Joaquin Andujar was angry. Not as angry as he was last September when he was identified as a former cocaine user by a witness in a federal-court drug trial. Not as angry as he was in October when he was ejected from the seventh game of the World Series. But angry enough to issue a challenge to an American sportswriter who was visiting his home.
"You sportswriters have been talking a lot of hooey about me," Andujar said with an icy stare. "If you are men enough, if you have enough guts, if you can prove everything you say about me, then let's go public, let's duel. You remember the old westerns when you had a pistol and one person had the faster gun? Okay. Then let's duel, just like that."
A beer in hand, Andujar was sitting in a wicker chair in the living room of his custom-built ranch house. The 33-year-old pitching star -- formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, now of the Oakland A's -- had invited the writer into his home for a no-holds-barred interview. For the better part of an hour, Andujar willfully, if unsmilingly, discussed his tough-guy image, speaking at times in English, at times in Spanish, at times in Andujarese (which has been cleansed in this story by the words "hooey" and "phooey").
But when the subject turned to the drug trial in Pittsburgh, at which Kansas City Royals outfielder Lonnie Smith testified that he had snorted cocaine with Andujar while they were Cardinals teammates in 1982 and 1983, Andujar's eyes narrowed. Suddenly, it was high noon in Dodge City.
"To the people who have been talking a lot of hooey about me I say: Let's go see who lies and who's honest," Andujar said. "And I guarantee you 100 percent that I will win. I will win because I have proof. They don't have no proof."
"Proof of what?" he was asked.
"Hey, you know what kind of hooey I'm talking about," Andujar said. "Don't ask me that. You know. If you're here, you know what I mean."
"Are you talking about the drug trial in Pittsburgh?" he was asked.
"Why you mention Pittsburgh so much?" Andujar snapped.
"Is that what you're talking about?"
"Hooey! You know what I'm talking about. Hey, don't bring me some hooey, man. That was all over the world, okay? Because I know what's going on. I have had 16 years in the United States and I know what's going on. Nobody can fool me. Nobody can phooey with me, either."
This is Andujar at his best: dueling. And this is his curse. Although he has been a 20-game winner in each of the last two seasons -- no other major-leaguer has accomplished that -- he is best known for his shoot-'em-ups with umpires, managers, writers and opposing players. His most celebrated duel, with umpire Don Denkinger during the 1985 World Series, prompted Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to suspend Andujar without pay for the first 10 days of this season.
So there Andujar sat on a recent evening, justifying his explosive temper, defending his behavior at the World Series, denying charges that he tries to harm opposing players with knockdown pitches and saying that he never has used cocaine.
"I don't bother nobody," Andujar said. "I don't do anything bad. They love me up there, the players. I think you know that. I just pitch. And I'm a mean phooey when I pitch. That's my job. After the game, we are friends. During the game, hey, phooey to you. And my temper? If you play sports, you have to have a temper. Some people can just take more hooey than other people. I don't take too much hooey. That's me. If you like it, take it. If you don't like it, phooey on you.
"Everybody talks real bad about me but nobody says I help everybody," Andujar said, warming up. "Did you know that I spend about 70,000 pesos (about $24,000) here every year to help everybody? At Christmas, there's a line a block long with 40 or 50 people outside my house. They know I'm easy. I give them some money and some food. People come here every day. Just two minutes ago, I gave 5,000 pesos to some guys who have a league but didn't have any uniforms, bats or balls. They're going to call it the Joaquin Andujar League. I gave all of the Cardinals' bat boys $2,000 each, and I'm the only big league player who's given every coach on his team a gold pendant that has his uniform number on it. If you don't believe me, call the Cardinals. Call the manager, Whitey Herzog. Whitey's 24, so I gave him a gold No. 24."
During his 4 1/2 seasons with the Cardinals, Andujar gave Herzog some golden pitching performances as well. In 1982, he won 15 games, plus two that helped the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series. His record fell to 6-16 in '83, but he recovered impressively, finishing the '84 season at 20-14.
His first 20-game season was rewarded with a three-year, $3.45 million contract and, off a 15-3 start, he was named to the 1985 National League All-Star team. But he boycotted the game when he wasn't immediately named as the starting pitcher. After winning his 20th game on Aug. 23, he lapsed into a horrific slump (one victory in two months to finish at 21-12) that continued through the World Series. And it was in the seventh game of the Series that Andujar delivered his most memorable shoot'em-up.
To refresh your memory: Herzog had called Andujar from the bullpen to duel the Royals in the fifth inning. The Cardinals were losing, 9-0, and Andujar yielded a hit to the first batter he faced.
"My mind wasn't in the game," Andujar recalled. "I looked like hooey. I felt like hooey. How'd you feel if you won 41 games the last two years and then you're called to pitch in the fifth inning with your team losing, 9-0? And you're coming in from the bullpen, where you hadn't pitched in two years. How you gonna feel? You'd feel like hooey. And I was surprised by Whitey. Whitey maybe made a mistake putting me in. But he's human, too. And I don't blame him. But sometimes you have to have some respect."
