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Though the Cleveland kidnapping is foremost on everyone’s mind right now, I don’t want to let too much time pass without mentioning the sad case of former professional baseball player Otis Nixon, who was arrested last Saturday for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Nixon was pulled over by police in suburban Atlanta; upon further investigation, the cops discovered a crack pipe in Nixon’s pockets and what appeared to be crack cocaine scattered throughout his truck. Nixon claimed the drugs and the pipe belonged to his son, which seems like a particularly lame excuse. He was arrested anyway, and his astoundingly haggard booking photograph should serve as a reminder of the consequences of hard living.
These new charges against Nixon are relatively benign, as athletes and their legal problems go, and it’s sad to see him apparently fall victim to his old demons. Nixon—full name Otis Junior Nixon, Jr.—stole 620 bases and collected almost 1,400 hits during his 17-year major league career. He had drug problems as a player, too, and he was suspended during the 1991 season after failing a drug test, missing the World Series as a result. Nixon retired in 1999, but his name still popped up in the news now and then. In 2004, for example, he was arrested at an Atlanta-area motel for pulling a knife on his bodyguard and threatening to cut his heart out. (He did not follow through on his threat.) But, recently, Nixon had actively embraced Christianity and sobriety, and wrote an autobiography titled Keeping it Real. “My life today is Christ-Centered free from the past experiences and storms of drugs and alcohol, trials and tests of keeping it real,” he wrote on his website. “My testimony speaks for itself.”
Earlier this year, Nixon was implicated in a bizarre fraud scheme in which he allegedly tried to scam prisoners’ relatives out of thousands of dollars by promising he and his non-profit organization could win the prisoners early parole—for a fee. “A player still using his fame to push what some tell authorities is a clever scam targeting desperate families,” said Fox 5 anchor Lisa Rayam in the lead-in to a hidden camera segment in which investigative reporter Randy Travis went undercover as someone hoping to get a relative released early from jail. Nixon claimed that he had connections with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal—“I sit with him. I know his wife,” Nixon told the undercover Fox 5 reporter—and with parole board member Gen. James E. Donald, whom Nixon clamed was his “best friend.” If Nixon ever needed friends in high places, it’s right now.