BALTIMORE, AUG. 31 -- The troubled life of Baltimore Orioles utility player Alan Wiggins took another sharp turn today when he was suspended without pay for failing at least one drug test, it was learned tonight.
The suspension handed down by Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth came only 26 days after Wiggins was suspended for three days by the Orioles for a clubhouse scuffle with Manager Cal Ripken Sr.
Neither Ueberroth nor the Orioles would comment publicly on the matter, but a knowledgable source said the suspension, without pay, came after Wiggins had failed at least one, and perhaps two, drug tests.
The source, who is close to both sides, also said Ueberroth would not allow Wiggins to play until he underwent a rehabilitation program "of 60 to 90 days." The source said such a rehabilitation program is Ueberroth's unwritten policy for multiple drug offenders and, even then, he could use his broad powers as commissioner to block Wiggins' return.
Wiggins, reached at his home in Cockeysville, Md., refused to comment on any aspect of the situation.
This is the third time Wiggins' career has been interrupted by drug use. He underwent rehabilitation in San Diego after his 1983 season with the Padres, then again early in the 1985 season. It was after the troubles in '85 that the Orioles acquired him.
It is unclear when Wiggins failed the drug test, but after his problems with Ripken Aug. 5 in Milwaukee, several players and coaches said they believed Wiggins might be having problems again. He was being tested as part of his previous rehabilitation plan, and the source speculated the Orioles contacted Ueberroth to ask that the testing be increased.
One of the few people to speak publicly about Wiggins and drugs was coach Elrod Hendricks, who said after the problems in Milwaukee, "I believe the guy has been crying out for help, but he's doing it in a strange way."
Today's suspension apparently ends Wiggins' turbulent three-season career with the Orioles. That career would have ended July 10 if the club's baseball staff had had its way. But because Wiggins had $1.2 million remaining on his contract, owner Edward Bennett Williams refused to allow the release.
Club officials were ready to release him again after the trouble with Ripken Sr. in Milwaukee, but Williams is believed to have again blocked such a move. In two previous seasons, Wiggins has had all kinds of troubles, beginning with the end of the 1985 season when he refused to run out routine ground balls and all but refused to take batting practice.
After the '85 season, he publicly apologized for his actions. He tried harder in 1986, but hit only .251, and after twice being picked off in key situations, was benched by then-manager Earl Weaver.
Last winter, Wiggins met with Williams to ask what he needed to do to make the club. He was told to hustle, which he did this spring, making the club when almost every baseball official was prepared to release him.
But his batting average is only .232, and when Bill Ripken took over at second base in July, Wiggins' only playing time came as a pinch hitter and designated hitter. He was given several chances to win the DH job, but never hit consistently.
Then, Aug. 4, he and Ripken Sr. argued because Wiggins had failed to make an appointment for an early round of batting practice.
A day later, Wiggins told a batting practice pitcher to hit Jim Dwyer in the head with a pitch. Wiggins later said he was joking, but Dwyer grabbed his uniform near the shirt collar and walked him around the batting cage.
The two were separated and Wiggins and Ripken walked into the clubhouse, where a long, loud argument could be heard. Ripken also said Wiggins had grabbed his uniform, which led to the suspension. Wiggins denied ever touching Ripken and filed a grievance over the suspension. The grievance was dropped when Wiggins was reinstated.
Wiggins' salary this season is $700,000 and he has $800,000 guaranteed for next year. When he was acquired by the Orioles, he agreed to certain changes in his contract, one of which was his forfeiting one-third of his salary if he got into drug trouble.