Speedball

The story you never read on the back of a baseball card

Wickander says he'd wanted to join his pals, but had promised to take his wife to nearby Disney World.

In the late afternoon, Olin, Ojeda and Crews stepped aboard Crews' 18-foot fishing boat for a spin around Little Lake Nellie, in rural central Florida. As the boat circled back to shore at dusk, it hit the underside of a dock that Crews apparently didn't see. Toxicology tests indicated that Crews had a blood-alcohol content well above the legal limit for intoxication.

Olin died instantly, and Crews died the next day, of injuries that were described in grotesque detail in subsequent news accounts. Ojeda suffered severe lacerations to the scalp, and was hospitalized for days. (He'd return to the Indians later that season, but was out of baseball within a year, reportedly suffering from severe depression.)

Wickander (top center) led Grand Canyon to the NAIA national championship in 1986.
Wickander (top center) led Grand Canyon to the NAIA national championship in 1986.

Steve Olin's widow, Patti, gave Wickander her late husband's favorite watch at the funeral. Wickander still lists the watch as one of his three most prized possessions, with his own wedding ring and Grand Canyon's 1986 championship ring.

Opening day approached in 1993 under what had become a national microscope, and the Cleveland Indians tried to cope with the tragedy. The media constantly called on Wickander to discuss his feelings about the death of his best friend.

But Wickander wasn't doing well. The haunted pitcher turned his clubhouse locker into a shrine -- media accounts at the time described how Olin's mitt sat atop the locker, his shower togs stayed put on the floor, and a framed enlargement of Olin's baseball card faced the room.

Wickander says he tried his best as the season started, but his head wasn't into it. He says he didn't turn to alcohol for solace, but concedes he was increasingly depressed by the deaths. Just a few months into the season, the Indians traded him to Cincinnati, hoping a fresh start would be best for all concerned.

But the change of scenery didn't help Wickander. The Reds released him at the end of the season, and he says no other team expressed immediate interest in his services.

Life had become extremely stressful for the 28-year-old pitcher: His wife was expecting the couple's first child, but he was unemployed and had been anything but thrifty in the preceding years.

"I didn't know what it was like to save money," Wickander says, "and we spent whatever we had, or didn't have."

He temporarily found work in Taiwan, and pitched there for a few months before returning to the States shortly before the birth of his child. He remained out of work in Phoenix, as major league baseball went on strike in August 1994, which ended the rest of that season and the World Series.

But in 1995, the Detroit Tigers signed Wickander, then assigned him to Triple-A Toledo for the start of the season. He did well, and got called up to Detroit that May. It turned out to be the best year of his major league career, and, he says, more than that.

"My daughter was born, my wife and I were happy, and I was playing for the legendary Sparky Anderson, a lifelong dream," Wickander recalls. "My teammates included Cecil Fielder, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, and they respected me. Sparky told me I was a guy he'd go to war with, because I was a gamer, no complaints, just doing my job."

Despite that, the Tigers traded Wickander to the Milwaukee Brewers near the end of the 1995 season. The following year proved to be another tough one, as he suffered an injury to his left shoulder that he says caused him to pitch poorly.

Milwaukee released Wickander at the end of the 1996 season. No team picked him up for the 1997 season, and the Texas Rangers released him at the end of spring training in 1998.

Wickander says he hasn't touched a baseball since then.


"I'd never had a job other than baseball," Kevin Wickander says. "I'd worked for my dad's company, but I always knew I was gonna go back and play ball. I finally started figuring out that we were broke, and I didn't know what to do about it."

He says he found a possible solution in the want ads -- as a car salesman for a local Nissan dealership. "It fit me just right. I'm a go-getter, and I was still doing those white crosses by the boxful, going like a son of a bitch, which you have to do in that job."

Wickander says that, after a rugged initiation, he became a top salesperson, first at the Nissan dealership and later at Camelback Toyota. It was on a test drive while working for the latter that Wickander says a potential customer introduced him to meth.

"I took a guy out that I knew from high school. I was pushing 70, 80 hours a week, and I was kind of looking that way [methamphetamine]. We're driving out in the Camelback mountains, and he asks me if I want to do a hit. Sure.' The guy never did qualify for the car -- a black Tundra. But I called him next morning and said, Hey, can you hook me up with some more of that stuff?' Boom, it was off to the races. Anything with ephedrine in it, I love it!"

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12 comments
deltazeta
deltazeta

Hi, I'm looking to get a hold of Kevin for the Cortez High School class of 1983 Reunion  this summer (2012). I am helping Sandra Cook with finding former students who have gone MIA, and am working from the bottom of the list up.  If anyone can send me a current phone number or address (I've narrowed him down to Glendale, AZ), please contact me at deltazeta@cox.net.  Thank you.

Smrtagent
Smrtagent

This is so sad. The Kevin I knew was not doing meth when we were together.

Amphetamine Addiction
Amphetamine Addiction

Speedball 2 Evolution Out for PSP Next Week The Bitmap Brothers classic futuristic sports game will be going live on Sony PSP via the Playstation Network Store next week as a Minis game. Following Speedball 2 Evolution's

JST Books
JST Books

Marijuana contains the chemical THC which is a mood and mind altering drug. THC occurs naturally in marijuana plants and when taken into the body causes a ‘high’ feeling in the brain. Marijuana is most commonly smoked, although it can be ingested in the form of various foods. It has not been scientifically proven that marijuana or THC is addictive, however if used over extended periods of time in a habitual manner, a person can develop a dependence on marijuana.The Rehab Doc

snmseo
snmseo

As more of the effects became obvious, amphetamine was used in various forms by the slimming industry to help people reduce their weight quickly. The name amphetamine is taken from an organic chemical compound (alphap-methylphenethylamine).Amphetamine Addiction

oh_myy
oh_myy

I am the young woman who was "awarded" thousands of dollars. Gosh my daughter wishes he would come back in her life. As the article state's , after livin a boy's dream, it's hard to live a life of no fans cheering you on. Story say's it all. It's never to late

Charles Osborne
Charles Osborne

This kid is my younger cousin who I looked up to. I felt disappointed in him when this happened. But I like God will always love him no matter what his faults are. He is a great guy / and a great man that has suffered with our family losses. His grt grandparents Floyd & Mary Garrett, His grand father, Jack L Garrett Sr, Grt Aunt Carole June Garrett Osborne, grt Uncle Robert Garrett, and his best friends on the Cleveland Orginization . We will miss them all and love them all .

Diz
Diz

I knew Kevin, personally, several years ago. I am just now reading this article, and feel great sadness for him. I hope Kevin is alright. This is one of those times when you hear about someone you know, or knew at one time, and something goes wrong in their life - that you wish you could have been there - and possibly made a difference. I'm so sorry Kevin!

l williams
l williams

I knew Kevin through a friend of mine named Joe Skalski. They both pitched for the Indians. I always liked "Flash", he is a great guy.

 
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