Baseball is like the rest of our culture in its incidence of appetite abuse, psychological obsession and compulsion, and appetite addiction to a wide range of mind altering chemicals, with legal alcohol still the principle drug of choice for most. Like the rest of our larger society too, not everyone who over does it gets diagnosed or loses their productivity. Some, in fact, fellow like George Herman Ruth and Paul Waner, Hall of Famers both, seemed to even do better under the influence. The story of Ruth getting to a ball game late and quickly hitting a home run while he was still under the influence from a night of excess and debauchery is legend. And the tale of Waner going on the wagon and straight into a hitting slump until his manager gave him orders to stay out all night drinking is also pretty famous too. Waner supposedly did as he was told and then showed up just in time to go go something like 4 for 5. I forget the exact performance figure. And maybe Norman Macht could prove that it never even happened.
Who knows? Good baseball stories are often like that. Long on legend. Short on fact.
The point here is that we can always offer the “what might have been” opinion that some of the great substance abusing baseball players in history could have done even better had they been clean, or came clean through recovery, but there still will never be any way to prove it. For one, I’d sure like to have seen the career marks that Mickey Mantle might have posted without all the physical and psychological damage he took into his playing career along with the alcohol he consumed. I just can’t help but believe he could have done a whole lot better.
In the meanwhile, here’s my starting lineup of players who liked old Jack Daniels and his partners too much. I’m not diagnosing any of them, but what they share is the fact that they all had public records of using alcohol heavily. In a few instances, you could even make the case that it killed them.
It’s a strange world, isn’t it?
My All Time “Drinkers” Starting Lineup:
Mike Kelly, c
Paul Waner, lf
Mickey Mantle, cf
Babe Ruth, rf
Miguel Cabrera, 1b
Vern Stephens, ss
Jim Thorpe, 3b
Billy Martin, 2b
Rube Waddell, p
There are plenty of other candidates for this club, so, if you have some favorites for the best Drinking Team lineup of all time, please post your extra roster suggestions below as a comment upon this column.
Thank you – and have a nice weekend – hopefully sober, of course.
Tags: alcohol and baseball