Former Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse caterer Curtis Strong was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for selling cocaine to major league players by a federal judge who warned baseball executives they "must clean up their house."
Strong, 39, of Philadelphia, also was sentenced to 12 years of special parole following his jail term for his Sept. 20 conviction on 11 of 14 cocaine distribution charges. U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond said he wanted Strong to be "too old to engage in the drug business" when he leaves federal supervision in 24 years.
The judge, however, ruled that Strong will be eligible for parole, at the discretion of the federal parole board, meaning it is likely he will serve only a portion of his 12-year sentence.
Diamond, who presided over a three-week trial in which seven current or former major leaguers testified under grants of immunity that they used cocaine, said the players "were not virginal innocents" and "also committed crimes."
Drug abuse goes beyond major league baseball, the judge said, but baseball interests have "their problems and they must clean up their house."
"If they kill the golden goose, then it is their problem," Diamond said.
The judge also criticized Shea Stadium fans who applauded New York Met first baseman Keith Hernandez after he returned to the team following his federal court testimony against Strong.
"When those people stand up and applaud Keith Hernandez, or whoever they were applauding, then they are applauding a disreputable element of our society," Diamond said. "The fact that the fans should give a standing ovation, I think, is a terrible commentary on our society."
Defense attorney Adam Renfroe Jr. brought up the ovation to Diamond in asking for mercy for Strong.
"Only in America can that happen," Renfroe said.