Wiggins with the San Diego Padres in 1983
|Outfielder, Second baseman|
February 17, 1958|
Los Angeles, California
|Died: January 6, 1991
Los Angeles, California
|September 4, 1981 for the San Diego Padres|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 28, 1987 for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||118|
Alan Anthony Wiggins (February 17, 1958 – January 6, 1991) was an American professional baseball player. He was a second baseman and outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles between 1981 and 1987. A speedy leadoff hitter, Wiggins established a Padres single-season record for stolen bases in 1984, when they won the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and advanced to the World Series.
Wiggins grew up in California and attended Pasadena City College before being drafted by the California Angels (known later as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in 1977. He played in the minor league systems of the Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers, setting a professional baseball single-season record with 120 stolen bases in 1980. He made his major league debut with the San Diego in 1981, and he became a regular player within two years. In 1983, he set the Padres' single-season stolen base record, a mark which he extended the following season. His 1984 stolen bases total (70) is still a team record as of 2015.
During his major league career, Wiggins struggled with drug addiction, which resulted in multiple arrests and suspensions from baseball. His drug problems prompted a 1985 trade from San Diego to Baltimore, where Wiggins spent three seasons. After leaving baseball, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He was the first MLB player known to die of AIDS. Long after his death, two of Wiggins' children—Candice and Alan, Jr.—became professional basketball players.
Wiggins was born in Los Angeles, California. His mother, Karla Wiggins, raised him as a single parent. He played baseball with his friends at a park across from the Rose Bowl. As a child, Wiggins was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and he looked up to Maury Wills, a Dodgers player known for stealing bases. 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 feet 2 inches (188 cm), taller than a typical infielder. He was only an average hitter and fielder, but his speed stood out to Bodet.
The California Angels selected Wiggins as the eighth overall pick of the January 1977 MLB amateur draft. In 1977, Wiggins played junior college baseball at Pasadena City College, where he was teammates with future major leaguers Matt Young and Rod Booker. Bodet, who had moved to the Angels scouting staff just before the draft, joined other Angels staff members and worked out with Wiggins after they selected him. Angels coach Bob Clear told Wiggins that his excellent speed would help him to a high batting average even if his hitting skills were not that strong. "If you can hit .200, you can run the other eighty points. And if you can hit .280, you can lead off for anybody," Clear said. Wiggins signed with the Angels in May for $2500 after what Bodet described as "a tough negotiation". According to Bodet, Wiggins' mother "did not trust easily".
Wiggins played minor league baseball in 1977 for the Angels rookie-league affiliate in Idaho Falls, where he hit .271 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. However, he had a midseason fight with one of his coaches, and was released by the Angels organization in June 1978. Wiggins 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 the Dodgers and manager Tommy Lasorda, Wiggins signed with the team before the 1979 season.
In 95 games for the Class A Clinton Dodgers, Wiggins hit .257 and had 43 steals. After having played exclusively at second base the prior two years, the Dodgers converted him primarily to shortstop that year, but he also appeared in the outfield and at all three of the other infield positions. Playing with the Class A Lodi Dodgers of the California League in 1980, Wiggins batted .288 and scored 108 runs while stealing 120 bases in just 135 games. His steals established a then professional-baseball single-season record,[b] surpassing the previous minor league mark of 116 set by Allan Lewis in 1966, as well as Lou Brock's major-league record of 118 in 1974. Wiggins caught the eye of San Diego Padres general manager Jack McKeon, who drafted him in the 1980 Rule 5 draft after the Dodgers decided to leave him unprotected. According to the Padres, Wiggins had been arrested for possession of marijuana while with the Dodgers.
