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“I consider cocaine the devil on this earth,” testified New York Mets’ first baseman Keith Hernandez. He described cocaine as “a demon in me.
Hernandez stated that he had used massive amounts of the substance starting in 1980 after he and his wife separated. He developed what he described as an “insatiable desire for more” and admitted that he played under the influence of cocaine in his career.
After he saw St. Louis Cardinals’ teammate Lonnie Smith have a such a bad experience after using cocaine that he couldn’t play in a game, Hernandez realized he had to break the habit.
Just before he was traded to the Mets in June, 1983, Hernandez, who had lost 10 pounds, awoke with a nose bleed.
“I had the shakes and I wound up throwing a gram down the toilet,” he testified during the trial of alleged cocaine dealer Curtis Strong, who had been the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse caterer.
Hernandez and the other players that testified had been granted immunity from prosecution.
When he was asked to provide the names of other players with whom he had shared cocaine, Hernandez became uncomfortable. Unlike when he broke the law by obtaining and using cocaine, this time Hernandez took on the role of a law-abiding citizen.
He named pitcher Lary Sorenson and outfielder Bernie Carbo, a Boston Red Sox hero in the 1975 World Series.
Lonnie Smith testified that he had purchased cocaine from the defendant Strong for himself, Joaquin Andujar and Hernandez.
The list of players named in testimony sounded like an All-Star team. Included were Dave Parker, Gary Mathews, Enos Cabell, Al Holland, Jeff Leonard and J.R. Richard.
Strong’s defense lawyer. Adam Renfroe, insisted that baseball was on trial and that the players were “nothing but junkies.”
He called them “hero-criminals” who “sell drugs and are still selling drugs to baseball players around the league.”
Reports claim that by the time he joined the Mets, Hernandez was no longer using cocaine. Despite the fact that drug users often offer unreliable testimony, Hernandez should be believed.
He certainly played extremely well during his time with the Mets. He has been an excellent, if sometimes overly emotional broadcaster over the last few years.
Of course, we will always wonder what would have happened if one of Strong’s customers had been Mary or Joe Average Citizen.