Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sammy Stewart, 1986 Donruss #270

For whatever reason, the topic of drug abuse doesn't come up very often in conjunction with baseball. I'm not talking about performance-enhancing drugs, of course. I'm also not referring to alcohol abuse, which seems to be a serious and fairly frequent problem that gets brushed off until a team wants to make an example of somebody. But the only current major leaguer who I can recall who has struggled with hardcore drugs is Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, a former #1 draft pick who nearly lost everything to his alcohol, cocaine, and crack addictions before making a remarkable recovery. In his second season in the major leagues since his comeback, Hamilton is looking like a great success story.

Sammy Stewart is not nearly so lucky.

A go-to guy in the Oriole bullpen for much of the 1980s, Stewart had no drug problem during his ten-year career in the majors. It was only when the Cleveland Indians released him in October 1987 that Sammy looked for something to fill the void. A few months later, he found the rush and excitement he'd been missing, and unfortunately he found it in crack cocaine. Though the imposing righthander had compiled some impressive statistics on the diamond (2.32 ERA in 1981, no runs allowed in 12 postseason innings,7 straight strikeouts in his ML debut), he's spent the past two decades racking up numbers of a more disheartening nature:

26 arrests
43 criminal charges
6 incarcerations

He's currently serving jail time in North Carolina. He's lost the three million dollars or so that he earned on the mound. He's lost his 1983 World Series ring, his home, and most of all his family. Sammy Stewart is a sick man who would have done anything to get money for his next high. He has a daughter with cystic fibrosis, and he used to play upon the sympathies of his friends and neighbors to borrow cash. His story is equal parts pitiable and despicable, and it's been told much more eloquently in other places.

The thing that really struck me in reading up on Sammy Stewart was his age. He's fifty-three, just a few weeks younger than my father. I can't imagine being in the position of Alicia, Stewart's daughter. What would I do - what would you do - if you happened upon your father and he was dirty and disheveled, his skin actually yellowed from the abuse he'd inflicted upon himself? How would you react if you tried to offer him food, only for him to refuse and to ask for money instead?

I don't have the answers. I hope that Sammy truly has hit rock bottom, and that it's not too late for him to start climbing back up.


shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks for the great post and links, I'd never heard about Sammy's demise. It's a sad story but very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Kevin I don't know why I feel compelled to defend Sammy, but I think he is "climbing back up". I know from personal expirence that he has renewed relationships with his daughter and a couple of other family members. He sends money home on a regular basis. He is a decent man who got totally wrapped up in an addiction. I would like to think he has turned his life around, but only time will tell what will happen when he is released from prison.

Kevin said...

Anon. - That's great to hear. I honestly wish nothing but the best for Sammy, and want to believe that it's never too late for anyone to make things right.

Anonymous said...

I am Sammy's oldest sister, Linda and I would like for all of you to know that Sammy is doing wonderful. He's been in prison for over 3 years now and we are trying to get that sentence reduced or even clemency for him. Sammy has changed back to the man he once was, all drugs out of his system for 3 years now, he will look you in the eye and he is interested in what you've got to say. I think God that I have my brother back. Sammy is a wonderful man, a big heart and a great sense of humor. He's never known a stranger. Drugs ruined my brothers life and one of the worst things about this is that I had to watch our parents suffer and worry about Sammy, they were heartbroken. They are both dead now but I know in my heart that they are helping Sammy through these years. I think 8 or 9 years for habitual felon is pretty drastic and with the way the NC prison system being overloaded and underbudget they are going to need to let some of these types of offenders out. It's costing the gov way to much money. My brother has been through several classes, has a culinary school certificate, he is singing solos at church and all in all he is making the best of his time. He's helping the other guys in there also. He gets along with everyone and everyone likes him. I have written a letter to the gov of NC hoping for clemency so any prayers would be greatly appreciated. I love my brother, I don't like some of the things he did but he's human and he does deserve another chance. I know that if he gets out of there he can be a productive part of our society. He loves to work with kids and that's one of his hopes, of course he still loves baseball so he would love to work with the teams in any capacity. Sammy never hurt anyone other than himself and of course the people that love him so I think his sentence was toooo long. I would be interested in talking to any about Sammy anytime. Good thoughts and prayers would be greatly appreciated. Thank you Linda Banks