've held a healthy mistrust of drugs for most of my life, even legal ones. I believe that in many cases you can get what you need without the use of pharmaceuticals. But I realize that everyone is made differently.

I also grew up during a different time. At my high school, known drug users were outcasts, a select band of misfits that congregated after classes near the overhang where the buses parked to pick up kids. They looked different, they smelled different. I didn't need Nancy Reagan to tell me not to go over there.

But, obviously, even in the 1980s, drug use ran rampant elsewhere.

Cocaine was huge, I remember reading about it in Time magazine. And ballplayers were getting busted. I'd read that in Sports Illustrated. What an eye-opening experience it was during the '80s when the Pittsburgh drug trials named a number of well-known players, personal favorites of mine, as drug users.

Here is a list of players from the '80s tarnished by drugs. I'm sure I've missed a few:

Willie Aikens
Joaquin Andujar
Dale Berra
Vida Blue
Enos Cabell
Dick Davis
Leon Durham
Dwight Gooden
Keith Hernandez
Al Holland
Steve Howe
LaMarr Hoyt
Fergie Jenkins
Lee Lacy
Rick Leach
Jeffrey Leonard
Jerry Martin
Gary Matthews
Lee Mazzilli
Eddie Milner
John Milner
Dickie Noles
Dave Parker
Pascual Perez
Darrell Porter
Tim Raines
Manny Sarmiento
Darryl Sconiers
Rod Scurry
Lonnie Smith
Lary Sorensen
Willie Stargell
Darryl Strawberry
Derrel Thomas
Claudell Washington
Alan Wiggins
Willie Wilson
Floyd Youmans

Alan Wiggins' story is particularly sad as he's one of the few on that list who did not emerge alive from his drug addiction. His career ended at age 29 and he was dead by 32 in 1991.

The card above is interesting to me in that his Donruss card, along with his Topps and Fleer cards, shows Wiggins smiling. 1986 is the last time we see Wiggins smiling on cards. Check out his cards from '87 and '88, not a smile to be found (the 1987 season was a bad one).

His demise is well-known. He is thought to be the first major leaguer to die from complications related to AIDS, which he contracted through intravenous drug use. Yet, his legacy has been good to him. His daughter, Candice Wiggins, was a top basketball player for Stanford and is retired from the WNBA. Her brother, Alan Jr., also played college and pro basketball.

I grew up with a cautious attitude that I keep today. Some would call it a basic mistrust of the world. It has both helped and hindered me. I also grew up in a solid family environment, one that believed in education and the importance of reading.

I'm not perfect. I got into alcohol in college and encountered a few issues because of it. But I read all about those '80s ballplayers during that time and the problems they had with drugs and how it affected them afterward. I took note.

So I guess what I'm saying is not "just say no."

What I'm saying is: god dammit, read. Educate yourself.


Awesome Night Card binder candidate: Alan Wiggins, 1986 Donruss, #607
Does it make the binder?: I'm proud to include it.


  1. Don't mean to question your smile theory but 1988 Score card he is smiling in his picture on the back of the card.

  2. Well said. I'm lucky that I've been able to confine my addictions to relatively harmless things like internet message boards.

  3. I always remember that the only former teammate to attend his funeral was Steve Garvey.

  4. Willie Stargell and Lee Mazzilli???? - I dont think on these 2

    1. Both were mentioned during the Pittsburgh drug trials. Neither were suspended, but their names were all over at that time.

  5. Wow that's quite a list of names. Sadly... I saw a lot of those guys have their names in drug related news back in the day. I only learned about Wiggins' death a few years ago. I remember thinking that he could one day be a star in the MLB after having a pretty solid year in either 1983 or 1984.