The fifth former Spartan to be enshrined in the San Jose State hall of Fame was future MVP Award winner Ken Caminiti who unexpectedly passed away in 2004. Sportswriter Barry Bloom wrote this sad article about his death:
LOS ANGELES — Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player while playing for the San Diego Padres, died Sunday. He was 41.
Caminiti's agent-lawyer, Rick Licht, told San Diego majority owner John Moores that Caminiti died of a heart attack in the Bronx. Licht said that New York City's medical examiner's office would perform an autopsy on Monday.
"I'm absolutely devastated," said Moores, who purchased the Padres just before the start of the 1995 season. "I don't know what to make of it."
Caminiti spent 15 years in the Majors and was a three-time All-Star third baseman. He won the NL MVP Award in 1996.
Out of baseball since 2001, Caminiti drifted in and out of trouble. Just last week, he said in a Houston court that he had violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine, and he was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
In 2002, Caminiti admitted using steroids during his MVP season, when he batted .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs.
"Man, that's just a tough one," the Dodgers' Steve Finley told the AP after learning of Caminiti's death. "I played with him for eight years. He was a great player, but he got mixed up in the wrong things—taking drugs. It's a sad reminder of how bad drugs are and what they can do to your body. It's a loss all of us will feel."
Caminiti's Padre tenure began in conjunction with Moores' purchase of the team. He was obtained from the Houston Astros in a 10-player trade that included Finley on Dec. 28, 1994, and played for the Padres' NL West winners in 1996 and San Diego's last NL pennant-winning team in 1998. Caminiti left the Padres via free agency after the 1998 season.
Moores remained close with Caminiti and flew him out to San Diego last year for the team's final series ever at Qualcomm Stadium. Moores said he had been contemplating giving Caminiti a job in the Padres organization.
"It wasn't going to happen this coming season, but it was definitely on the table," Moores said, fighting back tears. "I'm upset, Rick's upset and my wife Becky is very upset. It just is what it is."
Caminiti had documented problems with alcohol abuse during his first tour with the Astros, but was best known for his gutsy performances while he was with the Padres.
The story of his recovery from the flu during an August 1996 trip to Monterrey, Mexico, where the Padres played the Mets was legend. Caminiti was prone on the clubhouse floor in Estadio Monterrey and took fluids intravenously so he could play in a Sunday afternoon game.
He scraped himself off the floor and hit two homers in the game, an 8-0 Padres victory. That season, Caminiti hit .326 with 40 homers and 130 RBIs and was named the only NL MVP in San Diego's 36-year MLB history. But his skills began to erode quickly.
"The best way to describe him is that he was a warrior in every sense of the word," said Padres general manager Kevin Towers. "I can't tell you how many times I remember him hobbling into the manager's office, barely able to walk, and saying, 'Put me in the lineup.'"
The Padres have had other former star players die young. Pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins, both core players on the 1984 NL championship team, passed away from drug-related problems. Show, then 38 years old, died in a rehabilitation center from a drug overdose. Wiggins was 33 when he died of AIDS, which he contracted because of drug needle use.
Source: Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com (10/11/2004)
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