This Day In History: February 28

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On February 28, 1986, Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspends 11 players. including some of the sport's biggest names, for their involvement with illegal drugs. The suspensions are the most severe in the baseball since the infamous "Black Sox Scandal" in 1919. The commissioner doles out lesser penalties to 14 other players for their use of drugs.

Among those to receive the stiffest penalty, a conditional one-year suspension, were: Dave Parker (Cincinnati Reds), Keith Hernandez (New York Mets), Joaquin Andujar (Oakland Athletics), Lonnie Smith (Kansas City Royals), Enos Cabell (Los Angeles Dodgers), Jeff Leonard (San Francisco Giants) and Dale Berra (New York Yankees), son of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

All 21 players played in 1986 after meeting conditions set by the commissioner.

The penalities, the result of an investigation conducted by Ueberroth, came after players testified before a federal grand jury leading up to the September 1985 trials in Pittsburgh of drug traffickers. The scandal, known as the "Pittsburgh Drug Trials," was one of the biggest in the sport's history.

While under oath, Hernandez estimated 40 percent of MLB players used cocaine. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates' mascot, the Pirate Parrott, was implicated for buying cocaine.

By the mid-1980s, major sports leagues realized cocaine use was a major problem.  The same week MLB announced the conditional suspensions, the NBA suspended Micheal Ray Richardson of the New Jersey Nets for life after he failed a third drug test for cocaine.

Ueberroth’s suspensions were much less severe because none of the players had failed drug tests and the abuse seemed to be a thing of the past. “Each player I met with maintains he is currently not using any drugs. I have no reason to doubt this,” he said in a statement following the suspensions.

In 1986, Parker and Hernandez played in the All-Star Game. 

However, several of the players involved in the scandal continued to struggle with substance abuse. Willie Aikens, who played for the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays, served time in prison for cocaine distribution.

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