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Part of the Crowd
Tom Verducci
May 27, 1996
After several conspicuously troubled years, the Marlins' Gary Sheffield is happy to blend into the Miami scene
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May 27, 1996

Part Of The Crowd

After several conspicuously troubled years, the Marlins' Gary Sheffield is happy to blend into the Miami scene

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The scouting report on Sheffield is that he's riddled with weaknesses. You can start with shoes, all 250 pairs of them. Many of them are lined up as straight as soldiers at inspection on the living room floor of his apartment.

Clothes? Yes, he goes limp for those, too. Sheffield has a wardrobe to rival that of a major film studio. He once turned the garage of his St. Petersburg home into a makeshift closet. At the Miami apartment three cedar-lined closets offer no vacancy. His accoutrements will be more comfortably accommodated in the $3 million home he is building in St. Petersburg; it will feature a room-sized closet with the sort of motorized rotating hanging system used by dry cleaners.

There are the guns (the 9-millimeter, the Smith & Wesson five-shot and the rifle), the cars (the two Mercedes, the Landcruiser, the Porsche and the limousine he keeps in Atlanta) and the charity cases (everybody from underprivileged kids to the patients at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg to acquaintances in more dubious straits). He is a softy for all of them. And yet none of them is the greatest weakness of Gary Antonian Sheffield.

"His biggest weakness? I'll tell you," says his mother, Betty Jones, who is Good-en's older sister. She pauses. Then, sotto voce, she says, "Women."

Sheffield's life would be a dime-store paperback if anyone could believe so much mayhem involving one character. In addition to being stalked, robbed, harassed, shot, charged with resisting arrest, and arrested for driving under the influence, he has been pulled off a team plane and searched for drugs; questioned about bullets left on a former girlfriend's doorstep; and said to have AIDS in mysterious flyers circulated at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium. And that's only in the past three years.

None of the charges stuck, except a reduced one regarding the DUI (he pleaded no contest to reckless driving). If he is guilty of anything, both Sheffield and his mother agree, it is entering into lousy relationships with women. "Yes," Sheffield says. "I never made judgments about them, didn't care whether it was a rich woman or a poor woman. I'm just accepting when it comes to meeting people."

Says Betty, "They see that side of him and take advantage of it. These women, all they want is to sleep, eat out, drive a nice car and get jewelry. I asked Gary a question some time ago. I said, 'When was the last time—or the first time—you approached a young lady because you were interested in her?' He couldn't remember. He has to learn about these women. If he hasn't learned by now, they're going to destroy him."

Says Sheffield, "I've learned. I have to be more selective."

One former girlfriend, Sherry Gary, is suing Sheffield, charging among other things that he imprisoned her in his house (she claims that he once locked her in a bedroom and forbade her to leave without his permission) and once forced her to walk on the side of a highway in her underwear. The charges are ridiculous, Betty says wryly: "We all know she doesn't wear underwear."

Sheffield is currently dating, though not seriously enough to present anyone to Mom. He has never been married. He has three children by three women: daughters Ebony, 10, and Carissa, 8 (who live with their mothers in Tampa), and son Gary Jr., 2 (who lives with his mother in Phoenix). Says Betty, "I told him, 'Gary, don't bring in new problems. No more babies.' He's already been through so much. I don't see how he's still standing."

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