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Friday, May 4, 2007
Team also considers alcohol ban on road news services

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals banned alcohol from the clubhouse on Friday, five days after the alcohol-related fatal accident of pitcher Josh Hancock.

Manager Tony La Russa said general manager Walt Jocketty made the decision earlier Friday without consulting players. La Russa said it was a largely symbolic move since players don't drink much in the clubhouse anyway.

The team is also considering an alcohol ban on the road and debating whether to ban alcohol on certain charter flights, but no decisions had been made.

"It's meaningful," La Russa said. "But it's not a significant factor in our clubhouse because our guys don't stay in the clubhouse to drink."

Executives from 12 to 15 teams have been in contact with the Oakland Athletics' general counsel in the last 48 hours to inquire about the team's alcohol policy, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported Friday. Oakland is the only team known to have prohibited alcohol distribution in both its home and visiting clubhouses, and the team's intention moving forward is to ban alcohol outright.

At least three other teams -- the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates -- have banned alcohol from their home clubhouses, and Major League Baseball is currently in the process of surveying teams to determine what their respective policies are. There is some question for baseball about whether the banning of alcohol from clubhouses may be subject to collective bargaining with the union, because it is related to work conditions.

Center fielder Jim Edmonds was unaware of the change when approached by reporters about 2 hours before Friday's game against the Houston Astros. He didn't seem to mind, although he didn't believe it was a problem in the clubhouse.

"I didn't know anything about it. But if that's what they want to do, fine with us," said Edmonds, the longest tenured Cardinal who has been with the team since 2000. "They're our bosses, they're the ones who make the big decisions. We just work here."

La Russa didn't think alcohol abuse was a problem on the team in general, noting that many of the players are married with children. The bullpen is an exception.

"Look at our roster," he said. "The game is over, guys go home to their family. So it's a limited scope issue."

The Cardinals were owned for decades by Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., and their stadium is named after the brewery. The team has traditionally made alcohol available to players after games. Even after Anheuser Busch sold the team to a group of mostly local businessmen in 1996, the practice continued.

Edmonds said Hancock's death was a shock to the system for players, and should be for the public in general also.

"I'd hate to single out our team, because I don't think it's a baseball issue. I think it's an issue all over the place, and hopefully people will be more aware of it because of what happened."

The Astros do not provide alcohol to players in their clubhouse. Manager Phil Garner recalled the Brewers, where he began his managerial career in 1992, banning alcohol that season.

Garner sees that as a reflection of a healthier society in general.

"The drinking as a whole has dropped off significantly in the clubhouse, and from what I see, just generally, in baseball as a whole," Garner said. "I think there was a drinking culture in baseball years ago, and I don't think it's there anymore.

"Guys work to condition themselves, and it's a 'round the clock deal."

At Yankee Stadium, manager Joe Torre said he thought individual teams had addressed the issue.

"Obviously it's more of a problem at home than it would be on the road because when you're on the road you're on a bus and you're not driving," Torre said.

Hancock was drunk and talking on his cell phone at the time of his fatal accident early Sunday on Interstate 64 in St. Louis. His sport utility vehicle hit the back of a tow truck parked on the highway to assist a driver from a previous accident.

Hancock's blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit of 0.08, the medical examiner said.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney was used in this report.