Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel drank before his first two starts of the 2001 season.
Ankiel is best known for his epic meltdown during the 2000 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves in which he became the first major league pitcher to throw five wild pitches in one inning since 1890. And he opened up Monday about his case of the yips to 590 The Fan, while discussing his new book titled “The Phenomenon: Pressure, The Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life.”
The former phenom admitted to drinking vodka before his first start following the collapse against the Braves in order to quell his anxiety.
“Before that game ? I’m scared to death,” Ankiel said per 590 The Fan. “I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game, I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted.
“I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yips, the monster, the disease?it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
In that 2001 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ankiel picked up the win and did so against one of the best to toe the rubber, Randy Johnson.
He tried it again before his next start, and it didn’t go as well as he lost to Scott Elarton of the Houston Astros.
Ankiel threw his last pitch as a major leaguer in 2004, but reinvented himself as an outfielder and returned to the majors in 2007, playing for six different clubs before retiring after the 2013 season.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images