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Rehabilitation Takes Its Toll on Reputation : Hoyt Resents ‘Alcoholic’ Label and the Broken Confidences

Times Staff Writer

The thing that really peeves LaMarr Hoyt is that people think he’s an alcoholic.

He says he is not.

Wednesday, for the first time, he talked openly about drinking and drugs and cops and guns and rehabilitation.

He shared these revelations:

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He said the people at the Hazelden Foundation, where he stayed for 28 days this spring, labeled him as an alcoholic because his father is an alcoholic. He said this is not fair.

“To get in there and get told I’m an alcoholic is something I didn’t really accept then and don’t think I ever will,” he said. “Still, the thing that amazes me is figuring out how I can be an alcoholic after being arrested twice for having two joints. That’s something I still haven’t figured out and probably never will. It’s a tag I’ll have to wear the rest of my life.”

What about those joints? Hoyt said that he was walking across the San Ysidro border last Feb. 10 with two marijuana cigarettes in his coat pocket, but that he didn’t even know it. He hadn’t worn the jacket in “around five years” and was as surprised as anyone when U.S. Custom Agents found them.

He said he never had Quaaludes or Valium tablets, as was originally reported.

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And when he was arrested a second time on Feb. 18 for again having marijuana cigarettes he said he didn’t know he had, he thought he “was gonna be killed.”

He explained: “They (the police) drew their guns, and I said ‘Holy . . . I turned sideways so they’d hit me in the side and not in front. Because I had my cousin killed when I was 18 years old, and I don’t like guns. I’m totally afraid of guns.”

He said his nerves came undone this spring, not because of alcohol, but because he thought he’d never pitch the way he’d pitched before. Here he was, a former Cy Young Award winner, and his shoulder still hurt. Last year, he’d had tendinitis of the right rotator cuff, and it hadn’t healed over the winter.

Plus, he and his wife, Sylvia, were having problems.

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“I’d say a lot of it had to do with my arm,” he said. “I was worried I’d never be able to pitch again or pitch in the manner I used to. That was probably the main contributing factor to my emotional state of mind. Plus, going through the process of telling my wife I wanted a divorce. I was the one who initiated that action. And also her hiring Marvin Mitchelson as her attorney.

“That was rather devastating. I cared enough about her that I wanted her to hire a good attorney. But not a bloodsucker that was out to pad his pocketbook and not looking out for her welfare.”

He nearly quit baseball, until Padre President Ballard Smith talked sense into him.

“I was there (at Hazelden) for 10 days, and I called up Ballard and told him I was leaving, that I didn’t want to play baseball anymore.”

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A specific counselor at Hazelden had been upsetting.

“He was just this suspicious guy who didn’t believe anything I said,” Hoyt said. “I told Ballard if this was the kind of crap I’d have to go through (for rehabilitation), I could see what would happen when I’d get out. I didn’t think it was fair.

“I mean, I wasn’t an alcoholic. I’d done what they (the Padres) asked me to. They asked me to go in (to Hazelden) for five or seven days. That’s what I’d done. After 10 days, I was ready to get out. I didn’t feel like I belonged in there. The guys (patients) in there didn’t feel like I belonged in there.

“Ballard said: ‘Hang in there . . . It’s only 28 days . . . Just stay in there, come on back out (to San Diego) and everything will be all right.’ He said he wouldn’t hold anything against me. And, you know, it would have been an irrational thing to walk out because I would have been throwing away a lot of stuff. I took his advice and stayed in there.”

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How bad off was he at one point?

“I let a lot of responsibilities go by the wayside,” he said. “I threw a lot of things off on other people. Like my agent. I wasn’t handling any of my own affairs. I was letting my wife handle all of the financial situations. I couldn’t tell you before how much things cost. Now, I can. I’m paying all the bills, living up to my responsibilities and I feel very good about it . . .

“Before, I was in such disarray of thought that I really had no idea of what I was doing, where I was or what I was even wearing. Unfortunately for me, I was caught in a couple odd situations to say the least. But that’s something I can’t do anything about. It happened. It’s part of my history. It’s part of my past, and it’s a reputation I’m not very proud of. But it’s something I have to live with.”

He said to Bruce Schoenfeld of the Cincinnati Post: “If you’re gonna label me an alcoholic, you’re calling 75% of the players in baseball alcoholic.”

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He said it doesn’t bother him that teammates drink beer in front of him.

“It would be real hard if I were an alcoholic,” Hoyt said. “It would be real hard if I had to have the stuff. But it never has made any difference to me whether I drink or don’t drink. It’s no big deal. I have no trouble not drinking whatsoever. Right now, I’m in a position where I don’t want to (drink). And it’s probably more practical that I don’t.”

He said he hasn’t smoked marijuana or used drugs for two years.

And alcohol?

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“Maybe I used to have a couple beers from time to time--if that,” he said. “Maybe wine or a beer.”

He said he is alone, that he has been set apart from the rest of his teammates. He cannot drink or do what they do, so he just stays away.

“I’m off by myself now,” he said as he packed his bags to catch a team flight to San Diego. “I guess that’s the way it’ll have to be.”


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