Oakland A's reliever Dennis Eckersley, in a recent magazine interview, revealed he is a recovering alcoholic and was drinking heavily while with the Chicago Cubs, with day games at Wrigley Field contributing to his disease.
Eckersley, who racked up a major-league leading 45 saves during the 1988 regular season with the American League champs, said he is "still in the early stages of sobriety," but has "been carrying this thing inside of me for so long, I'm actually happy it's coming out."The 34-year-old right-hander was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Cubs in May 1984 for first baseman Bill Buckner. The Athletics acquired him from Chicago in April 1987.
"All the day games in Chicago helped do me in," Eckersley said in the Dec. 12 edition of Sports Illustrated. "I was drinking a lot, and by that time I knew I had a problem. I actually quit for a few months before the '85 season, but even though I knew I had a problem, I couldn't deal with it. I was losing all my self-esteem in self-destruction, yet I couldn't do anything about it."
In January 1987, Eckersley said he checked himself into a treatment center in Newport, R.I. He remained there for six weeks.
"There was a lot of pain that produced a lot of tears," Eckersley said. "I don't think I realized all the emotional baggage I'd carried around, but slowly it oozed out of me. When I got out, I had to feel my way around a little. I'd always been afraid of not drinking. I was afraid of life being dull. By spring training, I realized I really looked forward to living, where once I just tried to get by. I was so excited I wanted to tell the world I was sober, but I wasn't ready to take the heat."
Eckersley said he decided to go public with his story because he probably will be called as character witness at the Colorado Springs, Colo., trial of his older brother, Wally, who faces numerous criminal charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and attempted murder.
"I am prepared to explain that I am an alcoholic," Eckersley said in the article. "That's my life story. I've been carrying this thing inside me for so long, I'm actually happy it's coming out. I'd like to help other people who have this disease, but I'm still in the early stages of sobriety, and until now, I haven't been ready. I'm lucky my whole life didn't get torn apart. I could have lost my wife, my career, everything. Instead, I finally started growing up."