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Tulane Case Spurred Ueberroth

May 17, 1985

Drug use by players or other employees in professional baseball invites the influence of a criminal element that could destroy the game, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth said earlier this week in a memo to the 26 major league clubs.

"At whatever level, illegal drug use inevitably involves contact with criminals," Ueberroth wrote. "In the sports world, this connection will just as inevitably involve gambling."

He decided to make the memo public Thursday after some portions of it were leaked to the press Wednesday.

Ueberroth cited the scandal, involving drug use and point-shaving, that wrecked the basketball program at Tulane University last month as one of the prime reasons for initiating a plan to eradicate drug use in baseball.

Last week, Ueberroth announced a plan to conduct mandatory drug tests among some 4,000 baseball employees, exclusive of major league players. He invited the major league players to join the program, although they are exempt from it because of a previous agreement between baseball and the Major League Players Assn.

Lee MacPhail, the chief labor negotiator for the baseball owners in current talks with the players' union, said that teams had lost at least $36 million last year, and the total could go as high as $42 million. MacPhail said that the figures, which included data from all but two of the 26 teams, were delivered to the players' union, with whom a new contract is being negotiated.

The owners, who have never before made their financial statements available, said they are doing so because the sport is having severe economic problems, and they want the union to be aware of them during contract talks.

Denny McLain, former star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, was denied bail in Tampa, Fla., after pleading for the chance to remain free to support his family while appealing his racketeering conviction.

"I'll do anything you want. I'll report every day to a marshal. You can have one live in the same house with me," McLain promised U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich. "I've got an awful problem with my family. I've got to be able to provide for them before it gets any worse."

But Kovachevich was stern in denying bail for the second time in two months, saying: "After becoming a professional athlete, he had determined to be a professional criminal, and that is what he became. This court feels he is a danger to this community . . . a threat to flee."

McLain, 41, was convicted March 16 of racketeering, extortion, conspiracy and cocaine dealing. He was sentenced last month to 23 years in prison.

Chris Miller, Oregon's junior quarterback, is preparing to sign a professional baseball contract with the Seattle Mariners, but he plans to continue his college football career as well.

NCAA rules permit an athlete to compete professionally in one sport while retaining eligibility in another. Miller, however, would be required to give up his football scholarship.

The Mariners reportedly are willing to pay for Miller's last two years at Oregon.

Miller had a .339 batting average as a shortstop with a Eugene, Ore., American Legion team last summer.

Names in the News

John Riggins, a 14-year NFL veteran, said he plans to return for another season in the Washington Redskins' backfield, ending speculation that a sore back would force him to retire. Riggins will be 36 in August.

Miler Sydney Maree and pole vaulter Earl Bell withdrew from Saturday's Pepsi Invitational track meet at UCLA. Pole vaulter Billy Olson, triple-long jumper Willie Banks, shotputter Kevin Akins and miler Mike Boit were addded to the field.

Frank Corral, former UCLA and Ram placekicker-punter, signed as a free agent with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL.

E.J. (Doc) Kreis, former Vanderbilt University strength coach charged with illegally distributing steroids to college athletes, entered a not-guilty plea in Nashville, Tenn.

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