Raines candidly discusses cocaine issues in new book

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Tim Raines thought his life was coming to an end.

The 1980s Expos' star was so high on cocaine in late June of 1982 in Montreal and he was not feeling good about himself.

"As I criss-crossed Montreal, snorting line after line, my mind started playing tricks on me. I saw objects and heard voices that weren't there,'' Raines said in his revealing if not explosive memoir which is being released next weekend in Montreal.

"By the end of my 48-hour binge, I was drained of all energy and emotion, lying on the floor of my apartment at the Chateau Lincoln, staring up at the ceiling and feeling like I was going to die.''

Just a few days earlier on a Sunday afternoon under the influence of cocaine, he had gone 3-for-3 with three stolen bases for the Expos against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He thought he was on top of the world.

"Not a bad performance considering I had been up all night partying on Crescent St. in downtown Montreal,'' Raines wrote in Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball's Fast Lane.

In the book, a copy of which was received by this writer, Raines said he first experimented with cocaine in his hometown of Sanford, Fla. following the strike-shortened 1981 season which saw him steal 71 bases. He had just signed a contract that would pay him $200,000 for 1982 so he was ready to let loose on cocaine.

"I wanted to party like a star,'' Raines wrote. "So when some old high school teammates pulled out some coke, I figured, why not? I soon found out that the drug gave me a feeling that bordered on all-powerful.''

Raines' cocaine addiction was so bad sometimes that he would bail out on his pitches that the umpire would later tell him were down the middle of the plate. Prior to making the majors, Tim Raines had never drank, smoked anything or done drugs.

"The dose of quick success led me to believe that I had it all figured out,'' Raines wrote. "Instead of committing myself to taking my play to an even higher level, I took my gifts for granted. After cocaine got a hold of me,  it didn't take long for Rock to hit bottom.''

The coke problem was a blip in his life and he got over it in very short order that summer and entered a rehabilitation facility in California following the season. He went on to a star-studded career that resulted in him being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this past January.

Raines had gotten a real dose of reality early in life, a period of sadness that engulfed his family for eternity. That came in 1968 when he was nine and his sister Anita Gail was four.

Anita Gail was walking along the side of a road near the family home when a vehicle veered off the road, striking her and killing her.

"The days following my sister's death were filled with tears, sorrow and incredible emotion. I couldn't make sense of it. I remember being in a state of disbelief,'' Raines writes.

"From that day forward, every time I ran or walked down that road, I thought of Anita Gail. As I got older, her death reminded me that every day is a blessing because you just never know when tragedy is going to strike and change everything. Sports gave me a refuge from the sadness of that incident.''

It was that riveting moment that cropped up in his mindset more than 30 years later when his body was in a daze after he encountered Lupus, a disease that attacked his kidneys. Wound up with chemotherapy and finding himself in a zombie-like state, Raines one day found his mind ''racing all over the place.''

"One day while sitting at home, I burst into tears at the memory of my four-year-old sister, Anita Gail,'' Raines would write. "I had long ago come to terms with the tragedy that occurred that day in 1968 but in my current state, it was if I was experiencing it all again for the first time.''

In the next breath, Raines said he blurted out to his wife, "I just realized my sister is dead.'' Raines and his wife started crying.

Raines talked about racism growing up in sleepy Sanford and he admitted he wanted to be a football star, just like one of his idols, O.J. Simpson, but soon discovered baseball was meant for him. He couldn't believe that no college or university wanted to sign him to a football scholarship.

Raines did sign a letter of intent to play football for the University of Florida but coach Doug Dickey wanted to make the rock-solid kid a wide receiver, not a running back. In the spring of 1977, a Dodgers' scout told him that the team would be wise to select him in that summer's amateur draft.

When draft day rolled around, it was the Expos, not the Dodgers, who stepped up to the plate and drafted him in the fifth round. Raines signed for $20,000 and there was a provision in his contract for college tuition.

"The first thing that the player development guys instructed me to do was to learn how to switch-hit,'' Raines writes. "That made sense but the assignment still intimidated me. Imagine reporting for your first day at a new job and being informed you immediately needed to learn a major new skill.''

After hitting exclusively right-handed all through his early life, Raines was a more complete player because he could also hit from the left side. In fact, as his career played out, he enjoyed more success as a left-handed batter.

In his heyday with the Expos, Raines stole 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons and one individual game highlight will stick with forever. In his first game of 1987 on May 1, he went tripled and hit a walk-off grand slam to help the Expos beat the Mets.

By the end of the 1980s, Raines admits he had lost his lustre of playing for the Expos because they couldn't quite reach the plateau that they had enjoyed in 1981. 

"The late 1980s represented the most frustrating chapter in my career,'' he writes. "The hopes of winning a championship in Montreal seemed to fade with each passing day and I couldn't help but speculate about possible opportunities elsewhere.''

One day as her perused the standings, he noticed that the Chicago White Sox were a team on the rise so he says in the book that he told Expos general manager Dave Dombrowski that if he was going to trade him then the South Side of Chicago would be right for him.

Sure enough on Dec. 23, 1990, Dombrowski traded him to the White Sox for outfielder Ivan Calderon and pitcher Barry Jones.

"An incident that took place during a game in 1990 symbolized how I felt about my future with the club,'' Raines confides. "I was on second base when a teammate hit a double that should have scored me easily. But as I neared home, I tripped and fell flat on my face, forcing me to crawl the last few feet to the plate.''

Funny thing, on his last day as an Expo in 1990, he stole three bases to show skeptical fans, the media, and Dombrowski that he wasn't quite washed up.

Raines talks glowingly about his great admiration for former mates Andre Dawson, Gary Carter and Derek Jeter. He even was puzzled at the smoking habits of Montrealers.

"I learned at an early age that I didn't like cigarettes and couldn't figure out why most of the adult population of Montreal seemed to be puffing on them,'' he said.

And he took a shot a steroid users.

“Some of the players who got caught were great players who would have been surefire Hall of Famers if they hadn’t juiced,’’ Raines writes. “They cheated and they know they cheated. By putting their own interests above those of the game, they committed acts of pure selfishness.’’

There’s much more to read. We’ll leave it all to your imagination. Written with help from Alan Maimon, the book is published in the U.S. by Triumph Books and in Canada by Harper Collins.

Tim Raines is signing copies of his book Rock Solid: My Life In Baseball’s Fast Lane on April 2, 3 p.m., at the Indigo Place Montreal Trust store in Montreal.  

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com