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Chris Dufresne

Candelaria Is Facing an 0-2 Count

May 16, 1987|Chris Dufresne

Baseball is a sport consumed by statistics, but rarely do earned-run averages and on-base percentages become this sobering.

If only John Candelaria and the Angels had read the scouting report published by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). These are the numbers you should keep folded in your wallet.

Every 27 minutes of every day, someone in our country is killed in an alcohol-related accident. More than 62,000 lives were lost in the Vietnam war. In the same time period, 250,000 people died in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Last year, more than 800 people died in California when they mixed alcohol with automobile.

The news is worse in Orange County, home of Candelaria and the Angels, where one survey revealed that every second or third driver on the road after 2 a.m. was under influence of alcohol or drugs. The national average was one driver out of 10.

So when Candelaria tells you that an arrest for drunk driving is his own business, as he did after his first arrest on April 17, he is wrong. Dead wrong.

"Whether or not he chooses to drink is his business," said Janet Cater, executive director of the Orange County Chapter of MADD. "But as soon as anybody, no matter what his name is, gets behind the wheel of the car, it's everybody's business. It doesn't matter if it's John Candelaria or John Jose."

At the time of Candelaria's second arrest for the same offense Thursday morning, the county chapter of MADD was putting the finishing touches on a commentary about Candelaria, copies of which were to be sent to local papers and the Angels. The commentary was concerned with the manner in which Candelaria and the team responded to his April 17 arrest, when the Angel left-hander was pulled over in Laguna Niguel when he allegedly ran a stop sign and a traffic signal.

First, there were the pitcher's remarks:

"It was my day off," Candelaria said at the time. "It's nobody's business but mine. . . . It's my problem. How many times have you driven under the influence?"

Some Angel teammates, as a joke, responded by hanging stop signs at Candelaria's locker and painting stripes on his uniform, depicting his life as a jailbird.

Such levity was not appreciated in certain circles.

For it seems that every two steps MADD takes forward, a Candelaria story knocks them three steps backward. It will be that way for as long as a child is influenced more by the actions of a star pitcher than those of somebody's mother.

"I gave a presentation to a second-grade class today," Cater said Friday. "I asked them if they knew John Candelaria for anything other than baseball. And a few knew that he had been arrested for a second drunk-driving charge. That causes some concern for parents of kids and because of John's attitude, they're picking up on that, and wondering why people are hassling John Candelaria."

On learning of his second arrest Friday, members of MADD sent a telegram to baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, demanding that action be taken.

Action was taken Friday afternoon by the Angels, who placed Candelaria on the 15-day disabled list for personal reasons.

The Angels also released a statement.

"Too many people have lost loved ones due to these type of things," it read in part. "It's for this reason that all big league clubs have implemented assistance programs. Neither baseball in general nor the Angels in particular want to see anyone expose themselves or others to dangerous situations."

Cater wonders what damage to her cause has already been done.

"When a person has high visibility, we feel there is some obligation to the people who pay to see you, that you conduct your life so that children aren't misled,' she said.

Cater also was disturbed that Candelaria's teammates would allow him to drive himself home after the team's plane arrived from Detroit early Thursday morning.

"It's obvious to us that the alcohol was consumed on the plane," Cater said. "Why didn't anybody say anything about his driving? You would think people would pay attention. He already had one (alleged) DUI (driving under the influence). Why didn't they care? Were they all just as drunk? Why didn't someone keep an eye on him? Why didn't they call his wife? Why didn't they call a taxi?"

A more pressing question is one double standard that exists in society today regarding drugs and alcohol. Why is it that a drug-related story almost always gets better newspaper play than one that's alcohol-related? Some editions of The Times ran the story of Candelaria's first arrest on the inside pages, but on the same day bannered on the front page a story about an alleged cocaine scandal involving the Phoenix Suns.

The logical explanation is that cocaine is illegal and alcohol is not.

Funny, but the accelerator of your car can't make the distinction.

It's also hard not to note the irony of a soon-to-be arriving shipment of "Just Say No" T-shirts to Angel players, who will do their part in first lady Nancy Reagan's anti-drug program.

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