Stewart's problems on the mound in Texas were nothing compared with his problems off it. During spring training in 1984, he told a Texas newspaper he had known all along that his Dodger teammate in the bullpen, Howe, was using cocaine. Stewart even admitted covering for Howe when he was questioned by manager Tommy Lasorda and other players. Stewart admits now he was wrong in shielding Howe. "I certainly wouldn't do it that way again," he says. "With all Steve's gone through, I probably hurt him more than I helped him. It was a mistake."
Then, in January 1985, Stewart was arrested in a parked car on a skid-row street in Los Angeles with a prostitute named "Lucille," who turned out—to Stewart's ultimate surprise and humiliation—to be a 27-year-old transvestite. The lewd conduct charges were eventually reduced to soliciting, and Stewart was fined $150 and placed on a year's probation. Only two days after his arrest in L.A., he was scheduled to appear at a banquet to accept the Dallas- Fort Worth baseball writers' "good guy" award. Showing a lot of courage, Stewart appeared at the dinner and publicly apologized for his misconduct.
"It's part of growing up, I guess," he says today. "I was going through a period where one bad thing after another seemed to be happening to me. I've learned a lesson. Now I try to do what's right, knowing that sometimes I'll fall short. Some people might think of me as a hypocrite when I speak against drugs, since I'm the guy who protected Howe. And if I'm talking to a class, they can say, 'Hey, he was the one with the prostitute.' The thing is, I know I'm a sinner. But I do try. I also know you never finish growing."
Stewart had hit rock bottom in Texas. He was 0-6 in 42 appearances in 1985 and was traded to the Phillies in September. In the off-season he had surgery to remove two small bone chips from his pitching elbow, but the Phillies released him in May '86. He went cap-in-hand to Oakland, which with few expectations hired him. Stewart pitched just one game for the A's Tacoma farm club before being called up on May 29 to work out of the bullpen. He was cuffed around for 13 earned runs in 22? innings in June and seemed to be headed nowhere. Then, on June 26, Jackie Moore was fired as manager, and six days later Tony La Russa was hired to replace him. La Russa, desperately in need of starting pitching, consulted Duncan and decided to give Stewart a shot. La Russa had not yet joined the team when he called Stewart on Friday, July 4, at the A's hotel in Milwaukee and told him, "If you want the ball on Monday, you've got it." Stewart wanted it. On July 7, in La Russa's debut as manager, Stewart beat Roger Clemens and the Red Sox 6-4 in Boston before a national television audience. He has never looked back.
"The thing is," says pitching coach Duncan, "it just couldn't happen to a nicer guy."