San Diego Padres
After having spent most of his minor league career as an infielder, he was used almost exclusively as an outfielder with the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League in 1981. He batted .302 with 73 steals, and received a September call-up to the major leagues. In his first stint with the Padres, he got five hits in 14 at bats. Wiggins began the following season with the Islanders, but he was called up again by the Padres in early May to replace injured outfielder Gene Richards. Wiggins was leading San Diego with 29 stolen bases in 59 games when he was arrested for possession of cocaine in July. He was issued a 30-day suspension from baseball, and spent a month in a substance abuse treatment facility. The Padres, who were one of the first sports teams to offer an employee assistance program to its players, paid for all of his treatment, and he returned to the team in September. By 1983, Wiggins had become a regular in the Padres lineup. He batted in the leadoff spot, playing in the outfield for most of the season. Though he was exceptional on defense in left field, he was moved to first base for the last 45 games of the year after Steve Garvey suffered a broken thumb. He hit .276 and picked up 139 hits that year. His 66 stolen bases, good for second in the league, broke the Padres single-season record of 61 set by Richards in 1980. Wiggins was named the team's most valuable player that season.
Wiggins was moved to second base in 1984. That move made room for rookie Carmelo Martínez in the outfield. Until that season, Martínez had been a first baseman, but the Padres already had a strong player there with Garvey, and they wanted to get Martínez's bat into the lineup to improve their outfield's home run production. Wiggins retained the leadoff spot in the lineup, hitting ahead of Tony Gwynn. During a May game, Wiggins became the fifth 20th-century MLB player to steal five bases in one game, tying an NL record. In an August game, Wiggins unwittingly became a party to a series of fights. Wiggins was hit with the first pitch of the game by Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Pérez. The teams retaliated against each other throughout the game with brushback pitches and beanballs. The tension resulted in three fights and several ejections.
Wiggins finished second in the league in runs scored (106), establishing a Padres single-season record and helping the team to their first division championship. He finished the season with 70 steals, extending his team record from the previous season. Benefitting from the higher number of fastballs opposing pitchers threw in response to Wiggins' speed, Gwynn batted above .400 when his speedy teammate was on base, and hit .351 overall for the first of his eight career batting titles. The duo was one of the biggest reasons behind San Diego's success. They could score fast with Wiggins getting on first, stealing second, and Gwynn singling him home. Wiggins batted .316 in the 1984 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, going two-for-three with two runs scored in the fifth and deciding game. In the 1984 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wiggins batted .364 and scored twice. His eight hits were the most of any Padres player in the series. The Tigers defeated the Padres in five games. According to manager Dick Williams, Wiggins was "absolutely the most valuable player in the National League in 1984".
Before the 1985 season, the Padres signed Wiggins to a four-year contract extension worth nearly $3 million. His agent described him as one of the highest-paid NL second basemen. Wiggins missed the last two weeks of spring training after injuring his knee during a double-play attempt on defense when a baserunner slid into him. He was unavailable for the start of the season, but returned to the lineup after being out for five games. Wiggins was batting .054 and without a stolen base two weeks into the season, when he was suspended by the Padres following a relapse into cocaine dependency. After Wiggins completed a drug rehabilitation program, the Padres did not want to reactivate him, but baseball's joint review board cleared him 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 promptly activate Wiggins. The Padres sought to trade Wiggins, and the Baltimore Orioles showed interest. As the trade deadline approached, however, the Orioles were reportedly only offering two minor league players in exchange for Wiggins.
On June 27, 1985, Wiggins was traded to the Orioles for pitchers Roy Lee Jackson and Richard Caldwell. Padres owner Joan Kroc said that the team had warned Wiggins that he would not remain with the team if he had further problems with drugs. She stated that it would have been self-serving to keep Wiggins after his relapse when he could instead pursue a fresh start with another team. Nonetheless, Gwynn felt that Wiggins had been shortchanged by the Padres.
Wiggins spent a few days in the minor leagues before being called up to Baltimore. 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. In 76 games for Baltimore that year, Wiggins hit .285, scored 43 runs and finished eighth in the American League with 30 stolen bases. 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.
In 1986, Wiggins fell into disfavor with manager Earl Weaver. His contentious behavior had alienated many of his teammates. At the height of his difficulties, Wiggins was tagged out with the hidden ball trick. The next day, he made three errors, two of which occurred in the same inning. After the two-error inning, Baltimore fans booed as portions of his picture were revealed on the scoreboard during a "Who Am I" feature at the ballpark. Wiggins was angered at the response of the fans because he had family members at the game that day. Weaver said that Wiggins "had more chances than anyone who ever wore an Orioles' uniform". 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.
