The fall of a baseball legend, or say it isn’t so Wild Thingby Brad Allis on Jul. 03, 2011, under Uncategorized
Major League baseball suffered another black eye when former major league pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn admitted using steroids throughout his 7-year major league career.
Vaughn was seen as a remarkable success story when he finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting following the 1989 season. Vaughn helped lead a surprising Indians team to the postseason after spending the past 18 months in a California prison after being convicted of stealing a car.
Vaughn, who last pitched in 1996 with the Colorado Rockies says that he used steroids to help with the transition from the California Penal League to the Indians and that he added nearly six miles per hour to his fastball.
“I was enhancing my performance a little bit,” Vaughn recently told Sports Illustrated.
“Wild Thing” and the rest of the Indians took America by storm in 1989. The team, which was constructed mostly of older players and unproven rookies, started out slow but finished the season by winning 47 of their final 62 games and tying the New York Yankees for the AL East crown and beat New York in a one-game playoff.
Vaughn was one of the more popular players on the squad thanks to his offbeat fashion sense and antics on and off the field. He struggled early, going 1-5 with a 6.21 ERA but after discovering a vision impairment, Vaughn went 11-3 with a 3.05 ERA. He was second in the American League in strikeouts and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, losing the award to speedy teammate Willie Mayes Hayes.
Vaughn was clocked at 101 MPH during that rookie campaign.
Vaughn had a rocky career. He had a solid three-year stretch with the Indians, but was traded to Pittsburgh before the 1991 trade deadline. That next summer he signed a free agent deal with the Oakland A’s but an arm injury sidelined him for half of the season.
In 1993 the A’s traded him to St. Louis and the Cardinals moved him to the closer role. He was second in the National League in saves, with 47, six behind Chicago’s Randy Myers.
The next season he struggled, blowing four of his first 10 save attempts. After another stint on the disabled list he became the team’s set-up man.
He signed a huge two-year, $8 million dollar deal in 1995 with the Rockies who moved him back to the starting rotation. The first year he went 6-12 with a 5.60 ERA and seemed to struggle at Coors Field. The next year he began 1-6 before moving back to the bullpen. He was placed on the 60-day DL in mid July and rumors of drug use surfaced.
Vaughn attempted to make the Boston Red Sox roster in 1997 as a non-roster invitee, but was released in spring training.
Vaughn retired from baseball and bounced from job to job. He spent a brief time working on the campaign of New York Mayor Randal Winston, but resigned after he was caught soliciting a prostitute.
He later moved to California where he attempted a music career and did manage to sell two commercial jingles to an ad agency. After a divorce from actress Denise Richards he was rumored to date several adult film stars and has battled substance abuse problems.
Vaughn recently attempted to become a motivational speaker with mixed results.
He is not the only member of the 1989 Indians to run into problems.
Mays Hayes was convicted of tax evasion in 2001, while slugger Pedro Cerrano was assassinated after returning home to his native Costa Vista to become the island nation’s president.
Team owner Rachel Phelps declared bankruptcy in 1991 after being sued by the city of Miami, after reneging on a promise to move the Indians. She was later convicted of embezzling funds while owning the Indians.