Although no major league baseball players were among the seven persons indicted yesterday on at least 165 narcotics counts, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said in New York that one of his greatest concerns is that during future trials "major league baseball players will be mentioned."
Eleven or more major league players have testified before the federal grand jury looking into possible drug sales to players. All reportedly were given immunity from prosecution.
"What we have to do is rid baseball of drugs," Ueberroth said. "We have a responsibility to do that." Ueberroth said his proposal to have major league players tested for drug use "will act as a deterrent."
During a previously scheduled meeting with sports editors on a number of subjects, Ueberroth said he is advocating the drug testing of players three times a year to be done at major league parks on a random individual basis. He said he would offer confidentiality to players, no penalties and individual help.
But, significantly, the commissioner said he would not push the issue of drug testing to the point that it would cause a players' strike or be an issue in current negotiations between the players union and baseball. However, Ueberroth added, "I won't give up on this (drug testing)."
Of those indicted yesterday, five are from Pittsburgh, two from Philadelphia. They include Dale Martin Shiffman, 33, of Pittsburgh, charged with 111 counts, including 107 counts of distribution of cocaine in 1982 and 1983, and Curtis Strong, 38, of Philadelphia, a former caterer for the Phillies, indicted on 16 counts of distribution of cocaine. Others charged are Robert William McCue, 38; Jeffrey Lynn Mosco, 39; Shelby Stephen Greer, 29; Kevin Michael Connolly, 27, and Thomas Patrick Balzer, 27. All are from Pittsburgh except Greer, a former Pittsburgh resident now living in Philadelphia.
The indictments, released by U.S. Attorney J. Alan Johnson, listed only the names of those charged and the dates of alleged drug deals. They did not detail sites, dollar amounts or the names of those who may have purchased drugs.
Strong, whose nickname is "Chef Curt," said in a television interview that he is innocent of any charges and described himself simply as "a baseball groupie."
Adam Renfroe, attorney for Strong, said during a news conference Thursday in Philadelphia that Strong "is being used as a pawn and a scapegoat," adding, "For multi-million-dollar ballplayers to put the blame on him is hogwash . . . He is the one who could least hurt them. They know the million-dollar drug dealers out there would cut their throats and cut their family's throats, so they decided to blame it on the little guy . . . This is going to get a lot uglier."
Some drug dealing reportedly took place in the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
In Pittsburgh, Pirates General Manager Joe L. Brown said in a written statement: "While we cannot be more specific, we have it on very good authority that people connected with the Pittsburgh organization, both past and present, testified before the grand jury and were especially helpful with authorities in providing information leading to the indictments. We are hopeful that the completion of the investigation will remove the shadow which has existed over the Pirates in recent months and let us get back to our primary purpose, winning ball games."
Players known to have testified before the grand jury are Al Holland, recently traded by Philadelphia to Pittsburgh; Lee Lacy of the Orioles, formerly of the Pirates; Enos Cabell of Houston, Tim Raines of Montreal, Jeff Leonard of San Francisco, Rod Scurry and Lee Mazzilli of the Pirates, Dale Berra of the New York Yankees and once of the Pirates, Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets, Lonnie Smith of Kansas City and Dave Parker of Cincinnati and formerly of Pittsburgh.