Alan Wiggins

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Alan Wiggins
Outfielder, Second baseman
Born: (1958-02-17)February 17, 1958
Los Angeles, California
Died: January 6, 1991(1991-01-06) (aged 32)
Los Angeles, California
Batted: Switch Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 4, 1981 for the San Diego Padres
Last MLB appearance
August 28, 1987 for the Baltimore Orioles
Career statistics
Batting average .259
Home runs 5
Runs batted in 118
Stolen bases 242
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Alan Anthony Wiggins (February 17, 1958 – January 6, 1991) was a Major League Baseball (MLB) second baseman and outfielder. He played for the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles between 1981 and 1987. Wiggins was a key player in the postseason for the 1984 San Diego Padres as they won the National League Championship Series and advanced to the World Series.

Wiggins grew up in California and attended Pasadena City College before being drafted by the California Angels. He played in the minor league systems of the Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers. While playing for the Lodi Dodgers of the California League, Wiggins set the league's single-season stolen base record. He first made the major leagues with the San Diego Padres. In 1984, he set the Padres' single-season stolen base record.

During his major league career, Wiggins struggled with drug addiction, which resulted in multiple arrests and suspensions from baseball. Wiggins became known as a loner and he fell out of favor with his teammates and coaches on the Padres and Orioles. After a failed drug test in 1987, he received an indefinite suspension. After leaving baseball, he was diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). He was the first MLB player known to die of AIDS. Long after his death, two of Wiggins' children – Candice Wiggins and Alan Wiggins, Jr. – became professional basketball players.

Early life[edit]

Wiggins was born in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in poverty and he learned to play baseball at a park near the Rose Bowl.[1] As a child, Wiggins looked up to speedy Dodgers star Maury Wills.[2] He graduated from John Muir High School in Pasadena, California;[a] the school was also the alma mater of baseball star Jackie Robinson. Gib Bodet, a scout for the Montreal Expos, noticed Wiggins in high school. Wiggins was 6'2", taller than a typical infielder. He was only an average hitter and fielder, but his speed stood out to Bodet.[3]

Wiggins spent the 1977 college baseball season at Pasadena City College, where he played with future major leaguers Matt Young and Rod Booker.[4] By the time that Wiggins moved to Pasadena City College, Bodet was working for the California Angels. Wiggins was selected by the Angels as the eighth overall pick of the 1977 Major League Baseball Draft. Bodet and Angels staff members worked out with Wiggins after the draft. Angels coach Bob Clear told Wiggins that "if you can hit .200, you can run the other eighty points. And if you can hit. 280, you can lead off for anybody."[3] Wiggins signed with the Angels for $2500 after what Bodet described as "a tough negotiation".[3]

Early career[edit]

Wiggins played minor league baseball in 1977 for the Angels rookie-league affiliate in Idaho Falls, where he hit for a .271 batting average and had 25 stolen bases in 63 games. In 1978, with the Class A Quad Cities Angels, Wiggins stole 26 bases in 49 games, but his batting average fell to .201.[5] He was released by the Angels organization in June and he feared that his career was near its end, but he reached out to Los Angeles Dodgers scout Gail Henley. After a workout in front of Tommy Lasorda and the Dodgers, Wiggins signed with the team before the 1979 season.[2] In 95 games for the Class A Clinton Dodgers, Wiggins hit .257 and had 43 steals. He was primarily a shortstop, but he also appeared in the outfield and at all three of the other infield positions.[5]

Wiggins set a California League record with 120 stolen bases for the Class A Lodi Dodgers in 1980;[6] the next highest stolen base total in the league that season was 77.[7] He caught the eye of San Diego Padres general manager Jack McKeon, who drafted him in the 1980 rule 5 draft. The Dodgers could have protected Wiggins from being selected in the rule 5 draft, but they elected not to. Padres officials later acknowledged that they knew Wiggins had been arrested for possession of marijuana while with the Dodgers. Executives from the Dodgers would not say whether the drug arrest was a factor in their decision to part with Wiggins.[1]

San Diego Padres[edit]

After having spent most of his minor league career as an infielder, he was converted into an outfielder with the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League in 1981. After batting .302 with 33 runs batted in, he received a September call-up to the major leagues. In his first season, he only got 14 at bats, but had five hits.[8] Wiggins split 1982 between the Islanders and Padres.[5] He was arrested for possession of cocaine just after the All-Star break, and underwent drug treatment.[9] By the end of April 1983, he earned the leadoff spot in the Padres' batting order and split his playing time between the three outfield positions and first base. That year he stole 66 bases, which was good for second in the league. He hit .276 and picked up 139 hits.[8]

Wiggins was converted back into a second baseman in 1984.[8] He retained the leadoff spot in the lineup, hitting ahead of Tony Gwynn.[10] In an August game, Wiggins unwittingly became a party to a bench-clearing brawl. Wiggins was hit with the first pitch of the game by Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Pérez. San Diego pitchers retaliated by throwing pitches at Pérez every time he batted, hitting him with a pitch during his fourth at-bat. Braves pitcher Donnie Moore then hit Padre Graig Nettles. Several players and coaches were fined, suspended and ejected in the ensuing fight.[11]

