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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Bump: The time Bill Clinton made the New York Yankees a front in the war on drugs

Drugging: How Each of Us Can Change the Baseball World.

In 1995, the New York Yankees owner decided to sign Darryl Strawberry to a short-term contract, despite Strawberry’s suspension for testing positive for cocaine a few months earlier. Then the Bill Clinton White House got involved.

In the latest of the ongoing release of previously classified documents from the Clinton Presidential Library is a memo sent from then-chief-of-staff Rahm Emmanuel covering a number of important topics: immigration, welfare reform, and, naturally, Yankee baseball.

...This appears to be the first time that the meeting between Clinton’s drug czar Lee Brown and Yankee owner Steinbrenner has been made public, much less the suggested list of demands. Steinbrenner, being something of an individualist, doesn’t appear to have actually done these things.

Brown was already public about his opposition to the deal, as the Nightline reference makes clear. He was also quoted by the Associated Press, as reported in the Spokane Spokesman-Review:

  “The Yankees have struck out by signing Darryl Strawberry,” said Lee Brown, President Clinton’s national drug policy director. “They are sending the worst possible message to the youth of America: That if you use drugs, you can be rewarded with big money in big-time sports.”

The reason for the White House’s involvement is obvious. Clinton was just starting to see traction in the endless War on Drugs, with crime rates continuing to decline from their 1991 peak. The trend continued for decades, but obviously Clinton didn’t know that at the time. The link between crime and cocaine was still potent; elsewhere in the Emanuel memos, he describes that Brown’s upcoming schedule includes the demolition of crack houses.

 

Repoz Posted: June 07, 2014 at 09:32 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: June 07, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4720870)
Yes, because in 1995 Strawberry's experience made it clear to everyone that using drugs will have no impact on one's career...
   2. Publius Publicola Posted: June 07, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4720873)
Can somebody provide the backstory on Strawberry's 1999 season? He hit the snot out of the ball but only played 24 games.
   3. Publius Publicola Posted: June 07, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4720874)
I don't know what the big deal is. We all know Steinbrenner would sign Hitler if he thought he could play.
   4. SG Posted: June 07, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4720876)
In 1999, Strawberry was arrested for cocaine possession and soliciting an undercover officer and got suspended by MLB for four months.
   5. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 07, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4720891)
Hitler kampfed in the minors for several years before putting up a huge WAR, but had trouble against the tough eastern division.
   6. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: June 07, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4720904)
Uncle Sam was struggling in the Japanese League, but came out on top after hitting two huge bombs late in the game.
   7. Swedish Chef Posted: June 07, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4720906)
I don't know what the big deal is. We all know Steinbrenner would sign Hitler if he thought he could play.

With that mustache? No way.
   8. Publius Publicola Posted: June 07, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4720907)
Total hijack here but I'm reading Speer's Inside The Third Reich and there's an anecdote in there that, upon Ribbentrop's 50th birthday, around 1942 or so, they had a shindig for him and his aids presented him a casket bejeweled with semi-precious stones and containing a copy of all the treaties he engineered. And one of them apologized that there were so few of them that hadn't already been broken. And when Hitler heard that, he laughed so hard, he had to wipe the tears from his eyes.
   9. Barnaby Jones Posted: June 07, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4720917)
a memo sent from then-chief-of-staff Rahm Emmanuel


No.
   10. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 07, 2014 at 01:09 PM (#4720922)
Uncle Sam was struggling in the Japanese League, but came out on top after hitting two huge bombs late in the game.

And those two bombs were nicknamed "C.C. Sabathia" and "Dustin Pedroia."
   11. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 07, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4720931)
And those two bombs were nicknamed "C.C. Sabathia" and "Dustin Pedroia."


Have you seen C.C. Sabathia lately?
   12. winnipegwhip Posted: June 07, 2014 at 08:42 PM (#4721135)
Uncle Sam was struggling in the Japanese League, but came out on top after hitting two huge bombs late in the game.


"IT is HI. It is Ro. It is Shi..... IT IS GONE!!! OH Enola Gay!!! Get outta the way. The Enola Gay clears the bases with one blast. How about that Suzyn?"

"Oh, my good goodness gracious! Of all the dramatic things I've ever seen."
   13. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 08, 2014 at 04:38 PM (#4721403)
The link between crime and cocaine was still potent


Doesn't making any activity illegal that creates unlimited profit potential to anyone wiling to risk prison have a potent link to crime, especially violent crimes?

