Basemen Loaded: DUI in the MLB
History of Alcohol and the MLB
Major League Baseball has always had a rocky relationship with alcohol. The National League was created by William Hulburt. When Hulburt was not happy with the alcoholic antics and gambling behavior of players, he banned gambling and alcoholic beverages at ballparks. In 1882, The American Association, later known as the American League, was created in response to the National League’s ban on alcohol. American Association regulations were essentially the opposite of National League regulations. The American Association was for the working class, allowing liquor sales at ball games, lower prices for game patrons and games on Sundays. In 2000, the National League and American League merged into a single organization called Major League Baseball, or the MLB.
Easy Access to Alcohol
Players’ lounges, known as clubhouses, are unique to baseball and supply refreshments, including alcohol, to players after games. Players’ lounges seem to have all the comforts of home without the responsibility. The familial relationship that develops between baseball players and teammates is strong; however this bond can be reinforced by alcohol. Orioles manager, Buck Showalter, states, “My first year in New York [with the Yankees], we used to have beer on tap. You could put a beer in a cup and walk right out with it. There’s a reason why it’s not in the locker room now or on the plane coming home. And there is a reason why there’s not a case of beer on the bus in spring training. The culture is changing.” (Crasnick, 2011) Although there has been discussion in the past about a league-wide ban on alcohol in the clubhouses, the league has still left the decision up to each individual team.
10 Baseball Players and DUI’s
Babe Ruth, known for his home runs, is also known for his drinking behavior. Mickey Mantle, another great baseball player, was also publicly known to be a notorious alcoholic. Showalter is correct about the growing prevalence of alcoholic behavior in baseball, but no one could have predicted how much worse the alcohol situation would become:
Matt Bush, widely known for his recent hit and run, is facing jail time for his driving under the influence. Poor decision making while under the influence of alcohol can ruin a life in a spilt second. There were over 20 DUI arrests of MLB players over the past 20 years. Here is a list of the 10 most recent:
- 2012: Bobby Jenks (Red Sox)
- 2012: Matt Bush (Rays)
- 2012: Alex White (Rockies)
- 2012: Eric Langill (Mets)
- 2011: Shin-Soo Choo (Indians)
- 2011: Adam Kennedy (Mariners)
- 2011: Coco Crisp (A’s)
- 2011: Austin Kearns (Indians)
- 2011: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
- 2010: Dane Sardinha (Phillies)
Changing the Future
The MLB will have to address the increasingly serious prevalence of alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction amongst its players. More programs need to be put into place to monitor baseball players who break the laws about drinking and driving. Major League Baseball player Josh Hamilton participated in such a program after his alcohol problems surfaced. He remains sober today after multiple visits to alcohol rehab programs, despite a brief relapse.
Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, states, “If there’s a problem, I would prefer we went into the education tone more than the punitive tone immediately. Too many times we want to become punitive about everything. This isn’t just a baseball problem. It’s societal.” (Crasnick, 2011) In accordance with Maddon’s suggestion, a program called Baseball’s Rookie Development Program helps educate top minor leagues about the dangers of drunk driving. Others propose that, since they make so much money, baseball players who drink too much to drive should simply take cabs.
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