Ken Caminiti, 1996 NL MVP, dead at age 41
By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK - Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League MVP who later admitted using steroids during his major league career, died Sunday. He was 41.
Caminiti died of a heart attack in the Bronx, said his agent-lawyer Rick Licht. The city medical examiner's office said an autopsy would be performed Monday, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.
"I'm still in shock," San Diego Padres (news) general manager Kevin Towers said. "He was one of my favorite all-time players."
The three-time All-Star third baseman often was in trouble the last few years. His 15-year big league career ended in 2001, five seasons after he led the Padres to a division title and was a unanimous pick for MVP.
Just last Tuesday, he admitted in a Houston court that he violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine last month, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
But state District Judge William Harmon gave Caminiti credit for the 189 days he already served in jail and a treatment facility since he was sentenced to three years probation for a cocaine arrest in March 2001.
In May 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids during his MVP season, when he hit a career-high .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. He estimated half the players in the big leagues were also using them.
Caminiti returned to baseball this year as a spring training instructor with San Diego.
"When I saw him in spring training, he didn't look good," Towers said. "I'm not surprised."
"The best way to describe him is that he was a warrior in every sense of the word. I can't tell you how many times I remember him hobbling into the manager's office, barely able to walk, and saying, `Put me in the lineup.'"
Licht said Caminiti was in New York this past weekend to help a friend, but did not go into detail.
"Man, that's just a tough one. I played with him for eight years," Dodgers outfielder Steve Finley said Sunday night, learning of Caminiti's death after St. Louis eliminated Los Angeles from the playoffs.
"He was a great player, but he got mixed up in the wrong things — taking drugs. It's a sad reminder of how bad drugs are and what they can do to your body. It's a loss all of us will feel."
Caminiti batted .272 with 239 homers and 983 RBIs with Houston, San Diego, Texas and Atlanta.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press