I'll bet if we made alcohol illegal violent booze traffickers would suddenly appear. If only there was an historical precedent so we could know for sure.
   14. theboyqueen Posted: June 08, 2014 at 09:36 PM (#4721587)
Doesn't making any activity illegal that creates unlimited profit potential to anyone wiling to risk prison have a potent link to crime, especially violent crimes?

I'll bet if we made alcohol illegal violent booze traffickers would suddenly appear. If only there was an historical precedent so we could know for sure.


I would love for this to be true and I think the war on drugs is horrific, but in terms of intended consequences didn't it sort of work? Unless I'm mistaken crime rates are way down from where they were, as is drug use generally, no? Granted, with a generation of minorities in prison to show for it while creeps like David Crosby can laugh about the bowlfuls of coke they handed out to nubiles essentially in exchange for sex. Yay America!
   15. bobm Posted: June 08, 2014 at 11:31 PM (#4721626)
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/21/sports/baseball-steinbrenner-criticized-for-signing-strawberry.html


June 21, 1995
BASEBALL; Steinbrenner Criticized For Signing Strawberry
By JACK CURRY [...]

But [the signing] was criticized by people ranging from Lee Brown, the national drug policy director, to Tommy Lasorda, Strawberry's former manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Brown rebuked the Yankees for sending "the worst possible message" to children by rewarding a player with a lavish contract five months after he tested positive for cocaine use and was then suspended from baseball. Lasorda wondered why Strawberry did not serve any time in prison for pleading guilty to Federal income tax evasion, as Pete Rose and Leona Helmsley did, and said anyone who violated drug policies should be forbidden from playing.

Steinbrenner vehemently defended the signing as a hopeful act designed to help Strawberry avoid more disasters with drugs.

"What do they want? Darryl Strawberry to continue doing it until he's dead?" Steinbrenner said in a telephone interview this afternoon. "Is that what they want? I don't even know if the guy can play. I haven't seen him play. We haven't scouted him. It really matters what he wants to do and if he turns it around, gets away from it. I'm willing to see if he can change.

"Maybe I'll be disappointed, but I think that Darryl Strawberry can turn things around and be a great lesson for young people to say that you shouldn't do it. Anyone who hasn't done it can get up there and tell kids that. But someone who has been through the terror and has almost paid with his life can really get the point across."

Brown, the former Police Commissioner in New York City, disagreed as he issued a press release chastising the Yankees and requesting a meeting with Steinbrenner; the acting baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association. In the release, Brown said kids might believe that professional athletes do not receive penalties for taking drugs and cited Yankee pitcher Steve Howe, who has been suspended from baseball seven times for repeated drug violations, as a current example. He also cited the suspended pitcher Dwight Gooden, whom Steinbrenner has said the Yankees will pursue when he is eligible, as a potential future example.

"In the Yankees' zeal to build the gate," Brown said, "they are taking advantage of the fans and Darryl Strawberry, and they are destroying America's great pastime and our youth. This isn't just fun and games. People die from drug abuse."

After first saying he was unaware of Brown's statement, Steinbrenner reacted zestfully to it. He also admonished the Federal Government for failing to stop the influx of drugs into the country, suggested that the armed forces be used to fight the problem and called the drug troubles in Washington, where Brown's headquarters are located, "impossible."

"I know what he's saying; I'll accept that criticism," said the owner, who consistently mentions Howe as a success story, although he entered a form of a guilty plea for attempting to possess cocaine in June 1992. "I still feel if we make the turn, it will be worth it. The one thing Darryl has now that maybe he didn't have any other time is that he has to understand how tough I can be when someone is disloyal to me. I'm not easy, and I told him that. I'm tough. If I give you loyalty, I demand loyalty back."

Bill Goodstein, Strawberry's agent, was surprised that Brown singled out Strawberry.

"Is Lee Brown saying he should retire from baseball and become a chef at Le Cirque?" Goodstein asked. "It's not sending a bad message. If experts agree that a person is ready to enter his existence again, what is wrong with that?"

Steinbrenner conceded he might talk to Brown, but Selig declined to address the topic, and Fehr was unavailable for comment.
   16. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 09, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4722000)
Unless I'm mistaken crime rates are way down from where they were, as is drug use generally, no?


You are mistaken. Drug use is not down in any meaningful way, violent crime rates track lower levels of lead at the environment much more than they do drug use, but there still is a core amount of violent crime linked to ongoing black market activities, drugs, gambling, prostitution.


For example, the murder rate was skyhigh during Prohibition and dropped as soon as prohibition was repealed.

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