On Monday the Washington Post ran a piece about Rick Ankiel and his alcohol abuse. Okay, the term “alcohol abuse” may be a stretch, but in the piece the former Cardinal pitcher/outfielder (kinda like Babe Ruth but way shitter) admitted to take some shots of vodka before his first start of the 2001 season. Now, on the surface this sounds bad, but there are some factors to consider here.
First, Ankiel’s first start in ’01 was against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yes, the Diamondbacks team that won the World Series. Going up against a team that was so good that Lyle Overbay and Tony Womack were reserves would prompt me to slam back a few Smirnoff doubles too.
Second, that start Ankiel was scheduled to pitch against Randy Johnson. The Big Unit. The ace of the Diamondbacks entire pitching rotation. I mean, the guy literally made a bird explode. If you you’re not drowning yourself in liquid courage before facing a 6’10” lefty then you clearly have a death wish.
Finally, Ankiel’s last start prior to this game was in the 2000 NLDS where he threw nine wild pitches in four innings of work. You read that right, nine. Most guys may throw nine wild pitches all year! This guy threw nine in a home game with a 6-0 lead. So, he could either not drink and suck at pitching, or get a little tipsy and keep his multi-million dollar contract.
It’s easy to want to jump all over Ankiel’s case here. Claim that he’s some bad role model for the kids, he should set a better example, all that malarky. But, that’s not my view on this because I’m not a narc. Ankiel won that start and pitched a solid five innings. Let’s not cast judgement, we all need some liquid motivation to get through the day sometimes. It’s like Jesus said in the Bible, “Let he who hath not drank before work cast the first empty pint.”*
Plus, Ankiel joins a list of many athletes who have experienced success while inebriated in some capacity. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples of athletes who haven’t let a good time/possible addiction get in the way of their performance.
Dock Ellis pitched for the Pirates back in 1970. During that time, I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that wasn’t doing drugs. But Ellis took it to a whole other level. He is cited to frequently have done a bunch of speed pills all the time. But, one faithful June afternoon in 1970, the pitcher lost track of time tripping after tripping on acid for a day and a half. He somehow pitched a 2-0 no hitter while tripping balls and throwing balls. A lot of them In the no-no, Ellis walked eight and hit a batter.
Remember that scrappy Villanova team that won the National Championship in 1985 as an 8-seed, beating Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the finals. Yeah, well there’s a chance Gary McLain’s memory of it is spotty. McLain was the starting point guard for that Wildcat team and admitted to being absolutely ripped on coke throughout the final four. Hell, he was even high on it during the team’s visit to the White House, where he met former President Reagan and Nancy Reagan, who started the war on drugs. Talk about daring to be different.
I’m pretty sure Josh Gordon has been perpetually high since like 2006. That being the case, clearly it worked because his 2013 season was one for the books. After missing the first two games for failing a drug test, Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 yards, and recorded back to back 200 yard receiving games for the first time in NFL history. This was with Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden as his QB’s. Safe to say, whatever Gordon was doing that year he should’ve been passing along to everyone else in that locker room.
David Wells/John Lackey
Now I have no proof of either of these guys, so this is a more probable than not kind of thing. On this weeks episode of Second String during a new bit called “Sorry for Partying,” Dubs thought Wells was drunk during his perfect game performance with the Yankees, and quite frankly he probably was. As for John Lackey, well, just look at the guy.
That’s the face of a man who’s gone through the 12 steps so many times that he needs a fit bit to keep track.
So the next time your boss is yelling at you for being drunk at work, feel free to show him this list and encourage him/her to stop being so narrow-minded. It probably won’t help at all, but what other play do you have, right? I mean, you’re drunk at work.
PS – Cards on the table sophomore year of college had a finance test where you could hedge yourself on the multiple choice. You had five points to distribute for each question. So, if you really knew an answer, you put all 5 on the correct, where as if you had no clue, you could put one point on each answer guaranteeing partial credit. Slammed a whiskey iced tea before my last test in this class and got a 90%. So if you’re reading this Rick, I get it.
*I did not do well in Theology