The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball
Chicago Review Press, September, 2010
Major League Baseball has had its share of troubled times. In terms of sheer dirt, three scandals rise to the top: Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox, the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials, and the steroid era. The former and latter have been covered extensively. Yet there has never been a book detailing the biggest drug trials in baseball history. The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven tells the whole story in all its shocking details.
The MLB participants were among the game’s elite, as a virtual all-star team had come to Pittsburgh. Implicated as cocaine users: Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker, Lee Mazzilli, Dusty Baker, Lonnie Smith, Joaquin Andujar, John Milner, Dale Berra. Mentioned as using amphetamines: Willie Mays, Willie Stargell. But the guys who took the fall for these superstars were just average fans, not heavy hitters or major drug dealers, and this book reveals the often comic circumstances of how they set up deals—and how they got busted.
In 1985, it seemed the league was poised to implement a drug testing policy for the players. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and because of this inaction, the steroid era came along—and with it all of the broken records that transformed the sport. That’s what makes this story so relevant today.
New York Journal of Books
September 11, 2010
“Skirboll makes the point that law enforcement, not major league baseball, cracked the case, after Rod Scurry, a Pirates pitcher, revealed that a network of drug dealers was servicing National League players…The author doggedly gives us the full and seedy details of the purchase and use of cocaine by many athletes.” …Read More
– Dorothy Seymour Mills, renowned baseball researcher and historian
August 29, 2010
“The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven takes us back to the 1985 drug trials in Pittsburgh that rocked the sport, tarnished the reputation of star players and then sputtered into lip service and double talk that left baseball wide open for a sequel.” …Read More
September 1, 2010
“Baseball’s drug culture grew because people looked the other way, or lied about its existence.” This quote, which author Skirboll pulled from Sports Illustrated, refers not to the performance-enhancing-drug scandal of the past 15 years but rather to the 1980s cocaine scandal that implicated some of the game’s biggest stars at the time, including Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, Joaquin Andujar, Lee Mazzilli, and Lonnie Smith. Skirboll offers a credible account of how the 1980s coke culture insinuated itself into Major League locker rooms, particularly that of the notorious Pittsburgh Pirates, whose talented lefty reliever Rod Scurry was a poster boy for all that could go wrong for ballplayers—for anybody, really—using cocaine. The account is fascinating in itself, but it also, by inference, throws harsh light on Major League Baseball’s ongoing failure to police itself.”
Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine
“Aaron Skirboll has written a fine book and done baseball a great service.”… Read More
“The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven is a work of dazzling detail about an audacious and sordid decade in baseball, when cocaine blew freely through clubhouses and players’ parties. The characters—from All-Stars to coke-snorting fans and a wired Pirate Parrot who sang to the Feds—are comic, tragic and often pathetic. More than merely recounting those woeful times, Aaron Skirboll makes a compelling case that Major League Baseball might never have gotten sucked into the steroids era if it had taken drug abuse of all kinds seriously in the 1980s and started mandatory testing when it was most obviously needed.”
-Steve Wilstein, former Associated Press sports columnist
“For years we’ve heard commentators and fans bemoaning the sins of baseball’s steroid era, as if the game had been a bastion of purity before the advent of performance-enhancing drugs. Aaron Skirboll takes aim at that presumption and reminds us that baseball had a drug problem long before steroids infiltrated the game. Baseball, drugs, wiretaps, courtroom drama—The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven is not only an important piece of history, but a brisk and entertaining story.”
-Sean Deveney, author of The Original Curse and writer for Sporting News
“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Major League Baseball somehow forgot the Pittsburgh cocaine trials, and by doing so opened the door for the steroids scandals that have rocked the game. With The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven, Aaron Skirboll provides both a vivid reminder of the national pastime’s last big drug problem and a stark warning of what can happen if baseball decides to, once again, sweep it under the rug.”
-Craig Calcarerra, NBC.Sports.com