La Russa warned pitcher about excessive drinking
May 4: St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa says that he had a "very serious heart-to-heart" talk with pitcher Josh Hancock about excessive drinking days before his fatal accident.
ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals banned alcohol from the clubhouse on Friday, five days after the alcohol-related fatal accident of pitcher Josh Hancock.
Manager Tony La Russa said general manager Walt Jocketty did not consult players before making the decision before the team’s first home game since Hancock’s death. La Russa said it was a largely symbolic move since players don’t drink much in the clubhouse anyway.
The team also is considering an alcohol ban on the road.
“It’s meaningful,” La Russa said. “But it’s not a significant factor in our clubhouse because our guys don’t stay in the clubhouse to drink.”
Center fielder Jim Edmonds was unaware of the change when approached by reporters about 2½ hours before Friday’s game against the Houston Astros. He didn’t seem to mind, although he didn’t believe it was a problem in the clubhouse.
“I didn’t know anything about it. But if that’s what they want to do, fine with us,” said Edmonds, the longest tenured Cardinal who has been with the team since 2000. “They’re our bosses, they’re the ones who make the big decisions. We just work here.”
La Russa didn’t think alcohol abuse was a problem on the team in general, noting that many of the players are married with children. The bullpen is an exception.
“Look at our roster,” he said. “The game is over, guys go home to their family. So it’s a limited scope issue.”
The Cardinals were owned for decades by Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., and their stadium is named after the brewery. The team has traditionally made alcohol available to players after games. Even after Anheuser Busch sold the team to a group of mostly local businessmen in 1996, the practice continued.
Edmonds said Hancock’s death was a shock to the system for players, and should be for the public in general also.
“I’d hate to single out our team, because I don’t think it’s a baseball issue. I think it’s an issue all over the place, and hopefully people will be more aware of it because of what happened.”
The Astros do not provide alcohol to players in their clubhouse. Manager Phil Garner recalled the Brewers, where he began his managerial career in 1992, banning alcohol that season.
Garner sees that as a reflection of a healthier society in general.
“The drinking as a whole has dropped off significantly in the clubhouse, and from what I see, just generally, in baseball as a whole,” Garner said. “I think there was a drinking culture in baseball years ago, and I don’t think it’s there anymore.
“Guys work to condition themselves and it’s a ’round the clock deal.”
At Yankee Stadium, manager Joe Torre said he thought individual teams had addressed the issue.
“Obviously it’s more of a problem at home than it would be on the road because when you’re on the road you’re on a bus and you’re not driving,” Torre said.
Hancock was drunk and talking on his cell phone at the time of his fatal accident early Sunday on Interstate 64 in St. Louis. His sports utility vehicle hit the back of a tow truck parked on the highway to assist a driver from a previous accident.
Hancock’s blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri’s legal limit of 0.08, the medical examiner said.
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