The baseball world is abuzz with the news that Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton was seen drinking earlier this week at a Dallas bar.
The seemingly careless and public manner in which Hamilton, he of the well-known addiction issues, chose to imbibe was shocking to many. I follow this story with interest as another story with alcohol connections hits the Internet. Fox Sports Midwest has announced that broadcaster Dan McLaughlin will return to the broadcast booth for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.
McLaughlin, of course, has had two public incidents with alcohol. He was arrested twice for driving under the influence, first in 2010 and again in 2011. He was suspended from his broadcasting duties the final week of the regular season last year after his second arrest. Fox Sports Midwest executives claim that the decision to bring McLaughlin back was theirs alone, but they acknowledge input from the Cardinals.
I am truly torn about this decision. I try hard not to judge others; I don't particularly like it when others judge me. But McLaughlin chose to pursue a career in a high-profile field, and in St. Louis just about any position with the Cardinals is high profile, especially one that puts someone on TV every night. I was fully supportive when the network brought McLaughlin back after his first arrest, but the second made me question my support for the broadcaster.
All of the hand wringing and discussion about Hamilton and, on a lesser level, McLaughlin, comes under the shadow of the long connection between baseball and alcohol. I watch the Cardinals on Fox Sports Midwest, and I probably saw a thousand Budweiser commercials during broadcasts last season. The World Series on Fox also featured large numbers of beer commercials. From a long ago era, stories abound of Yankees stars drinking with reporters in various New York nightspots in the 1950s and '60s.
The Cardinals, however, have to walk a fine line. They were, of course, owned for decades by Anheuser-Busch, and they still play in Busch Stadium. An alcohol misstep by Tony LaRussa caused the manager and team embarrassment in 2007, and that was followed by pitcher Josh Hancock being killed when he drove drunk and crashed his car into the back of a tow truck the same year.
I wish Josh Hamilton and Dan McLaughlin well. Reports indicate that McLaughlin has taken his rehab very seriously and is quite remorseful for his actions. I just hope that players do not get the message that they are entitled to two or three chances for similar lapses in judgment.
As the cliché goes, when alcohol and driving are mixed, sometimes there is no second chance.
A St. Louis native, Brad Boeker has lived and died with the Cardinals for over 40 years.