'Never accepted' by Orioles, Wiggins dies at age 32

January 08, 1991|By Bob Nightengale | Bob Nightengale,Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Alan Wiggins, the flashy second baseman whose three years with the Orioles were marred by altercations with teammate Jim Dwyer and manager Cal Ripken Sr. and subsequent drug suspension, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 32.

The cause of Wiggins' death remains unclear, but Ron Wise, a spokesman for Cedars Sinai Hospital, said, "Pneumonia, tuberculosis and other medical complications is the reason I've been given."

Wiggins was admitted to the hospital Nov. 29, Wise said, and died at 9:45 p.m. Sunday.

San Diego shortstop Garry Templeton said, "You know, I was probably his closest friend on the Padres," with whom Wiggins played four seasons -- hitting .287 and averaging 43 stolen bases -- before coming to the Orioles in June 1985. "I didn't know he was sick. I saw him right before spring training, and he seemed like he was doing great. He was doing a little fishing, playing a little golf. He said he was going into computers.

"I was really happy for him because it seemed like he got his life back together. He seemed real happy. He was such a tremendous talent. He just had a few problems he could never straighten out. I hope he's at rest now."

Wiggins was considered the catalyst behind the Padres' only NL championship, in 1984. He batted .258, scored 106 runs and stole a club-record 70 bases.

Wiggins was arrested in 1982 for cocaine possession. He stayed clean for the next three years, although Padres officials say he was a recluse, and trusted few.

Wiggins mysteriously vanished hours before an April 25, 1985, game in Los Angeles. He missed two games, and beginning on April 27 spent the next month in a Minnesota rehabilitation center. When he returned, he was traded to the Orioles, and "never was accepted," he said, by the fans or his teammates.

"The fans didn't see the true me," Wiggins said of his Orioles experience (he averaged .248, with 24 stolen bases and eight errors). "They saw a guy who didn't hustle, who dogged it down the line. I'm not that type of player, and I'd never been that type of player . . . I was depressed and playing that way was my way of expressing it."

A month before his third drug suspension, Wiggins was suspended for three days for fighting with Dwyer and Ripken Sr., who alleged that Wiggins grabbed him during a meeting in the manager's office.

Wiggins played two more seasons, mostly as a backup, and in 1987 his baseball career was over.

"I don't know what happened to him after that," former Padres GM Jack McKeon said. "I remember guys telling me he'd just go to Lake Poway and spend the whole day fishing. None of us really saw much of Alan after that.

"And until this happened, we really hadn't heard much from him, either."

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