Ken Caminiti has died of a heart attack at age 41. A shame indeed. Caminiti was one of my favorite players. As a tribute, I'll have to dig out the old Padres Caminiti jersey I bought during his MVP season.
Unfortunately he's now remembered primarally for admitting to using steroids and his battles with alcohol and drug addiction. Because of this, the Cammy jersey has been buried deep in the closet for some time now. Plenty of ribbing when you show up for softball wearing that shirt.
A three-time Gold-Glover, Caminiti made some of the best third base highlight plays we'll ever see. Headlong dives into dugouts and stands, gunning guys out at first from the seat of his pants... It was his reckless abandon at third that made him one of my favorite players. In 1996, he seemed to put it all together to have a truly dominant season. That year Baseball Tonight was like his personal highlight show. He made spectaular plays at third, countless clutch hits and home runs. I'll always remember the story of the Snickers bar and IV during the games in Mexico versus the Mets. He was the very definition of Most Valuable Player and was selected unanimously at season's end.
We've since learned, through his courageous admission, that was the first year his shoulder pain forced him to try steroids, and his downward spiral began. His demise will hopefully serve as a warning to athletes about the hazards of steroid use, and non-athletes about the dangers of drugs.
Ken Caminiti was a true warrior, the biggest shame is that he was so competitive as to destroy his own body and life in the process.
I'll miss you Cammy. And I'll wear the shirt with pride.