The following season, Cal Ripken, Sr., replaced Weaver as manager of the Orioles. Baltimore signed Rick Burleson to play second base and Ray Knight to play third base. The moves seemed to leave Wiggins battling for an outfield spot, but after he hit .413 during spring training, Ripken made comments that suggested he was thinking of using Wiggins as a utility player. Just before the season started, Wiggins was not happy with Ripken's idea of using him in a utility role, feeling that his spring performance should have secured him a starting position. He believed that he could be an asset in the leadoff batting slot.
At the start of the 1987 regular season, Wiggins spent some time as a designated hitter (DH) and shared second base duties with Burleson. Rookie second baseman Billy Ripken joined the club on July 10. Burleson was cut, but general manager Hank Peters said, "We're not bringing [Billy Ripken] up here to sit on the bench." Wiggins was hitting .242 on July 10, and he played mostly DH after the rookie's arrival. In early August, Wiggins received a three-day suspension after he got into an altercation with teammate Jim Dwyer and grabbed the shirt of Ripken Sr.
On September 1, MLB indefinitely suspended Wiggins for a behavior issue. An anonymous Orioles official told the media that the suspension resulted from a positive drug screen. Wiggins was released from the Orioles on September 29. The Orioles had to pay him two-thirds of his $800,000 salary for 1988. He was hitting .232 at the time of his release. 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.
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 the diagnosis was not publicly disclosed while he was alive. He was receiving deferred payments from his baseball career, and he began to make plans for the financial future of his children. He told one of his former teammates that he was getting into computer work. Gwynn said that he had seen Wiggins in the spring of 1990 and was struck by his visible weight loss.
In his final months, he sold his home in Poway, California, moving to Pasadena. Though he often stayed with friends, some of his longtime friends felt that he died in seclusion, embarrassed by what had happened with his life. In November 1990, Wiggins was hospitalized with pneumonia and tuberculosis at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. After lapsing in and out of consciousness for a month, he died at the hospital on January 6, 1991.
Wiggins' family initially attributed his death to lung cancer that had led to respiratory failure. Family members said that he had gotten sick with a cough and that his condition had worsened quickly. Wiggins weighed under 75 pounds at the time of his death. Several days later, a physician disclosed that Wiggins' health problems were complications of AIDS. Wiggins stated that he had contracted the disease via intravenous drug use. He became the first baseball player known to have died from AIDS.
After Wiggins died, several well-known baseball figures commented on his death. 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." 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.
Wiggins met his wife Angela when they were in junior high school, and they both graduated from John Muir High School. Two of Wiggins' three children became professional basketball players. Candice was an All-American at Stanford University and joined the Los Angeles Sparks as the third overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft. She has served as a spokesperson for the Greater Than AIDS campaign. Alan, Jr., played college basketball at the University of San Francisco and has played professionally in several countries. His oldest daughter, Cassandra, played basketball in college as well at New York University.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Wiggins had experienced marital strife, but that he would not entertain the thought of divorce; he wanted to ensure that his children did not grow up in a single-parent household like he did. Wiggins and his mother were very close, and her 1983 Alzheimer's disease diagnosis may have contributed to his drug problems. He was devastated that she would not be able to enjoy his success in the major leagues. In the last few years of Wiggins' life, he enjoyed a closer relationship with his father, Albert, and he often took his children on visits to see their grandfather. Wiggins had a very difficult time with his father's death in May 1990.
Wiggins enjoyed stubbornly engaging in debates with his teammates, particularly Padres teammate Eric Show, just to provoke reactions from them. Tony Gwynn suggested that Wiggins was sometimes misunderstood. "To not like Alan Wiggins, is to not know Alan Wiggins," Gwynn said. Wiggins' agent, Tony Attanasio, said that Wiggins became deeply depressed in Baltimore. He had always been reserved and had a difficult time trusting other people. Attanasio said that Orioles players often actively avoided Wiggins. While Wiggins enjoyed reading books and newspapers, Attanasio said that teammates were turned off by his intellect. The Orioles once gave an IQ test, and Wiggins scored higher than everyone except for Weaver. According to Attanasio, players in Baltimore also resented Wiggins because he replaced Rich Dauer, who had been a well-liked member of the team. Lee Lacy was one of his only friends in Baltimore.
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