In the sternest disciplinary action in baseball since the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth gave a choice today to seven major league players who, he said, both used and facilitated distribution of illegal drugs in the sport.
The seven players are Joaquin Andujar of the Oakland A's, Dale Berra of the New York Yankees, Enos Cabell of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets, Jeff Leonard of the San Francisco Giants, Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds and Lonnie Smith of the Kansas City Royals.
They will be suspended without pay for a year unless they agree to donate 10 percent of their 1986 salaries to drug charities, accept random drug testing for the rest of their careers and do 200 hours of drug-related community service work. In the cases of Andujar, Parker and Hernandez, such fines would exceed $100,000.
All seven, except Andujar, testified with immunity from prosecution at last summer's cocaine trial in Pittsburgh, in which former Philadelphia Phillies caterer Curtis Strong was found guilty of 11 counts of distributing cocaine to major league baseball players.
Ueberroth gave a slightly less severe option to four other players who, he said, used cocaine but did not "facilitate its distribution." Al Holland of the New York Yankees, Lee Lacy of the Baltimore Orioles, Lary Sorensen of the Chicago Cubs and Claudell Washington of the Atlanta Braves will be suspended without pay for 60 days unless they donate 5 percent of their salaries to drug charities, contribute 50 hours of community service and submit to random drug tests for the rest of their careers.
If any of the 11 players test positive for drug use in the future, the suspensions would go into effect.
Ten players who Ueberroth said showed "little or no evidence of drug involvement" will have to submit to mandatory drug testing for as long as they are associated with baseball. No suspensions or fines were given to this group, which comprises Alan Wiggins of the Baltimore Orioles; Dusty Baker of the Oakland A's; Gary Matthews of the Chicago Cubs; Manny Sarmiento, a nonroster player with the Pittsburgh Pirates; Derrel Thomas, a free agent; Vida Blue of the San Francisco Giants; Dickie Noles of the Cleveland Indians; Daryl Sconiers of the California Angels; Rod Scurry of the New York Yankees, and Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos.
Ueberroth, who interviewed 23 players and took six months before making this landmark decision, divided players into three categories: those who "had a prolonged pattern of drug use" and also helped others use drugs; those who only used illegal drugs; and those who had "little or no evidence of drug involvement."
It is widely assumed in baseball that this is, in fact, an offer that cannot be refused and that most players will choose the fines and drug testing rather than the far more costly suspensions. Such fines would be the highest in baseball history by far. Even some of the 5 percent fines would approach $40,000.
The players have until opening day, April 7, to make their decision.
Ueberroth said that some of the 10 players were named in testimony in the Pittsburgh trial but that insufficient evidence existed concerning any improper activity. He said there were others in this group whose cases had been handled through other procedures.
Ueberroth said the only player who declined to meet with him was former Pirates first baseman John Milner, who retired after the 1982 season. Ueberroth said he instructed all teams to have no relations with him until he agreed to discuss his testimony at the Pittsburgh trial with Ueberroth.
Ueberroth said he found "no wrongdoing" on the part of former Pirate Willie Stargell. Stargell had been named in testimony during the Pittsburgh trial as having illegally distributed amphetamines in the Pirates clubhouse.
The 23 players interviewed by Ueberroth included the 21 who were disciplined, and Stargell and former Pirate Bill Madlock, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was exonerated.
In another development, Ueberroth announced that all future drug testing in baseball would be taken out of the hands of individual clubs and put under the control of the commissioner's office.
"Too often you hear a team say, 'We've cleaned this guy up. He's a drawing card. We need him. Put him back in the lineup,' " he said. "We should not be trying to see how fast we can get people with drug problems back in uniform . . . We need to cure them."
Ueberroth also said he would ban most visitors to clubhouses, limiting access to reporters and players.
Ueberroth is not the only head of a major sport taking action against drug users of late. On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner David Stern banned Micheal Ray Richardson of the New Jersey Nets from playing in the league for three separate incidents of drug use. Richardson can seek reinstatement to the league within two years.
Perhaps the stiffest penalties ever given in baseball resulted from the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Members of the Chicago White Sox were acquitted in court of fixing World Series games, but eight players were expelled from the game by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Although baseball executives reacted strongly in favor of Ueberroth's announcement, many players did not.
"I don't think he can do this," said Darrell Evans of the Detroit Tigers. "The law didn't do anything to them. I don't know how he can put himself above the law. It goes along with the lack of trust among the two groups. Does he expect anybody to come forward anymore?"
Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said the union would have no comment on Ueberroth's actions until it had more time to study the decision.
"It seems a little harsh, but I've got to talk to my people about it," said Washington.
The largest penalty would be paid by Hernandez, who has a $1.8 million base salary in 1986, meaning he would be penalized $180,000.
"I am pleased I am able to play," Hernandez said. "As for the rest of the provisions, I'm going to have to talk to my attorney before I can say anything else."
Two other players will have six-figure penalties: Parker ($120,000 based on his $1.2 million salary) and Andujar ($115,000 based on his $1.15 million salary).
"I wish they could test me every damn second, every day," Andujar said in an interview last month. "I'm ready; I'm clean."
"I think the penalties are quite severe," Reds general manager Bill Bergesch said. "But at least the severity has been tempered somewhat because the commissioner is giving these players the chance to stay in their livelihood."
Ueberroth complimented the Orioles for their voluntary drug-testing program, for which 36 of 38 Baltimore players have signed up.
"We support what he's doing," said Orioles general manager Hank Peters, adding that he had not talked to the two Orioles, Wiggins and Lacy, affected by the commissioner's announcement. "While each player has to make his own decision . . . I feel certain they'll accept the commissioner's offer.
"I don't think he's as interested in disciplining as [in] helping players. He wants to identify the people who need help."
Orioles player representative Scott McGregor said, "We're all guilty by association, and we have to do something to clean the thing up."
Lacy, who has a $685,000 base salary this season and will be fined $34,250, refused to comment.
Lacy is represented by Tom Reich of Pittsburgh, who also represents Parker, Washington, Holland and Cabell.
Sources said Reich has told Ueberroth that all 90 of his clients will sign up for a drug-testing program.
Cabell said he would go along with Ueberroth's ruling, but stopped short of saying he liked it.
"We heard what the commissioner said, and I'm just going to do whatever he wants me to do," he said. "I just want to get this over with."
John Schuerholz, general manager of the world champion Kansas City Royals, said, "I think it's very equitable. It balances the need to take a stand, yet it also provides a player with a meaningful return to baseball in a constructive way."