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Baseball in spotlight with drug suspensions, Yankee managerial switch

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If you are wondering why Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended admitted cocaine users Steve Howe, Willie Wilson, Willie Aikens, and Jerry Martin for one year, it had to do with the lengthy period that is usually needed to cure drug abuse. While detoxification can be accomplished in only a few weeks, overcoming the problem completely often takes months.

Howe, a fastballing left-hander who won National League Rookie of the Year honors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1980, has been one of the premier relief pitchers in the game over the past few seasons. Wilson, a lifetime .300 hitter, was a key man on Kansas City's 1980 pennant winner and won the American League batting championship in 1982. Aikens was a 1980 World Series hero, hitting .400 with four home runs in Kansas City's loss to Philadelphia, while Martin was also a member of that pennant-winning Royals club.

Wilson and Martin, who were recently convicted of drug charges, have already begun serving three-month terms in a minimum-security federal prison in Ft. Worth, Texas. They will be joined there on Jan. 3 by Aikens, who was granted a delay in his reporting time. Another former member of the Royals, pitcher Vida Blue, is also waiting to be sentenced on drug charges.

Howe, who was suspended three times last year by the Dodgers after missing both games and planes and refusing to take drug tests, may be permitted to work out with the team both in spring training and during the regular season but appears unlikely to be allowed to play in 1984. The cases of the other three players, however, will come up for review on May 15, at which time their suspensions could be terminated. Berra thinks Yankees can win pennant


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