OK, that wasn’t the exact quote. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell is justifiably uncomfortable with the circumstances surrounding Josh Hancock’s death and the prevailing climate at Busch Stadium.
Inside the Cardinals’ clubhouse late Friday night, Albert Pujols wondered whether anyone learned a thing from the Hancock tragedy. We talked about drinking and driving. We talked about knowing how many of the 45,000 people who had just spent nine innings watching him play with several tall cups of beer in their hands were now out on Highway 40, and how many of them would fail a sobriety test if the police had the guts to do a roadside test on the highways after a game.
“Oh, man, out of 45,000 people, they’d probably put 35,000 in jail,” Pujols said. He laughed when he said it, but he knew it wasn’t funny. “I just wish that people who want to come to the games and drink so much would just take a cab. But the trouble is, there aren’t 45,000 cabs out there.”
This is very personal to Albert Pujols. He just lost a teammate, a young man who dressed across the room from him every night, a young man he did not know all that well personally, but someone he greatly admired professionally. “Believe me, if I had been around (Hancock on Friday night), he wouldn’t have gotten that (car) key,” Pujols said. “We would have gotten into a fight.”
Yes, it is very personal to Pujols, because this recurring theme of baseball and booze goes so much deeper than Josh Hancock. It goes all the way back to his childhood in the streets of Santo Domingo. If you want to know why Pujols is so willing to speak up and speak out, he doesn’t hesitate to tell you why.
“My father is an alcoholic,” Pujols said.
“I grew up with this,” he said, “and I thank God every day I didn’t pick up that bad habit from my father.”
“My dad would start drinking, and he wouldn’t stop,” Pujols remembered. “I was 9 or 10 years old, and I used to have to drag him home after his softball games. He’d have his arms draped over my shoulders, and I’m dragging him and pulling his (equipment bag) on the ground.”
As he spoke, Pujols talked about how eerie it felt to look across the room and see that empty stall with Hancock’s jersey hanging from it. He then lifted his foot onto the padded white folding chair near his locker stall, leaned on his knee and continued to talk.
The cushion on the back of the chair said “Budweiser” on it.