Denny McLain, major league baseball's last 30-game winner, was sentenced today to 23 years in prison by a federal judge for his convictions on racketeering, extortion and drug-dealing charges.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich cited the former Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators pitcher's "failure to admit to yourself your own guilt," as well as his involvement with drugs, as important factors in her decision.
McLain, 41, who said he had the flu, sat through most of the proceedings, but stood as the judge ordered him to serve eight years each, concurrently, for racketeering, conspiracy and extortion. She then tacked on the maximum 15 years for his attempt to deal three kilos of cocaine in 1982, and fined him $8,900.
McLain likely will serve one-third of his sentence -- eight years -- before being eligible for parole, the government said.
"I'll pay for my convictions the rest of my life," McLain said during an eight-minute summation before Kovachevich passed sentence. "I've gone through a lot of shame and disgrace and no sentence can equal the humiliation of being handcuffed in front of television cameras. I've had an awful lot of time to reflect during the last 40 days and I realize I've exercised an awful lot of bad judgment. But I've also been a loving husband and father."
While McLain spoke, his wife Sharon and two daughters sobbed in the back of the packed courtroom. McLain, who also has two sons, was escorted to a lockup room within the courthouse to spend some time with his family.
Afterward, defense attorney Arnold Levine said McLain was "destroyed by the length of the sentence." Levine said he will ask that McLain be allowed to go free on bond while he appeals.
McLain, 31-6 with the 1968 Tigers but 10-22 for the 1971 Senators, was convicted March 16 following a 14-week trial.
The prosecution claimed McLain was part of a racketeering scheme involving loan-sharking, bookmaking and threats of violence to collect illegal debts.
McLain testified that he was a longtime gambler, and at times a bookmaker, but maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
"I don't know how you get to where I am from where I was 17 years ago," McLain said.