For months stories circulated that a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh was investigating possible cocaine trafficking involving major league ballplayers. Ten to 12 players, it was widely reported, had testified. Indictments would be returned any day. Grand juries would convene soon in Atlanta and St. Louis. And so it went. By invoking the Pittsburgh probe in explaining his concerns about drug use, baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth further heightened interest in, and speculation about, the Pittsburgh grand jury proceedings. So has his comment on the inquiry: "I think it's going to be bad."
In some ways the Pittsburgh case is bigger than previously thought. SI has learned that the investigation into illicit drug involvement by players has been under way for more than two years and that the actual number of players who have been questioned is between 20 and 30. Authorities have uncovered evidence of players buying cocaine from dealers in three Pittsburgh bars, in hotel rooms on road trips and in the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium. The money laid out for drugs was often substantial—tens of thousands of dollars a year in the case of some players. One of the dealers was identified as a man in another National League city who worked as a food caterer in the clubhouse of that city's ball park and also traveled to out-of-town games to meet with players. The dealer is said to have trafficked in cocaine with a large number of players both in the clubhouse and in hotel rooms on the road.
But some of the speculation about the Pittsburgh investigation is overblown. Most of the players who testified in Pittsburgh have admitted using cocaine, and it's always possible that some will be indicted. But the targets of the investigation were suppliers, not users, and many of the players who testified were granted immunity from prosecution in return for their cooperation. So far as is known, the Pittsburgh case has not led to grand jury investigations elsewhere. Another widely circulated rumor had it that former Pirate star Willie Stargell was somehow involved. In fact, Stargell was not called by the grand jury and is in no way implicated.
Those who appeared before the grand jury include present and former Pirates as well as players on other teams, mostly in the National League. Among them are the Pirates' Rod Scurry, Montreal's Tim Raines, San Francisco's Jeff Leonard and St. Louis's Lonnie Smith, all of whom have gone through drug rehabilitation programs. SI has information that Houston's Enos Cabell and former Pirates Dave Parker, now with Cincinnati, and Lee Lacy, now with Baltimore, testified before the grand jury and that all have used cocaine. Pirates Lee Mazzilli and Al Holland and former Pirate Dale Berra, now with the Yankees, also appeared before the grand jury, but it is not known whether they told of having used cocaine. The New York Mets' Keith Hernandez also testified. His agent, Jack Childers, said in a telephone interview, "You're talking about ancient history as far as he's involved—way, way in the past." A few minutes after hanging up, Childers called back and said he had played a tape of the interview to Hernandez. He said Hernandez had become upset and denied "any involvement in cocaine, ever."
One of the bars where members of the Pirates and visiting teams are known to have negotiated drug purchases is Chauncy's, in a fashionable Pittsburgh waterfront development called Station Square. Another is Michael J's Pub, a neighborhood hangout in a small shopping center; on a recent visit a photograph of Scurry greeted patrons as they entered. The third is Houlihan's on Station Square, one of a chain of singles bars that has ferns, ceiling fans and a young, fast-track clientele.
According to a source close to the investigation, the suppliers who met with ballplayers in these and other places where drugs are known to have been sold "weren't big guys early on. They were people who liked to associate with ballplayers and who liked cocaine. For them it was a match made in heaven. They ended up with a big business because of their clientele."
There is no indication that the management of the three bars knew about any drug transactions or that such dealings are still going on. But Robert Wolfinger, who became general manager of Houlihan's six months ago after having worked at Houlihan's establishments in other cities, says he heard talk concerning his and other Pittsburgh night spots. His observation will surely come as no surprise to local law enforcement officials: "It's been mentioned to us that Pittsburgh is one of the favorite places to party."