Ferguson Jenkins, right-handed pitcher for the Texas Rangers, was convicted in provincial court today of possession of cocaine, but he received no fine or jail sentence.
Jenkins, 37, drew an absolute discharge, which means no fine, no jail term and no record of the conviction will be recorded.
Jenkins, four-time Canadian athlete of the year who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1979, was charged Aug. 25 after four grams of cocaine was found in his luggage at nearby Toronto International Airport.
The Chatham, Ontario, native was arrested at Exhibition Stadium before a Ranger game with the Toronto Blue Jays and also charge with possession of marijuana and hashish. Those charges were dropped.
Judge Gerald Young, who deliberated for about two hours, said he delivered sentence "without condoning what had been done."
Young, who fined National Hockey League player Don Murdoch, then with the New York Rangers, two years ago for the same offense, said:
"Times do change. There's no need for rehabilitation and no involvement with a criminal offense."
Jenkins stood quietly looking at the judge as Young stated, "You seem to be a person who has conducted himself in exemplary fashion in the community and in the country, building up an account.
"This is the time to draw on that account."
The charge had carried a maximum penalty of six months in jail and-or a $1,000 fine.
"I feel more relieved than I do after a ball game," said Jenkins, who is the best baseball player ever produced by Canada.
Asked what he could tell young fans about his arrest, Jenkins said, "I think that this sport is something that youngsters look up to. I think that somewhere along the way I was sort of blinded and a little tarnished."
Jenkins' defense lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, had made an impassioned plea for leniency, calling Jenkins "not only one of the great baseball players of all time but also a national hero. I warn you that if you convict in this case, the consequences would be staggering."
Greenspan said a conviction could have resulted in Jenkins being declared an excludable alien under the U.S. Immigration Act, which could have prevented him from entering the United States. Greenspan said also a conviction could have resulted in Jenkins being suspended by the league.
Jenkins a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder, met with Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in September and was suspended after he declined to answer questions at the hearing.
The Major League Baseball Players' Association filed a labor grievance saying that he could not answer those questions without jeopardizing his criminal case and the suspension was overturned and Jenkins returned to the club.
He finished the season with a 12-12 record and 3.55 earned run average.