UPPERS IN BASEBALL: A DOWNER FOR THE NATIONAL PASTIME
Authorities in Pennsylvania confirmed last week that they were investigating the possibility that amphetamines had been illegally prescribed for members of the Philadelphia Phillies and their Eastern League farm team, the Reading Phillies. Newspaper accounts said investigators were trying to determine whether Dr. Patrick Mazza, the Reading club's team physician since 1969, had prescribed quantities of the amphetamine Desoxyn to ballplayers without giving them the medical checkups required by law. The drugs purportedly were delivered to the Philadelphia players by one or more "runners." Mazza, 56, who serves as the team doctor apparently in return only for free admission to Phillie games and the chance to be around the ballplayers, denied the allegations.
Published reports said that others involved in the investigation included Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Larry Christenson and Randy Lerch, all members of the Phillies, and Bowa's wife, Sheena. However, Berks County District Attorney George Yatron subsequently said that Bowa and Schmidt weren't involved in the case, "even innocently." Rose asserted he had never met Mazza and said, "I think they got the wrong guy when they mentioned my name." Christenson and Lerch also denied any wrongdoing and Luzinski declined comment. Carlton was characteristically silent and Phillie broadcaster Tim McCarver chose not to discuss the matter in his story on the pitcher in this magazine (page 22), explaining that as a Phillie employee he wouldn't go beyond a statement by club President Ruly Carpenter acknowledging that unidentified members of the Phillies had been questioned by investigators after having been assured they were "not suspected of any criminal involvement." Carpenter also said that Phillie officials had repeatedly cautioned players about the dangers of drugs.
Such warnings are well advised. In recent months the Dodgers' Bob Welch has received treatment for alcoholism as has the Royals' Darrell Porter for both alcoholism and drug use. Then there is the specific matter of amphetamines, which are frequently prescribed as an aid in losing weight but can also produce an illusion of prowess that conceivably could give athletes a psychological lift. But they can also cause severe mood changes, hallucinations and delusions, impose a strain on the heart and impair hand-eye coordination and judgment, effects that are especially worrisome in a sport beset by beanball incidents and increased violence. Nevertheless, it is an open secret that amphetamines, commonly known as "greenies" or "uppers," are in wide use among ballplayers and other athletes. In his autobiography, Catch You Later, the Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Bench said that in his early years in the majors players used Daprisals and other amphetamines, and that Pitcher Gary Nolan "would get a couple of Daps in him and he'd start chirping away, just sitting in the dugout and talking a blue streak. His eyes would get all googly and he wouldn't answer a question, just stay as high as could be and pitch his head off."
Another athlete who has discussed the use of amphetamines is Bench's former Cincinnati teammate Rose. In an interview with Rose published in Playboy last September, there was this exchange:
Q. Have you taken greenies?
A. Well, I might have taken a greenie last week. I mean, if you want to call it a greenie. I mean, if a doctor gives me a prescription of 30 diet pills, because I want to curb my appetite, so I can lose five pounds before I go to spring training, I mean, is that bad...?
Q. But would you use them for anything other than dieting?
A. There might be some day when you played a doubleheader the night before and you go to the ball park for a Sunday game and you just want to take a diet pill, just to mentally think you are up....
Q. Does that help your game?