New York Yankee pitcher David Wells, in an apparent attempt to make Jim Bouton's controversial book "Ball Four" seem as mundane as an intentional walk, claims up to 40% of major leaguers use steroids and admits he was "half-drunk" and had a "raging, skull-rattling hangover" when he pitched a perfect game in 1998.
And as the controversy over the use of ephedrine-based products grows in the wake of Baltimore Oriole pitcher Steve Bechler's heatstroke death on Feb. 17, Wells says amphetamines are readily available in baseball clubhouses and that some players even use Ritalin as a stimulant.
"As of right now, I'd estimate 25 to 40% of all major leaguers are juiced," Wells wrote in "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball," an autobiography scheduled for release April 1. "But that number's fast rising."
A copy of the galleys of the book, written by Chris Kreski, was obtained by Associated Press from publisher William Morrow on Thursday.
"Down in the minors, where virtually every flat-broke, baloney-sandwich-eating double-A prospect is chasing after the same, elusive, multimillion-dollar payday, the use of anabolic homer-helpers is flat-out booming," wrote Wells, the 39-year-old left-hander. "At just about 12 bucks per shot, those steroid vials must be seen as a really solid investment."
Wells writes that amphetamines are so commonplace that "stand in the middle of your clubhouse and walk 10 feet in any direction, chances are you'll find what you need.... As a pitcher, I won't ever object to a sleepy-eyed middle infielder beaning up to help me win. That may not be the politically correct spin on the practice, but I really couldn't care less."
Wells' steroid claims come on the heels of similar 2002 pronouncements by former most valuable players Ken Caminiti, who estimated half of the big leaguers use steroids, and Jose Canseco, who pegged steroid use closer to 85%. New York Met catcher Mike Piazza also said last season that amphetamine use was widespread.
"Cheap and easy to find, these little buggers will open your eyes, and sharpen your focus and get your blood moving on demand, over and over again, right through a full 162-game season," Wells wrote. "A lot of guys will buy themselves a season-long stockpile at one time. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of pills.... Alternate eye-openers include the gobbling of caffeine pills (sometimes by the fistful). Red Bull, Ripped Fuel and sometimes even Ritalin."
Red Bull is an energy drink that includes caffeine. Ripped Fuel is a nutritional supplement that includes ephedra, which a Florida medical examiner linked to last week's death of the 23-year-old Bechler.
Major League Baseball this week banned the use of ephedrine in the minor leagues, and there appears to be a swell of support to rid the major leagues of the herbal supplement.
The commissioner's office is expected to propose the ban be extended to major league players, but such a move would have to be negotiated between management and the players' association, which last year opposed adding ephedrine to the list of substances covered in the sport's revised drug policy because it is legal.
But Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who chaired Senate hearings last year on drug use in baseball, has called for new hearings to look into questions raised by Bechler's death. Ephedra is banned for athletes competing in the Olympics, the NFL and NCAA but is allowed in baseball, the NBA and the NHL.
"The dangers of this drug are well known -- nearly 60 deaths and over 1,000 medical problems ranging from insomnia, to severe heart arrhythmia, seizures and stroke have been attributed to the use of ephedra," Dorgan wrote in a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) "Major League Baseball has raised serious concerns about ephedra."
Dodger second baseman Joe Thurston, who hit .334 at triple-A Las Vegas last season, has mixed feelings about the ephedra ban for minor leaguers.
"It's a shame that someone had to pass away for them to ban it," Thurston said. "It's one of those things where if they crack down on it and saw the different things that were going on with different people who use different things, then maybe it could have been prevented."
Trent Durrington, who is entering his 10th season as an Angel minor leaguer, said the use of ephedrine-based products is "very prevalent" in the minor leagues.
"There are down days. You play 160 games. You take Ripped Fuel and something like that gives you a little bit of a kick that day," Durrington said. "It works."
Wells, the Yankee pitcher, needed more than a little bit of a kick that day in May of 1998, when he threw his perfect game against Minnesota. The previous night, he stayed at the "Saturday Night Live" season-ending party until 5 a.m., eight hours before game time. He got about three hours of sleep and fortified himself before the game with caffeine and aspirin.