Wiggins finished second in the league in runs scored (106), and he set the Padres' single-season record for stolen bases (70) to help lead the Padres to their first division championship.[8][12] He batted .316 in the 1984 National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs, going two-for-three with two runs scored in the fifth and deciding game.[13] In the 1984 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wiggins batted .364. His eight hits were the most of any Padres player in the series. He scored twice in the series but did not drive in any runs. The Tigers defeated the Padres in five games.[14]

Wiggins was batting .054 two weeks into the 1985 season when he was suspended by the Padres following a relapse into cocaine dependency.[15] After Wiggins completed a drug rehabilitation program, the Padres did not want to reactivate him, but a team of doctors judged him fit to return to baseball. In June, Donald Fehr of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced that he intended to file a grievance against the Padres if they did not activate Wiggins. The Padres sought to trade Wiggins, but as the trade deadline grew near, the team was not receiving any attractive trade offers for him.[16]

On June 27, 1985, Wiggins was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Roy Lee Jackson and a player to be named later.[17] A minor league player named Richard Caldwell was sent to the Padres later that season to complete the deal.[8] Padres owner Joan Kroc referred to the trade as "tough love... We told Alan if it happened again he would not be with us. I think this is for Alan's best interests. Because Alan's slate is clean and he has a new beginning, which he couldn't have had with the Padres. The fact is, we said what we meant and meant what we said. It would have been the most self-serving thing we could have done to keep him."[18]

Baltimore Orioles[edit]

Wiggins spent a few days in the minor leagues before being called up to Baltimore's MLB team. In his first game with the Orioles, he started at second base and was the team's leadoff hitter, reaching base three times, driving in a run and scoring a run. After the game, Wiggins commented that he felt welcome on the team and did not feel like he was starting out with anything to prove.[19] In 76 games for Baltimore that year, Wiggins hit .285, scored 43 runs and finished eighth in the American League with 30 stolen bases.[8] That year, he was sometimes criticized for perceived laziness. Wiggins later said that he had been depressed because he missed his wife and children, who were still living in San Diego.[20]

In 1986, Wiggins fell into disfavor with manager Earl Weaver.[21] His contentious behavior had alienated many of his teammates. At the height of his difficulties, Wiggins was tagged out with the hidden ball trick and then made three errors the next day. Shortly thereafter, Wiggins chafed when Baltimore fans booed as portions of his picture were revealed on the scoreboard during a "Who Am I" feature at the ballpark; he had family members at the game that day.[17] Weaver said that Wiggins "has had more chances than anyone who ever wore an Orioles' uniform, more than Mike Cuellar and I gave Cuellar more chances than my first wife. Whether he gets another chance remains to be seen."[17] He batted .251 with 21 stolen bases and 30 runs scored, played only 71 games and was reassigned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings at one point in the season.[5]

The following season, Cal Ripken, Sr., replaced Weaver as manager of the Orioles. Wiggins shared the second base assignment with Rick Burleson until Billy Ripken joined the club in July. From there, Wiggins assumed more of a utility role, pinch hitting, appearing as a designated hitter, and occasionally spelling Ripken at second and Larry Sheets in left field.[22] Wiggins received a three-day suspension after he got into a verbal altercation with teammate Jim Dwyer and grabbed the shirt of Ripken, Sr., who was trying to separate the two players.[23]

He failed a drug test in the summer of 1987 and was indefinitely suspended from baseball.[24] He was released from the Orioles on September 29 with a .232 batting average.[22] MLBPA officials announced that they would not issue grievances related to Wiggins' suspension or his subsequent release, noting that Wiggins wanted to be released by that point. He forfeited 20 days of pay from his 1987 salary, reflective of the time between his suspension and his release from the Orioles.[25]

Tony Gwynn, Wiggins' teammate and friend on the Padres

Personal life[edit]

Wiggins met his wife Angela when they were in junior high school. She also graduated from John Muir High School.[26] The Los Angeles Times reported that Wiggins had experienced marital strife in the early 1980s and that his mother's 1983 Alzheimer's disease diagnosis may have contributed to his drug problems.[1] Not popular with baseball fans, Wiggins was also known as a loner in the clubhouse. Wiggins enjoyed stubbornly engaging in debates with his teammates, particularly Padres teammate Eric Show, just to provoke reactions from them.[1]

Teammate Tony Gwynn made friends with Wiggins when they played for the Padres. Gwynn later said, "To not like Alan Wiggins, is to not know Alan Wiggins."[1] When Wiggins was traded to the Orioles, Gwynn was critical of owner Joan Kroc, saying that he felt like Wiggins had been shortchanged by the Padres.[18] On the Orioles, Lee Lacy was one of his only friends.[1] Wiggins' agent, Tony Attanasio, said that Orioles players often actively avoided Wiggins; he said that they were turned off by Wiggins' intellect.[24][27]

Later life and death[edit]

