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Wiggins of the Padres Checks In to a Drug-Rehabilitation Center

April 28, 1985|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

Alan Wiggins, who spent two mysterious days hiding out with relatives, checked into a drug-rehabilitation center Saturday, although it's still not clear whether he has had a drug relapse.

Roy Bell, one of Wiggins' lawyers, revealed Saturday that the San Diego Padres' starting second baseman first tried contacting his agent, Tony Attanasio, Friday while staying with relatives. He then spent much of that day and Saturday conferring with Attanasio, Bell and lawyer Sergio Ferria, who persuaded Wiggins to enter an unidentified rehabilitation center.

It was then that Ferria called the Padre clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, shortly after the Padre-Dodger game Friday night. Ferria asked for Padre President Ballard Smith, was given Smith's home telephone number and then called and told Smith that Wiggins was ready to enter the drug center.

Smith, after speaking with Attanasio earlier Friday, said he had speculated that drugs were the problem and had already arranged for a room at a rehabilitation center.

Still, nobody within the Padre organization has spoken with Wiggins, and Bell said Saturday that he is not convinced that Wiggins is using drugs or that he has had personal problems (sources say marital problems). Wiggins' visit to the hospital may tell them the truth.

But Padre owner Joan Kroc, in a telephone interview from Chicago: said: "All I know is that he's agreed to go, which seems to me that he must need more treatment. He's not going for his torn knee, is he? . . . I'm not saying he's back on (drugs), but he has gone to a center, and that's why I assume he has a problem."

Attanasio and Ferria were unavailable for comment Saturday, so Bell was the spokesman, saying: "We had no idea (he was using drugs), and we're still not sure. . . . Alan may well be stressed out. If Alan has some kind of problem with drugs, then the doctors will tell us. . . .

"We worked together with Alan (over the phone), and told them (the Padres) what we wanted to do and what Alan wanted to do after our counsel. . . . Alan sounded to me to be very depressed, disappointed, someone who has taken a lot of weight on his shoulders. He's taken pressure internally about his performance (2 for 37 at the plate this season). . . . Alan is a sincere human being and his hardest critic."

Meanwhile, Padre people expect Wiggins, 27, to be in the rehabilitation center for at least four weeks. He was suspended for 30 days in 1982 after he'd been arrested for possession of cocaine. He voluntarily entered CareUnit Hospital in Orange and had his best season ever last year, hitting .258 in the leadoff postion and stealing 70 bases.

In the off-season, he signed a new four-year contract for approximately $2 million.

And now this, which means Wiggins may never play for the Padres again. In 1982, Smith had said that if Wiggins ever returned to drugs, he'd probably never play in San Diego again. On Saturday, Smith stood by that statement, and sources said there was a clause in Wiggins' new contract that stated the contract would be voided if he had a second drug incident. Smith would not comment on the contract.

Smith did issue a statement through the Padre publicity office, saying: "I have not personally talked to Alan, but we have made arrangements for him. His status with the ballclub will be determined at a future date."

Later, in a telephone interview, Smith said: "Only Alan knows (if he's on drugs). He's the only one that knows. No, I haven't talked to Alan. That's not important now. He'll be in treatment for three weeks, possibly a month at the minimum, and then we'll have plenty of time to talk."

Joan Kroc took a stronger stance, since she has been actively involved in drug prevention programs for 10 years.

She said: "The illness is always there, just waiting for a chance to take over again. I'm heartbroken. It's a tragedy. . . . I am not angry, but very angry with the illness and with the dope peddlers and the laws about it. I'm angry that my four grandchildren can buy it . . . on the street corners.

"And Denny McLain is wondering how he got to where he is today in 17 years? It's peddling. It's tragic. He (McLain) has 23 years to wonder. It's a disgrace to our country and to have it happen in sports of all things.

"It's all over society, and I can't stop everybody, but I'll tell you one thing--I'm going to have a clean team. I won't pay those salaries and have people chemically altering their brain and sports abilities. Whatever we have to do to have a clean team, we'll do it."

So is Wiggins gone?

"I don't think I'll have a say," Kroc said. "I think the commissioner will have something to say."

Bell said he's almost certain that Wiggins will play again this season, saying: "Oh yeah, of course. If it isn't drugs, I know he'll play again. Ballard is compassionate. If it is (drugs), he still will play, assuming the doctors say he can."

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