NEW YORK - Steve Howe, the relief pitcher whose promising career was derailed by cocaine and alcohol abuse, died Friday when his pickup truck rolled over in Coachella, Calif. He was 48.
Howe was killed at 7:55 a.m. CDT about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, said Dalyn Backes of the Riverside County coroner's office. He had been in Arizona on business and was driving back home to Valencia, Calif., business partner Judy Welp said.
Toxicology tests had not yet been performed.
The hard-throwing lefty was the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year with Los Angeles, closed out the Dodgers' 1981 World Series championship and was an All-Star the next year.
But for all of his success on the field, Howe was constantly troubled by addictions - he was suspended seven times and became a symbol of the rampant cocaine problem that plagued baseball in the 1980s.
During the 1992 season, he became the first baseball player to be banned for life because of drugs. An arbitrator reinstated him after the season.
In recent years, he owned an energy drink company in Arizona.
"I just saw Steve last winter when his son was pitching against my son," former teammate and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Friday night. "Everything was looking up for him and he looked great. It makes you numb when you hear about a situation like this. He had a roller-coaster ride."
Howe was 47-41 with 91 saves and a 3.03 ERA with the Dodgers, Twins, Rangers and Yankees. His final season in the majors was 1996, and the Yankees released him in June.
A moment of silence was observed at Yankee Stadium before New York played Toronto on Friday night. Howe played for the Yankees from 1991-96.
"I wish more people knew Steve Howe the way I knew him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "His struggles in life were well documented, but he always tried to fight through them and I will always respect that."
Two days after the Yankees let him go in 1996, Howe was arrested at a Delta Airlines terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when a loaded .357 Magnum was detected inside his suitcase. He later pleaded guilty to gun possession and was placed on three years' probation and given 150 hours of community service.
Chicago White Sox coach Tim Raines played with Howe in that final year.
"You always get second chances - third and fourth sometimes. And people really believed in him and that he'd eventually kick the problem. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for him," he said.
Howe tried a comeback in 1997 with Sioux Falls of the independent Northern League and retired after injuring his forearm. That August, he was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in Montana and charged with drunken driving; those charges were later dropped when prosecutors decided his blood test was improperly obtained.
"He was extremely talented, very confident on the mound and had an incredible arm," Scioscia said. "Obviously, he didn't reach his potential because of other things that crept into his life."
Said former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda: "Steve played for me for five years and I thought the world of him."
Howe was suspended for the 1984 season by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for cocaine use. Howe was out of the majors in 1986 after a relapse the previous August with Minnesota.
Texas released him before the 1988 season because of an alcohol problem, and he did not pitch again in the big leagues until 1991.
"Howsie had some issues everybody knew about," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said in San Francisco. "Everybody who hasn't played with him didn't know what kind of teammate he was. What you hear about Steve is the drug stuff. … He was kind of the captain of the bullpen out there."