Though Wiggins did not give up hope for a return to baseball, he began to study the real estate market after his suspension from the game. In the late 1980s, Wiggins began to suffer from health difficulties related to AIDS, though he had not publicly disclosed the diagnosis. He was receiving deferred payments from his baseball career and he began to make plans for the financial future of his children.[1] He told some of his former teammates that he was getting into computer work.[28] Gwynn said that he had seen Wiggins in the spring of 1990 and was struck by his visible weight loss.[24]

In November 1990, Wiggins was hospitalized with pneumonia and tuberculosis at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. On January 6, 1991, he died there.[27] His mother-in-law said that he had gotten sick with a cough and that his condition had worsened quickly.[24] Wiggins weighed under 75 pounds at the time of his death.[1] Family members initially attributed his death to lung cancer that had led to respiratory failure.[29] A physician later disclosed that Wiggins' health problems were complications of AIDS.[27] Wiggins identified intravenous drug abuse as the cause of his disease.[30] He is the first baseball player known to have died from AIDS.[24]

Legacy[edit]

After Wiggins died, several well-known baseball figures commented on his death. Orioles president Larry Lucchino said, "He was a person and player of enormous potential who showed that for only fleeting moments. It's sad to see a young man and athlete die at that age. It's stunning."[28] Longtime Oriole Frank Robinson said, "He was a very bright individual, and you could like the guy. But there was always something there to back you off."[28] Former Padres player Garry Templeton said that he might have been Wiggins' closest friend, but he said that he did not know that Wiggins had been ill.[28]

Two of Wiggins' three children entered professional basketball. Candice Wiggins was an All-American at Stanford University and became the school's all-time scoring leader before joining the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA as the third overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft. She has served as a spokesperson for the Greater Than AIDS campaign.[31] As of 2015, Alan Wiggins, Jr., plays for Best Balıkesir B.K. in Turkey; he has played professionally in several countries.[32] His youngest daughter, Cassandra, played basketball at New York University.[33]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A few sources, including Baseball-Reference.com, list his high school as Hialeah High School in Hialeah, Florida.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Nightengale, Bob (January 13, 1991). "A troubled life, a lonely death: Former Padre star Alan Wiggins is remembered by friends who lost touch with him after drugs ruined promising career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Wiggins set record with 120 steals". Reading Eagle. October 19, 1980. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Bodet, Gib; Dragseth, P.J. (20 December 2013). Gib Bodet, Major League Scout: Twelve Thousand Baseball Games and Six Million Miles. McFarland. pp. 58–62. ISBN 978-0-7864-7240-6. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Former PCC baseball coach Lani Exton passes away at 76". Pasadena City College. April 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Alan Wiggins Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Stolen base records may fall". Lodi News-Sentinel. July 19, 1983. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ "1980 California League batting leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Alan Wiggins Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Padres' Wiggins to enter program". The Sumter Daily Item. July 21, 1982. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  10. ^ Distel, Dave (March 25, 1985). "Padres' Gwynn is a big hit: National League batting champion was busy in winter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kauffman, Bruce (March 30, 2014). "Padres bean brawl with Atlanta in 1984". San Diego Reader. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Season records". MLB.com. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  13. ^ "1984 National League Championship Series, Game 5". Baseball-reference.com. 1984-10-07. 
  14. ^ "1984 World Series". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ Jim Kaplan, Ivan Maisel (May 20, 1985). "The commissioner gets tough". Sports Illustrated. 
  16. ^ "Wiggins poses problem". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c Weyler, John (June 27, 1986). "Starting over, again : Alan Wiggins, dogged by a troubled past, tries to establish a future With Baltimore". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Gildea, William (July 1, 1985). "Questions remain in Alan Wiggins saga: No one knows how much he can contribute to Oriole pennant hopes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Wiggins stars in debut for Orioles". Chicago Tribune. July 6, 1985. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  20. ^ Cohen, Andy (March 6, 1986). "A straight path for Wiggins, could guide Orioles to Series". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  21. ^ Peter Gammons (June 30, 1986). "The Hawk swoops down". Sports Illustrated. 
  22. ^ a b "Alan Wiggins". BaseballLibrary.com. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  23. ^ Justice, Richard (August 9, 1987). "Wiggins walks back to Orioles, anticipates move". The Courier. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  24. ^ a b c d e Ira Berkow (January 15, 1991). "Sports of the times; Wiggins touched the hot iron". New York Times. 
  25. ^ "No grievance to be filed in Wiggins case". Los Angeles Times. October 1, 1987. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Model Talent (Part I of II)". NBC News. September 23, 2003. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  27. ^ a b c "Wiggins had AIDS, report says". Chicago Tribune. January 15, 1991. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  28. ^ a b c d Baker, Kent (January 9, 1991). "Wiggins recalled as an angry talent". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Alan Wiggins succumbs to pneumonia, cancer". The Dispatch. January 8, 1991. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  30. ^ "HIV and AIDS through the years". Los Angeles Times. November 3, 1996. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  31. ^ Ferguson, Kate (February 14, 2012). "AIDS: This four-letter word doesn’t have to be a curse". Real Health. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Alan Anthony Wiggins Jr.". FIBA. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  33. ^ Driscoll, Tara (March 5, 2003). "Dad lives in her memory / Family bonds strong for NYU's Wiggins". Newsday. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 

External links[edit]