Wills, Drug-Free for Today, Supports Testing : Ex-Dodger Says His Cocaine Habit Started When He Was Fired in Seattle

Associated Press

Maury Wills, who says he aged 15 years during a 3 1/2-year battle with drug addiction, hopes to open a rehabilitation center to help other athletes.

"Someday, I hope and pray the major league baseball players will consent to drug testing. That is the answer. That's the major answer because there is no way to get around it, no room for denial," Wills said.

The 54-year-old Wills, the 1962 National League Most Valuable Player and one-time holder of the single-season base-stealing record, spent most of his 13 major league seasons with the Dodgers. He said his drug problems began after he was fired as manager of the Seattle Mariners midway through the 1981 season.

"There was depression and disappointment," he said. "All the people I let down. The embarrassment. The drugs. Somebody comes along and puts it there for you when you're looking for an escape. As I look back, I had to have an escape and that was it. It would have been nice if there was someone there with the knowledge I have now to grab me before I got trapped.

"Some people get old but never grow up. That's what happened to Maury Wills. In those three years, I aged 15 years."

Wills said said he spent almost four years virtually locked in his California home, blankets covering his windows as he indulged in his cocaine habit.

He considered suicide before Angela George, then a friend and now his wife, helped him enter a clinic, where he still goes twice a week for tests.

"I couldn't handle it today if I did not test. I have to test twice a week," said Wills, whose huge rehabilitation bill has been paid by the Dodgers. "Angela turned me around 3 1/2 years ago. I've gone 11 months clean at a time and broke my program. I'd go eight months and break my program.

"I've got it whipped for today. But once you get addicted, you never get well. You only get better. I don't have withdrawals, but I think about it a lot. I don't count the days behind me. I don't count the days in front of me. All that counts is today. I can't promise you about tomorrow."

Wills, who played in Sunday's charity game between the 1962 Dodgers and 1962 San Francisco Giants, said his playing days were drug-free.

In 1962, Wills was the National League's Most Valuable Player, hitting .299 with 6 home runs and 48 RBIs and stole a then-record 104 bases, in 117 attempts. He also played in all 165 games that season, which ended for him with the Giants winning the third game of a three-game playoff for the pennant.

"I stole 104 bases on my natural adrenalin. That makes it easier to live with myself," Wills said. "This is the big leagues now. I'm a rookie at it. It feels good. I've got good natural adrenalin going in my body now. I can smell the flowers."

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