Amphetamines have been in big-league clubhouses in various forms for the last 40 years. There was the red juice imported from Mexico and later “greenies” and whatever they’re taking these days. One very famous former manager used to pass them out before games while loudly announcing: “If you’re not buying, you’re not trying.”
Another battle cry of the 1970s was: “Don’t let them out-milligram us today!”
Clubhouses have a different feel these days. Alcohol consumption has declined dramatically, and a huge number of players won’t take anything more stimulating than a protein shake.
One of the current Astros admitted taking an occasional greenie over the years, but he doubted many of his teammates did.
“Look around this clubhouse,” he said. “Do you see a lot of guys you’d think would use amphetamines?”
I looked down a row of lockers that had uniforms for Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg, Berkman and Jason Lane. Their idea of a wild time is to take their wives out to dinner.
“I’d be surprised if we have many guys using them,” manager Phil Garner said.
Garner is quoted extensively in the HBO’s “Costes Now” story, airing Friday evening. He was a user for a brief time during his playing career.
“Amphetamines help you feel alert,” he said. “There’s an initial burst of energy. Caffeine can do the same thing. The problem is you quickly build up a tolerance and have to take a higher dose to get the same feeling. Then you go through cycles where it disrupts your sleep. In a very short time, they turn out not to be what you think they are.
“The biggest danger is psychological. Guys begin to think they’re better on amphetamines when they’re really not.”
Indeed. A former pitcher told me about his first experience with greenies.
“I struck out the side in the first inning,” he said. “I came back to the dugout and sat down by the catcher (and said), ‘I’m throwing the hell out of the ball today. I’ve never had stuff like this before.’ The guy looks at me and smiles.
“I didn’t get out of the next inning. I had nothing, and it took the other side an inning to catch up to me. That was the last time I took a greenie.”
(Phil gets so easily excited)
Garner said there are other negatives.
“You’re keyed up after a game and end up drinking more alcohol,” he said. “The next day, you feel groggy. You take more amphetamines to get that alertness back, you drink more alcohol, and pretty soon you’re in a dangerous cycle.”