Ron Darling: the 1980s Mets were fueled on alcohol and amphetamines

Associated Press
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Former Mets pitcher and current announcer Ron Darling has written a book about his experience with the Mets. It’s is second book, actually, and it’s called “Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life.” Today the Wall Street Journal has an excerpt of it.

You’ll be shocked to learn that the 1986 Mets — the team of Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry — were not boy scouts. Some of them, Darling tells us, were using . . . chemical substances. But not just the Colombian marching powder for which some of those Mets became infamous.

Players would refer to being “in the jar” if they were taking any number of pills available in the team clubhouse, primarily amphetamines. By 1986 the openness of the pill use was reduced and it went underground, Darling said, but the use was still quite prevalent. There would also be amphetamine-beer cocktails, complete with shotgunning of beers through holes in the cans DURING GAMES. Which Darling describes as a perverse sort of performance-enhancement, at least if it was timed just right:

The talk went underground, but even there you’d continue to hear comments like, “Hey, I did a couple of white crosses but that didn’t do it so I threw a black beauty on top and it was perfect.” You’d see guys toward the end of a game, maybe getting ready for their final at bat, double-back into the locker room to chug a beer to “re-kick the bean” so they could step to the plate completely wired and focused and dialed in. They had it down to a science, with precision timing. They’d do that thing where you poke a hole in the can so the beer would flow shotgun-style. They’d time it so that they were due to hit third or fourth that inning, and in their minds that rush of beer would kind of jump-start the amphetamines and get back to how they were feeling early on in the game—pumped, jacked, good to go. How they came up with this recipe, this ritual, I’ll never know, but it seemed to do the trick; they’d get this rush of confidence that was through the roof and step to the plate like the world-beaters they were born to be.

It’s almost comical if you forget just how destructive drug and alcohol abuse can be to anyone, particularly professional athletes. And if you realize how many members of those mid-80s Mets teams battled drugs and the bottle.

It also, of course, puts lie to the notion that the guys who came along later doing steroids were in any way different in kind, even if they were different in their drug of choice. They were all trying to get an edge, one way or another, and took whatever they could to do it. As athletes, on some level, always have.