Page 10 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 10, 1988
EX- WOLVERINE CLEANS UP AFTER BOUT WITH DRUGS
Howe gets a save on
BY JON SAMNICK
The Los Angeles Dodgers just won their first World Championship in
seven years. Conspicuously absent from this year's team is former Michigan
star Steve Howe.
Why is Michigan's best-ever left-handed pitcher watching the game on
television this year? The answer is an unfortunate but all too prevalent one.
From 1977 through 1979 Steve Howe was 27-8 with an incredible 1.80
ERA, the second best mark ever at Michigan. In his last year he was 7-2
with a 1.78 ERA. He lost his only conference game of his career in his final
start against Michigan State.
A high school All-American from Clarkston, Mich., Howe gained All-
Big Ten honors as a sophomore and was All-Big Ten and All-American as a
AFTER he and teammates Rich Leach and Steve Perry were selected in
the first round of the 1979 baseball draft, Howe had a short but impressive
stay with San Antonio in Double A. He then moved up to the big time with
the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 1980, Howe was the National
League Rookie-of-the-Year, the
second in a series of four the Dodgers
would win. And in 1981, the
Dodgers won the World Series behind
his relief pitching.
But he didn't make it to this year's World Series. In 1984, Steve Howe
announced that he had a drug problem and he was suspended from baseball
for the entire year. He's been trying to make his way back ever since.
"I ALWAYS dominated from the time I started playing. People were
always telling me as long as I could remember, that I had a good chance to
play in the bigs." Next he was being labeled throughout the baseball world
as a bad influence.
"I'll never be cured," Howe said. "You just have to live your life day to
day." It was not until Howe was released for a third time by a major league
club that he realized that if he didn't clean himself up, he would tear his
family further apart and would possibly die. "It's a. disease and it's not just
personal, it's a family disease also."
Drugs are commonplace in sports, but Howe was the first star in his
prime to come public with his disease. "Steve concealed his problem well,
but then again I didn't look for it. I was too busy playing baseball," said
future Hall-of-Famer Steve Garvey, a former teammate of Howe's.
PERHAPS HOWE'S problems were the result of playing in a high-
profile city like Los Angeles. Or perhaps they were the result of being a
cocky young rookie who couldn't handle the pressures of the big leagues.
Moby Benedict, who coached Michigan's baseball team for 21 years and
retired after Howe's last season said, "L.A. may have been the worst place
for him. If he had played somewhere else he might've had less distractions."
Garvey, who played at Michigan State before making the pros, disagreed.
"L.A. didn't do him in. Steve had some personal inner psychological
problems. He was very cocky that first spring training when I made a
concerted effort to go up to him and say hello because we both played in the
Big Ten. He was very cocky and so he didn't endear himself to a lot of
Howe has his own opinion. "My problem was with experimentation. It
started in high school, continued in college, and stayed with me when I got
to the pros. Alcohol and chemicals are progressive diseases and so my
problems just got worse. It would've happened anywhere that I went.
Athletes get paid high salaries. People think I planned it but I didn't."
As for his attitude, "I was a good teammate and you can't succeed unless
you have enthusiasm."
Benedict agreed. "Absolutely he was cocky, you accept that. He backed up
his statements, though. He got along well with his teammates, and like
(Hall-of-Fame Dodger pitchers) Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, when he
pitched, you won."
SINCE HIS RELEASE from the Texas Rangers in 1987, Howe has
become serious about rehabilitating himself. Howe's clean, but he has to
live with having made it and lost it.
The chances of making the pros are slim. The changes of becoming a star
are even smaller, but Howe and others ignore these odds and continue to
involve themselves with drugs. However, Howe wouldn't change a thing. "I
wouldn't have done anything differently. I gained a lot of experience."
Howe just finished a season at Triple A in the Mexican League and has a
book due out in March titled "Between the Lines." He will spend his off-
season working near his home and talking to schoolchildren about drug
abuse. He won't tell people not to use drugs - that is their choice - but
he'll do whatever he can.
"I'll help anyone that wants help. I'd pick someone up at 3:30 in the
morning if that's what has to be done, but you can't force yourself on
Steve Howe is down but not out. He had lost it all and now he is trying
not to leave a drug legacy to the sport he has spent the better part of his life
playing. He hopes to end up back in the majors with Texas or with the
Dodgers, but he would be happy with any team that wants to take a chance
on someone who has had more than his share.
At yesterday's Michigan men's basketball media day, coach
Bill Frieder displayed his dunking skills - well sort of.
The rim was only a foot over his head. Frieder dwelled on
the lack of a second guard to play opposite Rumeal
Robinson, while showing off his troops for the upcoming
season. The team opens Wednesday against Yugoslavia.
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