April 21, 1963|
|Died: October 10, 2004
Bronx, New York
|July 16, 1987, for the Houston Astros|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 7, 2001, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Runs batted in||983|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kenneth Gene Caminiti (April 21, 1963 – October 10, 2004) was an American third baseman who spent fifteen seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Houston Astros (1987–1994, 1999–2000), San Diego Padres (1995–1998), Texas Rangers (2001) and Atlanta Braves (2001). He was the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player. He died of a cocaine and heroin (a speedball) drug overdose on October 10, 2004.
Caminiti was born in Hanford, California on April 21, 1963 to Yvonne and Lee Caminiti who had another son, Glenn and a daughter, Carrie. He starred in football and baseball at Leigh High School where he graduated in 1981. In football, he was invited to many all-star games after his senior football season. He attended San Jose State University where he played for the Spartans in 1983 and 1984.
Caminiti was signed as a 3rd round pick in the 1984 amateur draft by the Houston Astros. Caminiti played professional baseball for 15 seasons, beginning with the Osceola Astros of the Single-A Florida State League in 1985. He also played third base for the Indios de Mayagüez along with Wally Joyner in the Puerto Rico Winter League. He earned a call-up to the Double-A Columbus Astros in 1987.
He made his major league debut at age 24 with the Houston Astros on July 16, 1987. In 1988, Caminiti returned to the minor leagues, playing with the Triple-A Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League, before he was called up to stay late in the season. Caminiti was plagued with several injuries throughout his tenure in Houston, but he still hit 18 home runs in 1994 which earned him his first All Star Game selection.
After 6 full seasons in Houston, Caminiti was traded to the San Diego Padres after the 1994 season in a 12-player trade, along with Steve Finley, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams, and a player to be named later (PTBNL), in exchange for Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier, and Craig Shipley. In San Diego he reached career highs at the plate by hitting .302 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI in 1995, which rose to .326/40/130 in 1996. Despite playing most of 1996 with a torn right rotator cuff, his performance earned him the National League Most Valuable Player Award. In 1998, Caminiti led the Padres to the 1998 World Series where they lost to the New York Yankees 4-0.
Caminiti returned to Houston as a free agent in 1999 after signing a 9.5 million dollars contract, where he played for two more seasons. He was slowed by injuries during his second tenure in Houston, and after struggling the first half of 2001 with the Texas Rangers where he hit just .232, he was released and finished his career with the Atlanta Braves, who moved him across the infield in an effort to fulfill their desire for a power-hitting first baseman.
Caminiti won 3 Gold Glove Awards while playing for the Padres in 1995, 1996, and 1997, and he was unanimously selected as the National League's MVP in 1996. In 1994, 1996, and 1997, he appeared in the All Star Game. Caminiti is the Padres All-Time leader in slugging percentage (.540) and OPS (.924).
Following his playing career in baseball, Caminiti was hired by the Padres to be a spring training instructor for his former team. Caminiti entered into a partnership with actor Jason Gedrick and hockey player Mario Lemieux to open a cigar bar called Ashes Cigar Club on Wall Street.[unreliable source?]
Caminiti was married to Nancy Smith from November 14, 1987 to December 10, 2002. Caminiti and his wife, Nancy, had 3 daughters, Kendall, Lindsey, and Nicole.
Substance abuse and death
Caminiti struggled with substance abuse throughout his career. He admitted in 1994 to having a problem with alcoholism and checked himself into a rehabilitation center in 2000. In a Sports Illustrated cover story in 2002, a year after his retirement, he admitted that he had used steroids during his 1996 MVP season, and for several seasons afterwards. His admitted steroid abuse was discussed in the 2007 Mitchell Report on steroid abuse in baseball.
Caminiti also had a long struggle with cocaine, having been arrested in March 2001 for possession and sentenced to probation. In February, 2003, Caminiti tested positive for cocaine while already on probation for cocaine possession and was ordered to visit a Texas Department of Criminal Justice-operated treatment program. The Program was eliminated in May of that year and Caminiti was forced to leave after completing most of the program.
On October 5, 2004 — just five days prior to his death — he admitted in a Houston court that he had violated his probation. He tested positive for cocaine in September 2004. It was his fourth such violation and he was sentenced to 180 days in prison but given credit for time already served and released.
In the early afternoon of October 10, 2004, Caminiti was in the apartment of his friend in The Bronx, New York City, after being in the bathroom to have a speedball of cocaine and heroin, Caminiti came out and collapsed on the floor. At 3:36pm a 911 call was made while Caminiti was going into cardiac arrest. Caminiti died at Lincoln Hospital in The Bronx at 6:45pm. Preliminary news reports indicated he died of a heart attack, but the autopsy results stated that "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates" caused his death, with coronary artery disease and cardiac hypertrophy (an enlarged heart) as contributing factors. Media coverage of Caminiti's death was almost completely overshadowed by that of actor Christopher Reeve, who also died in New York City the same day as Caminiti.
After final funeral services held in Solana Beach, California (a San Diego suburb), which was attended by many Padres players, past and present, Caminiti's remains were cremated and were interred at the Cambo Ranch in Sabinal, Texas, which Caminiti co-owned along with former teammate Craig Biggio. Caminiti died only 10 years after another former Padres' star, Eric Show, died from drug overdose in 1994.
- Stevens, Dakota. United in Death by Cocaine Overdose: Ken Caminiti and Len Bias. ISBN 9781115931960.
- "Ken Caminiti timeline," The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, October 12, 2004.
- Caminiti Died of Overdose Washington Post. November 2, 2004.
- Padres to hold Ken Caminiti Night AP. NBC Sports MSNBC. Wed., April 20, 2005
- Crazy Cigars
- "Kenneth G. Caminiti Obituary". Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- "SI.com". CNN.
- Nowell, Scott. "Prison Break?" Houston Press. Thursday July 17, 2003. 1. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
- The final hours of Ken Caminiti's life ESPN
- Former baseball MVP Caminiti dies at 41. Mark Emmons. San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, CA). October 10, 2004.
- Caminiti's death ruled accidental drug overdose The Record - Kitchener, Ont. Nov 2, 2004
- Justice, Richard "Former teammate Caminiti's spirit stays with Biggio," Houston Chronicle, June 28, 2007.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Houston Chronicle photo gallery after Caminiti's death[dead link]
- Ken Caminiti at Find a Grave
|National League Player of the Month
August & September 1996