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Howe Is Released by Dodgers, Cites Pressures of L.A.

July 04, 1985|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

And Howe apparently wanted to duck out of that spotlight. Especially, Hawkins said, when people made the assumption that his tardiness on June 23 was because of drugs.

"Everybody believed he was playing the old games of two and three years ago," Hawkins said. "That's why we accelerated the drug testing. But it continued unabated."

Still unexplained is why Howe failed to contact the club last Sunday when he didn't arrive for that day's game with the Atlanta Braves. "He went off with his thoughts," Hawkins said, "and decided that what he was going through here wasn't worth it."

Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Players Assn., said he believed Howe's release was "amicable. There was no conflict whatsoever.

"It was determined mutually and agreeably that it was in his (Howe's) best interests not to play again in L.A.," Fehr said.

"There was a mutual agreement to release him, so now he'll be a free agent.

"There's no reason to believe he's out of baseball. I expect he'll be interested in playing again but will try to do it out of L.A.

"Steve had to quit and go to work somewhere else," Fehr said. The fact that that doesn't happen in baseball shouldn't blind you to the fact that it happens everywhere else."

Howe had been attempting to come back this season after missing all of the 1984 season, for which he was suspended by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn for violating baseball's drug rules. That suspension was lifted last June in a negotiated settlement in which Howe had agreed to continue his rehabilitation for an acknowledged cocaine dependency.

Twice before in his career, Howe had received treatment for a drug problem. The first time was after the 1982 season, when he spent five weeks at the Meadows, a drug-alcohol abuse center in Wickenburg, Ariz.

He sought further treatment in May, 1983, spending 30 days at the CareUnit hospital of Orange. On July 16, 1983, the Dodgers suspended Howe after he had reported three hours late to Dodger Stadium for a game the night before. He was reinstated, however, after he passed a urinalysis test.

On Sept. 23, 1983, after missing a team flight to Atlanta, Howe was suspended again by the Dodgers and did not pitch for the rest of the season. He also checked back into the CareUnit, where he remained until Oct. 22, then submitted to the care of Dr. Forest Tennant, director of the West Covina-based Community Health Projects, Inc.

Tennant is now the Dodgers' drug consultant, and as part of Howe's negotiated return to baseball, Howe had agreed to twice-weekly urine testing.

On June 23, Howe did not arrive at Dodger Stadium until the sixth inning of the game against the Astros. He said his wife had gone on a family outing and left him without car keys and wallet. Howe was fined $300 by Manager Tom Lasorda.

Then last Sunday, Howe never arrived for the game against the Braves and did not inform the Dodgers of his whereabouts until after midnight. That's when he returned home, where his wife, Cyndy, had not seen nor heard from him since the previous day.

On Monday, Howe took another urine test that proved negative, but the Dodgers placed him on baseball's restricted list, saying he was "incapable of handling his assignment as a member of the Dodger team."

After meetings between team officials and Hawkins the last two days, the decision was made to release Howe, who had come out of the University of Michigan to win the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1980. He appeared in three games in the 1981 World Series that was won by the Dodgers; had seven wins, 13 saves and a 2.08 earned-run average in 1982, and he was selected to the All-Star team, and had two wins, seven saves and a 0.00 ERA in 1983 just before entering CareUnit in May.

There had been indications that Howe, whose attempted comeback was compounded by surgery on his left elbow last January, has been suffering from depression. He was described as "crying like a baby" after giving up a three-run home run to Atlanta's Terry Harper last Friday.

Howe, asked in the TV interview whether his problem was drugs or self-doubt, said he thought he'd proven himself clean of drug use.

"It came down to the point where little things were beginning to creep up on me," Howe said. "I'd go out on the mound and start thinking about what other people were thinking about me instead of my performance on the field."

Howe's record at the time of his release was 1-1, three saves and a 4.91 ERA. "I don't feel I let them (the Dodgers) down," Howe said. "I wasn't doing much, anyway."

Claire, asked if Howe was in therapy at this time, would not answer. "But we urged him to address that, to give all of his attention to what that area can do for him," Claire said.

"I'm pleased in that after meeting with Steve, I know he's very pleased in terms of what we're trying to do to address a very difficult situation. It provides hope for him, and because of that, I feel good about it."

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