PITTSBURGH — New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez testified today that he used "massive amounts of cocaine" during the second half of the 1980 season and played a game under the influence of the drug.
He described that time as one of "romance" between baseball players and the drug.
"I think it was the love-affair years . . . it was pretty prevalent," Hernandez said of cocaine use by players.
Testifying at a federal trial of a suspected drug dealer, Hernandez said he didn't remember which game he played while drugged--only that it was in the second half of the season.
"That was the year I was crazy," Hernandez said. "That was the year of my greatest use."
He said he began to worry about the effect the drug was having on him after he lost 10 pounds and awoke once with a bloody nose and the shakes.
"It was like a demon in me," he said.
Hernandez said he has not used cocaine since being traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983.
He also said he believes that 1980 was the year of the greatest use of cocaine in baseball. When questioned about his grand jury testimony that 40% of major leaguers were using cocaine that year, Hernandez said, "I may be grossly wrong . . . it's declined extremely since 1980."
He attributed that to the "tremendous impact" on players of the jailing of four Kansas City Royals on drug-related charges in 1983.
Hernandez was the lead-off witness in the second day of testimony at the trial of Curtis Strong, a former clubhouse cook for the Philadelphia Phillies who is accused of distributing cocaine.
He indicated that his drug use may have been responsible for the Cardinals trading him to the Mets in June, 1983.
Hernandez said Manager Whitey Herzog earlier that season told a team meeting that he suspected three players on the championship team were using cocaine and asked them to come forward. Hernandez said that although there was a threat of a suspension or a trade in Herzog's demand, "no one came forward in a week. Nothing came of it."
Lonnie Smith testifies. Part III, Page 1.