For Bob Didier, bench coach for the Oakland A’s, baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth’s mandatory drug testing plan will be pretty tame when compared with what he experienced last winter in Venezuela.
In an interview published in Tuesday’s San Francisco Examiner, Didier told what happened when Venezuelan authorities decided to get tough with players from the United States who were there for the winter season.
“The police in Caracas were upset because two American players in the league were suspected of trying to buy drugs,” said Didier, who managed the club in Aragua last winter. “So the police, or militia, sent out raiding parties to look for drugs.”
The tactics used against the nine Americans that played on each of the two teams in the capital city of Caracas were far from a polite request to urinate in a bottle, Didier said.
“About 10 o’clock one morning, guys with machine guns burst into players’ rooms and searched their luggage, under their beds, everywhere. One guy had his wife and 2-year-old there, and they were hysterical.
“None of them in the raid spoke any English. Butch Benton, he catches for the Indians now, came to the door naked. He opened it with the latch still on and a hand came through. He shut the door on the hand. Then three guys kicked the door off the hinges.
“There was Butch, stark naked, with three machine guns pointed at him. He didn’t speak any Spanish. They held him for 15 minutes. They didn’t find any drugs in his room either.”
And Didier said the harassment continued a few days later when his team came into Caracas.
“I was coaching third base in the second inning of a game. I looked into the dugout, and there were five guys with machine guns talking to our general manager. They told him they wanted five Americans to urinate into a bottle right then for a drug test, including my starting pitcher.”
The team asked the police to come back the next day and a deal was worked out then whereby five native players took drug tests.
“A writer in Caracas wrote that we refused to take the tests, and the newspaper headline said, ‘Aragua positive on drugs,”’ Didier said. “They thought we were guilty. Three or four Americans packed up and went home. They were convinced they could get framed.”