Padres’ Hoyt Is in Rehabilitation : Checks In for Emotional Stress, Possible Drug Problems

Times Staff Writer

Padre pitcher LaMarr Hoyt, who has a divorce pending, checked into a rehabilitation center Thursday for treatment of emotional troubles as well as possible alcohol and drug problems.

“He’s had a lot of very severe personal and domestic problems lately,” his attorney, Ron Shapiro, said Thursday. “Things just piled up, and I think that, just emotionally, he couldn’t handle it anymore. We urged him to get some help.

“Emotionally, he was just a jumble of raw nerves. . . . He was a lost soul for a while.”

Apparently, nobody here realized that. Hoyt, the Most Valuable Player in last year’s All-Star game and a former Cy Young Award winner, was here for two days, going about the normal routine.


His hair was longer, and he was thinner, presumably because of a crash diet. He hadn’t been throwing much, but that was because he hurt his ankle stepping off a curb. He appeared to be his regular self.

“He’s in what!” Padre catcher Terry Kennedy said when told that Hoyt was in a rehabilitation center. “I didn’t know anything was up.”

Hoyt recently talked openly about the separation from his wife, Sylvia, mentioning that she is “trying to take half my money.”

He earns $1 million a year.


Periodically, he was calling Shapiro on the phone, relating his troubles.

“I honestly felt the best way to attack this was for him to disappear and talk to some doctors and deal with any other problems he might have,” Shapiro said. “Just see what they can do. I believe they can turn him around.”

Neither Padre President Ballard Smith nor General Manager Jack McKeon would comment. Instead, they issued a statement, saying that Hoyt’s decision to check in had been voluntary and that he was expected to return before opening day. His stay at the rehabilitation center likely will be 10 to 14 days.

Despite his athletic success, Hoyt has led a troubled life. Shortly after his birth in Columbia, S.C., his parents, Dewey and Norma Hoyt, were divorced. Dewey was awarded custody but Norma kidnapped LaMarr, then 6 months old, and took him with her to Santa Barbara.


Dewey took a leave of absence from his job with the city of Columbia and drove to Santa Barbara. Norma hid LaMarr in a back bedroom and refused to return him.

Dewey went home, quit his job, returned to California and stole LaMarr back. He delivered his son to his sister, Margaret Hiller, and her husband. Dewey never worked again and eventually became an alcoholic.

“His parents just left him with me,” Margaret Hiller said. “Neither showed any concern or love for him. They just left him with me because they knew I’d take care of him.”

Hoyt still refers to Margaret Hiller as “Mom.”


Said Shapiro: “You have to understand he was abandoned by a father, abandoned by a mother, and now a separation from his wife. And with a domestic situation like that, there was just a total fear of where life was going and where he belonged. Reality is that it’s created a giant fear inside him.”

Shapiro, based in Baltimore, is the founder of the Orioles’ recently implemented voluntary drug program, which encourages players to go to selected hospitals rather than their teams if they have a problem.

“The kids in this game of baseball are so vulnerable,” Shapiro said. “That’s one reason why I got involved.”

Suddenly, the Padre pitching staff is vulnerable, too.


“Without LaMarr. . . that’s bad,” pitcher Mark Thurmond. “That’s 15 games.”

Actually, Hoyt won 16 games last season, including an 11-game winning streak that got him into the All-Star game.”