Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Longtime Baseball Fan Remembers "Good Old Days" When Alcoholism Ran Rampant

Glens Falls, NY (Mar. 5) - In this sleepy hamlet in upstate New York, longtime baseball fan and retired meat packer Virgil Horne leans back in "his" chair -- the 25-year-old La-Z-Boy recliner, and thinks back to a simpler time in the history of the national pastime.

"I wish we could go back in time and return to the days of good, old-fashioned alcoholism," Horne says to his visitor. "Baseball scandals have gotten way too complicated for my blood. I wouldn't know a steroid if it jumped up and bit me in the ass."

Horne wistfully recalls players like Yankees relief pitcher Ryne Duren, Angels pitcher Bo Belinsky, and Cleveland Indians phenom Joe Charboneau.

"Drunk as skunks," Horne says of this trio, and those of their ilk. "You didn't have to have a PhD in chemistry to follow along with off-the-field troubles in my day."

Virgil Horne

Horne also pointed to what he referred to as the "harmless fun" alcoholic ballplayers engaged in.

"Duren would warm up and throw the first pitch over the G--damn backstop. And you didn't know if he was doing it on purpose or because he was soused. Belinsky -- now THERE was a character. Why, he'd be out with the ladies to all hours of the night, stroll in at seven in the morning, and go out and pitch that night, usually getting knocked out in the fourth inning.

"Good times, good times," he says with a nostalgic sigh.

Today, Horne says, the ballplayers are spreading themselves too thin with bad behavior. He wishes they'd "dumb it down", especially for "oldtimers like me."

"I tell ya, I can't keep up with some of these ne'er-do-wells," says Horne. "Tax evasion, the steroids thing. Internet gambling. INTERNET GAMBLING? How the heck does THAT work, anyway? Sheesh!"

Horne says he barely follows baseball anymore because of what he calls a "retreat from good old baseball values" like "getting completely hammered" in between games of a doubleheader.

"They don't even PLAY doubleheaders anymore," Horne says with a look of disgust. "Let alone drink like a fish between games. It's just not the same."

Horne remembers fondly a game he attended in which Charboneau was "clearly shnockered."

"I saw the Indians when they came to New York," he says. "Charboneau must have had quite a night the night before, because he was still out of it the next day. There was a high pop up, and he circled underneath it, then just went down like a house of cards. Then he threw up a little.

"Now it's all taking place in courts and rehab centers. Any ballplayer in my day worth his salt wouldn't be caught dead in any 'rehab center.' No sir. He'd be labeled a pussy."

Horne says he might give baseball another shot this year.

"But as soon as I hear about this HGH, then I'm done. For good this time. What's wrong with Johnny Walker Red Label?"

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