FIVE O'CLOCK COMES EARLY: A Ballplayer Battle with Alcoholism by Bob & George Vecsey Welch

FIVE O'CLOCK COMES EARLY: A Ballplayer Battle with Alcoholism

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This is more the autobiography of an alcoholic who happens to be a pitcher, than of a pitcher who happens to be an alcoholic. And though baseball fans may well find the emphasis on diagnosis and treatment frustrating, the world at large will applaud Welch's guts and simple honesty. A 23-year-old kid from Detroit who always felt--without even realizing it--that he was valued for his athletic ability rather than for himself, Welch was drafted by the L.A. Dodgers and advanced rapidly from minor to major league pitching. The highlight was his ninth-inning strikeout of Reggie Jackson during the second game of the 1978 World Series. Unknowingly, meanwhile, he had been an alcoholic since his late teens, with car accidents, property abuse, blackouts, and all-around ""hell raising"" to his credit. With the Dodgers, things went from bad to worse: a disappointing '79 season and wilder escapades brought expressions of concern from teammates and manager Tommy Lasorda. Finally, a Dodger emissary gave Welch the famous 20-question test; and when he answered yes to eight of the 20 questions, he could no longer deny that he was an alcoholic. The six-week treatment at a center called The Meadows, in Phoenix--straightforwardly detailed here--included a final ""Family"" week in which Welch's family and girlfriend confronted him with their anger over his years of abuse. Afterwards Welch took responsibility for ""saving"" his own life. Though he makes the point that beers were plentiful in the clubhouse, he never blames baseball, either the pressures or the life-style. All occupations contain a percentage of alcoholics, he reasons, and as for the free-flowing liquor: well, an alcoholic could find a drink in a desert. Neither maudlin nor self-pitying, his book may encourage those who drink because they think it's macho to re-evaluate their own attitudes and priorities.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1982
Publisher: Morrow