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Drug Tests Have Friends--and Enemies--Behind Padres' Scenes

June 12, 1985|MIKE GRANBERRY | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — For the most part, they are ordinary people in ordinary jobs. They work, pay taxes and hope the home team wins. They're some of the last folks anyone would think of under the heading:

Drug abuser.

If baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth has his way, however, they will soon be the object of mandatory testing for drugs. It makes no difference how conservative, law-abiding or patriotic they are, they will have to submit to medical tests for evidence of cocaine, heroin, PCP and other illicit drugs.

And if they don't, they won't work for the San Diego Padres or any other major league club again.

At the moment, Ueberroth's proposal is just that. Some say it's only a tactic, one of many salvos in a war of wills with the Major League Baseball Players Assn., which opposes drug tests.

Got to Start Somewhere

Chuck Adams, a spokesman for Ueberroth, said by telephone from New York that no timetable has been set for implementation of the program. But, he said, Ueberroth is as serious about this as he was about making the 1984 Olympic Games a success. Ueberroth simply believes, Adams said, that drug abuse is so pervasive, so harmful, that prevention has to start somewhere. So, why not baseball?

That's fine with John (Doc) Mattei, a gravel-voiced, Runyonesque character who has served the Padres for 16 years as traveling secretary. Mattei calls himself "senior man" of the company.

"Mr. Bavasi (Buzzie Bavasi, the original general manager) was the first guy hired (when the team began play in 1969). I was the second," said Mattei, who hopes seniority makes him first in line when mandatory testing takes place.

"It's the greatest idea I've heard of on how we can stop this thing," he said, meaning drug abuse. "I'm for it 100%. It's a must. How can anyone wanting to keep the game at a high caliber possibly vote against it? I can't understand it."

Mattei was one of 25 Padre employees interviewed by The Times last week in response to Ueberroth's proposal. They are not athletes. They include ticket takers, clerks, equipment men and writers of press releases. But they're the ones Ueberroth wants to start with. Mattei and 22 other employees support the commissioner's stand, and most claim to have taken tests in a voluntary program started by the Padres two years ago.

Team Is a Leader

"Nothing new here," Bill Beck, Padre media director, said of such tests. "If you want to know the truth, the Padres are the leaders in this thing."

Beck added that Padre owner Joan Kroc and team President Ballard Smith, Kroc's son-in-law, were primary forces behind Ueberroth's proposal. (Adams, Ueberroth's spokesman, said all major league owners were asked for "input," but that the idea was Ueberroth's own.)

Reached at home this week, Kroc said Padre input had come mainly by "demonstration" (through the voluntary program). Asked if mandatory testing could be construed as an invasion of privacy, Kroc sighed before answering.

"I think there are times when all of us have to give up something for the good of most--the betterment of all," she said. "This is one of those cases."

But when asked what she hoped the impact would be, the players' role came up again. "If I were a player and clean and knew other people on my team who were suspect, I'd be happy to test for drugs," she said. "Hopefully, I'd be a leader showing the way."

Are some people on the payroll justified in saying they feel "used," as though Ueberroth is holding them up as a weapon in a war with players?

"He's not after any player," Kroc said. "He's after drugs. He's interested in the betterment of the game, in the mental and physical well-being of players."

Current Plan's Not Working

Mattei said he didn't care if Ueberroth's plan was a tactic in a war with players. "The current plan, whatever it is, isn't working," he said. "How could it possibly be working? Guys are dropping off all the time. It didn't work for Alan, did it?" (Padre second baseman Alan Wiggins has been in and out of a drug rehabilitation program in recent weeks.)

Mattei said that "in no way" did he consider Ueberroth's plan an invasion of privacy. He, like many employees, claimed he has nothing to hide. But two co-workers said "nothing to hide" sidesteps the issue.

Athanasia Pilafas, 22, works in the Padres' gift shop at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. "I'll do it," she said with a frown, "but I don't think it's right. I work for a baseball team. Why should I be involved with drug testing?"

Asked if such testing would be an invasion of privacy, she replied, "In a way, it is. Different jobs require different things of people. I'll go along with it as part of my job, but I don't like it. Not for a minute.

"I can understand Mr. Ueberroth's and Mrs. Kroc's efforts to stop the spread of drugs in baseball--among players . But this is the gift shop. And I'm sorry, it is an invasion."

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