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The Pride of Peabody
Michael Bamberger
December 20, 2004
He was the nation's best high school pitcher, bound for the Florida Marlins and stardom. But Jeff Allison also had a drug addiction, and it nearly killed him
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December 20, 2004

The Pride Of Peabody

He was the nation's best high school pitcher, bound for the Florida Marlins and stardom. But Jeff Allison also had a drug addiction, and it nearly killed him

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"Yeah, I know."

"Maybe we should go to a meeting together." Patty was referring to free counseling sessions, modeled on AA meetings, for relatives of drug addicts.

"Yeah, we should do that."

But they never did.

Noreen is well-known in town. Back when she was Noreen Riccardi she was a tomboy jock at Salem High, class of '66, and a star on the girls' basketball team. Later she appeared on a Boston TV bowling show, Candlepins for Cash. She watched all of Jeff's games, including his summer games on elite teams, often sitting in the top row of the stands, avoiding the scouts and the reporters. (Coach Niz can't recall seeing Jeff's father at any games before Jeff's senior year.) Sometimes, when Jeff was on the mound, Noreen would point to her right biceps as if it were her son's and say quietly, "Million-dollar arm." People smiled. Everyone knew she didn't have much.

These days, wherever she goes--the gas station, the supermarket, the corner store to buy cigarettes--she runs into people who knew her son in simpler times. She asks the same thing, over and over.

"You seen Jeff?"

Sometimes the answer is yes. Jeff's been in town since early May, a little more than two months before he was rushed to a hospital after a heroin overdose. Except for brief stints in Florida with other Marlins prospects, Jeff's been in Peabody pretty much his whole life.

"He looks good, don't he?"

You take care of yourself, Noreen.

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