Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rod Scurry yesterday became the first major league baseball player directly linked to a cocaine case in Pittsburgh when he was named as a customer of a man who pleaded guilty to 20 drug-trafficking counts in federal court there.
The bargained plea was entered by Dale Shiffman, one of seven men indicted May 31 by a federal grand jury investigating cocaine use around Three Rivers Stadium. Two of the other six already have plea-bargained, and the New York Times reported yesterday that, of the remaining four, federal prosecutors expect only Philadelphia caterer Curtis Strong to stand trial.
Scurry was one of at least 11 major league players granted immunity from prosecution for testifying before the Pittsburgh grand jury. The Times also quoted unnamed government officials as saying that eight of those players will be called as government witnesses when the trial begins early next month.
They are Keith Hernandez of the New York Mets, Dale Berra of the New York Yankees, Lee Lacy of the Baltimore Orioles, Enos Cabell of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds, Lonnie Smith of the Kansas City Royals, Al Holland of the California Angels and Jeff Leonard of the San Francisco Giants.
In Baltimore, Lacy declined comment after the Orioles' 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers yesterday. The other players repeatedly have declined comment. Lacy, Berra and Parker are former Pirates teammates of Scurry.
It also was reported that players on nearly all 26 major league teams have been named in connection with cocaine use in criminal cases, including second baseman Rich Dauer and relief pitcher Sammy Stewart of the Orioles.
Gary Kimmel of Owings Mills, Md., who recently served 13 months in federal prisons on cocaine-trafficking charges, was quoted as saying he sold small amounts of cocaine to Dauer and Stewart seven or eight times between the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
The alleged transactions with Dauer reportedly were made during poker games while watching Monday Night Football. Dauer was said to be given immunity from prosecution for testifying to a grand jury against Kimmel, as was Stewart.
Stewart declined comment after yesterday's game, and Dauer refused to come off the team bus to discuss the subject.
In court yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Ross said that Scurry was the purchaser of the narcotic from Shiffman in 19 of the 20 counts of cocaine trafficking to which he pleaded guilty. Shiffman, an unemployed photographer, had been indicted on 111 counts. According to the plea-bargaining agreement, Shiffman is to serve no more than 15 years in prison, followed by three years on probation, and pay a fine of $25,000.
Scurry's alleged purchases were said to have taken place on the Pirates' first four home dates in 1982 and their first 15 home dates in 1983. Ross said that Scurry's dependency on cocaine had increased by 1983 and that Scurry had purchased cocaine on the date of nearly every Pirates home game during that season.
Scurry, who has admitted to having a cocaine problem, entered a rehabilitation clinic in the Pittsburgh area for a month in the spring of 1984. He was briefly suspended by the Pirates this summer when he failed to show up for a game, but was reinstated when he tested negatively for drugs.
Alan Hendricks, Scurry's agent, said he doubted that his client would want to comment on yesterday's developments.
"Rod doesn't like pitching in Pittsburgh anymore because the fans get on him. He'd rather pitch on the road," Hendricks said. "So much is being made (of the current Pittsburgh cases) that the aftermath becomes more of a problem than when he had a problem."
After his court appearance yesterday, Ross declined further comment, and U.S. Attorney Jerry Johnson, who is the chief prosecutor in the cases, is not in the office this week, according to Ross.
In Philadelphia, Adam Renfroe, attorney for caterer Strong, said he did not know which baseball players would be called to testify against his client. He said the prosecution, citing a recent Supreme Court decision, has refused to divulge its list of 15 potential witnesses until a week or less before the trial begins.
Asked why the other six defendants are likely to plea-bargain and Strong will go to trial, Renfroe said, "My guy's not guilty. Maybe the rest of them are guilty, plus he's not charged with conspiracy. He doesn't know the other guys. He didn't distribute any drugs, and a jury of his peers will find him not guilty when all the evidence is in."
Strong, who worked in the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse, has been called "a scapegoat" by Renfroe.
"Once you see him in court you'll understand," Renfroe said. "He has no money, no gold, no car and he's working every day."
Strong is charged with 16 counts of drug trafficking.