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Wiggins Says He’s Addicted but Should Be Accepted Back

Times Staff Writer

Alan Wiggins, San Diego Padre second baseman, making his first public appearance since entering a drug rehabilitation center 46 days ago, said Wednesday that he is chemically addicted.

He also said, however, that he should be accepted back into the major leagues, something his agent, Tony Attanasio, thought could be accomplished before day’s end.

But the working day ended, and nothing had changed.

The Padres, who maintain that Wiggins will not play for them again, were unable to trade him, although it appears that more teams than just the Baltimore Orioles are interested.

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Wiggins had met Tuesday with Oriole President Edward Bennett Williams and General Manager Hank Peters in Washington.

Apparently, however, the Orioles were more concerned about their needs for a manager than for a second baseman. It was reported Wednesday that Manager Joe Altobelli would be fired and likely replaced by former manager Earl Weaver. Apparently, the acquisition of Wiggins became secondary.

General Manager Jack McKeon of the Padres said he had heard from the Orioles Wednesday morning, but was expecting to hear more from them later in the day. He did not.

“I’m less optimistic about doing something than I was before,” McKeon said Wednesday afternoon. “But that’s at this hour. That’s how deals are made. You go through peaks and valleys. (The Orioles) are still determining what they want.”

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McKeon said that other teams had called about Wiggins, but he would not identify them, saying that he didn’t want to jeopardize any possible trades. Baseball’s trading deadline is Saturday.

“If Baltimore wants to make a deal, I’m sitting by the phone,” he said. “But if they’re serious about Wiggins, they better get on the ball. Whoever gives us the best deal, we’ll take it. I’m not saying Baltimore is on the bottom of our list, but there are others I know I can do something with.”

Wiggins, who was accompanied by Attanasio and lawyer Sergio Feria, looked fit at his press conference, held at a San Diego Health Club. He wore a 1984 National League championship ring on his finger and a Padre pin on his suit coat.

“I have a home here,” Wiggins said. “I have a family here. I’m from the West Coast. Yes, I’d prefer to play in San Diego. But then again, I’d just like to play again.”

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He said little of his involvement with drugs, refusing to comment on why he had mysteriously disappeared from a Los Angeles hotel April 25.

“That is not germane to this conference,” Attanasio said.

Wiggins did read a prepared statement that, according to Attanasio, was written exclusively by Wiggins. In that statement, he admitted that he had suffered from “the disease of chemical dependency.”

"(It is) one in which I have no power over,” he wrote. “And this includes alcohol.”

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He also wrote that he hadn’t meant to hurt his teammates, Padre owner Joan Kroc, Padre President Ballard Smith, Padre General Manager Jack McKeon or the San Diego Police Department, which he had previously assisted in drug abuse seminars.

“In summary, please allow me to tell you that I’m fortunate,” he wrote. “I’m lucky to have been educated, although the hard way. I’m lucky to be a professional athlete, playing in a game that allows financial rewards for hard work, effort, and yes, even with occasional failures.”

Later, when answering questions, he said: “I totally accept the fact that I’m powerless, that I’m chemically addicted. Basically, that is the first step of the program. The process of rehabilitation is a lifetime process that’s taken one day at a time. I realize that, and I’m willing to do it.”

Meanwhile, the Padres are expecting to hear from baseball’s Player Relations Committee in the next few days if the team is not able to trade Wiggins. It’s expected that the PRC will order the Padres to do something with Wiggins, possibly asking that Wiggins be sent to the minor leagues for physical rehabilitation.

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Smith, the team president, said: “The PRC doesn’t run our business. . . . They don’t have the authority.”

Eugene Orza, associate general counsel of the baseball’s player’s association, said in response: “If Ballard said that he would not bring Wiggins back even if all trade talks broke down, what Ballard said is incorrect, unless he wants to continue to resist the clear dictates of the joint drug agreement.

“That is, as I understand it, not only our (the player’s association) view, but one shared by the PRC itself.”

Members of the PRC were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

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