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Original Issue


It was late, just after midnight on Aug. 10, when the woman took
a call from a man who had no idea she was in cahoots with
police. He wanted drugs, and she said to come on over,
everything's cool. She was at the Ivanhoe Motel, three blocks
from Disneyland in a low-rent district. The man who called her,
according to Anaheim police captain Marc Hedgpeth, was Tony
Phillips of the Anaheim Angels. His team, in a pennant chase,
had played a few hours earlier.

Drugs have run hot in that area for quite a while, despite
arrests at that very motel, and the street narcotics unit was
using an undercover operation to nail dealers. The woman, an
informant, was key to this. She was a resident of the hotel, and
she had agreed to help identify and set up dealers.

"We had an undercover police officer in the room with her," says
Hedgpeth, chief of special operations. "Mr. Phillips showed up
and made an order for drugs. Cocaine. Our informant went to
another room in the motel and obtained the drugs, rock cocaine,
for Mr. Phillips. She brought them back, gave him the drugs, and
he immediately prepared to use the drugs. He put a portion into
a pipe and was in the process of lighting it when some
undercover officers came in and arrested him."

Phillips (right) was charged with possession of cocaine, a
felony. (The dealer also was arrested.) Under Major League
Baseball's drug policy, first-time offenders can receive
confidential treatment through their team's employee-assistance
program with no disciplinary action. When Phillips refused a
team request that he go on the disabled list and enter an
inpatient drug-treatment program, the Angels suspended him with
pay, setting off a feud between two of the world's most powerful
forces--the unfailingly virtuous Walt Disney Co., which owns the
Angels and about two thirds of everything else in the Western
Hemisphere, and the Major League Baseball Players Association,
which could have gotten Manuel Noriega off with 20 hours of
community service.

"We have a higher standard," Angels director of communications
Bill Robertson said, in explaining Disney's position, "and we
want to do what's best for Tony Phillips and the Angels." When
the players' union challenged Phillips's suspension, arguing
correctly that it went beyond major league policy, it was
interesting to speculate as to which universe might prevail. (It
was also strange to see the owners, whose executive council
concurred that Disney had overstepped its bounds, line up on the
side of the players' association.) But that contest of image,
ego and will--which ended on Aug. 20 with arbitrator Richard
Bloch upholding the players' grievance and the union mounting
the head of Disney CEO Michael Eisner on its trophy wall next to
Bud Selig's noggin--seemed a million miles removed from what is
said to have happened at the Ivanhoe.

A man of celebrity and privilege, who makes $1.8 million a year
playing baseball, allegedly risked his reputation, his career,
his team's chances and even his life for a quick, cheap,
mind-blowing thrill in a place where trouble costs less than a
ticket to Disneyland. The circumstances do not suggest a sudden,
aberrational fall from grace; Hedgpeth said this was not the
first contact between Phillips, 38, and the informant. Anyone
that sad, desperate or addicted, whatever the case may be,
probably needs more help than he, his self-congratulatory union
or anyone else can admit. For his sake, his family's sake (he
has a wife and two children) and, yes, even for the sake of the
game, a man in that situation is better off in a drug-treatment
program than in a batter's box, which is where he was last
Thursday night following his reinstatement.

Phillips is innocent until proven guilty, Hedgpeth agrees. But
he adds, "I have a lot more knowledge of this case than most
people, and I have to say I support Disney's position." In other
words, Phillips ought to get help, regardless of what happens in
any meeting of baseball officials or even in a court of law.

Two positive developments may come of the affair. The Angels vow
to "work within baseball to develop a stronger drug policy." And
Phillips, who has a Sept. 18 court date, said at a press
conference that he'll do what it takes to avoid a recurrence of
that night's events, because others have come out of similar
situations "in body bags." He apologized to his family, the
Angels organization and his teammates, and you can only hope he
understands that all the apologies in the world, by themselves,
won't be enough to save him.