Andujar gained a 2-2 count on the next batter, catcher Jim Sundberg. But when umpire Denkinger called his next two pitches balls, Andujar charged off the mound and, well, remember those old westerns?
"See, if somebody tries to get you, you have to try to defend yourself," Andujar explained. "The umpire's the one who was jumping at me. So I just defended myself. I told him how I felt."
Andujar was ejected from the game, but the duel wasn't over. "I told the umpire, 'You're wrong. Why, dammit, you made a mistake at home plate and you're making a mistake for kicking me out of the game for nothing,' " he recalled. The shoot-'em-up didn't end until Andujar destroyed a toilet and a sink in the Cardinals' clubhouse.
Andujar said he wasn't surprised when the Cardinals put him on the next stagecoach out; he was traded to the A's for catcher Mike Heath and pitcher Tim Conroy.
"I got traded because of Budweiser," he said, referring to Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company that owns the Cardinals. "The brewery traded me, not Whitey, not the general manager. Why did they trade me? Because of what happened in the World Series. They worried so much because the sportswriters had gotten on me in St. Louis. And they worried about selling beer. They said, 'Well, that's no good for Budweiser.' Because baseball for Budweiser is just a small part. It's nothing. It's just for taxes. They'll trade anybody. They don't give a hooey." (The Cardinals said they traded Andujar simply because they needed a catcher.)
Regardless, Andujar said he believes his tantrum was justified. "I know I was a little hard (on the umpire) but what do you expect?" he said. "That I'm going to be laughing on the mound, that I'm going to be happy that I'm out there when there are rookies in the bullpen? No, I'm not going to be happy."
Ueberroth wasn't happy, either, and he gave Andujar a 10-day suspension without pay, to be served at the beginning of this season, that will cost him about $64,000. On Jan. 10, Andujar pleaded for a reduced penalty during a meeting with Ueberroth in New York. Andujar had been summoned to the commissioner's office to discuss the testimony in Pittsburgh that he has used cocaine.
"The commissioner told me that maybe he'll change his mind about the suspension," Andujar reported. "He tells me he's going to think about it. He may suspend me for three or four days, I don't know." (A spokesman for Ueberroth, Richard Levin, said, "At this time, Andujar's 10-day suspension stands.")
And what did Andujar tell the commissioner about the allegation that he has used cocaine?
"Hey, I don't have to give no explanation to you, friend," Andujar said, ready to duel. "You know why? Because if you are really my friend, you already know me. If you're my enemy, hey, you don't give a damn."
Did Andujar feel that the testimony damaged his reputation?
"Hell no, because I know it's not true. I know I don't have a problem. Hey, I don't have to worry. The only time you have to worry is when you do something wrong. And I'm clean. I've always been clean. As I told my family, 'Look. Whatever you read in the papers, don't tell me and don't worry about it because you're not going to satisfy the whole world. Jesus died because he didn't satisfy the whole world. If you try to satisfy the whole world, you're going to be crucified.' "
Andujar glared at the sportswriter who was sitting across from him. "You people are too hard on baseball players," he said. "Baseball players, we cannot move one damn finger. We cannot even go to a disco. If we go to a disco, it's, 'Oh, he's on drugs,' or, 'He's drunk. That's why he didn't play good yesterday.' If people continue to be that hard on baseball players, baseball is not going to last that long."
Andujar looked out a window and spotted a young man who was standing in front of his house. Recognizing the young man, Andujar called out in Spanish, "Hey! Come on in. The gate's open."
Andujar turned to the sportswriter. "See, there's another guy I helped," he said. "I paid for five years for him to go to the university. Now he's ready to graduate. He's going to be a professor. I guess he's just coming here to tell me thanks."
Andujar greeted the young man, then told him, "We've just been talking about the good parts and the bad parts about Joaquin Andujar. Tell this sportswriter that I paid for your university."
"It's true," the young man said. "And Joaquin helps everybody."
"Do you need any money now?" Andujar asked.
"Yes," said the student. "I need 300 pesos ($103) so I can buy a class ring."
Andujar turned to the sportswriter. "See, and he's not the only one who comes here," he said. "People come here every day. The help I give them comes from my heart because I used to be poor. I didn't have shoes or nothing to go to school. Everything I have now is a gift from God. And God is with me."
The duel was obviously over, and as he escorted the sportswriter out of his house, Andujar smiled for the first time. "I hope you have seen that there is a good side to Joaquin Andujar," he said. "And if you need to talk to me anymore, just call. I'm not afraid of you."
Andujar shook the writer's hand, then offered him some advice.
"Drive carefully," he said. "There are a lot of crazy people out there."