Though he didn’t pitch in the playoffs, Dan Naulty was part of the Yankees’ 1999 World Series team and celebrated with teammates deep into the morning of Oct. 28 after they swept the Braves.
Naulty, who had used steroids for years along with speed and alcohol, was in a limo on the way home at around 7 a.m. when he suddenly had suicidal thoughts.
“I told the limousine driver to please stop so I could sit in the front seat with him. I just started talking to him about life and just wanted to know, ‘is there more to life than this?’ ” Naulty told Joan Niesen on an episode of the “Crushed” podcast, which digs into MLB’s steroid era. “We just won the World Series, and the streets aren’t paved gold, and I’m not riding on clouds but I feel just as miserable now as I did before. And so we got to the George Washington Bridge and I told him to stop. You take them home, and I’m gonna jump. I said I’m done.”
Narrating between quotes, Niesen says traffic saved Naulty as the rush-hour traffic made it impossible for the driver to even attempt to stop.
“I was just crashing and burning,” Naulty said. “If the World Series and all the money and playing for the Yankees isn’t gonna fix my life, then nothing is gonna fix my life”
Naulty, a right-handed reliver, was drafted by the Twins in the 14th round of the 1992 MLB draft out of Cal State Fullerton. At 6-foot-6, 180 pounds, Naulty felt too skinny when he began pitching in the minors that year and didn’t think he was going to be good enough to have a baseball career. He tasked a trainer with adding 50 pounds to his body to increase his velocity. Steroids became part of his regimen.
“I’m not asking enough questions. It was just total stupidity, but I was very focused on my goal,” Naulty told Niesen.
In 1993, Naulty was “stacking” drugs, which included one steroid for size and another for speed. By 1995 he was up to 240 pounds.
“There was always the motto of, ‘If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,’ ” Naulty said. “I think we all (as players) generally understood this was wrong. It was cheating, and you were stealing peoples’ jobs.”
When he reached the majors for the first time in 1996, he was taking amphetamines — which he says begot alcohol abuse.
“Speed was a never-ending energy of just laser-beam focus. It was the most addictive drug I ever took,” Naulty said. “But that’s also what triggered me becoming an alcoholic because I could never go to sleep. You just get on this cycle where, you get on this roller-coaster ride you just can’t get off of.”
After making 49 appearances in his rookie season while pitching to a 3.79 ERA, Naulty struggled to stay healthy over the ensuing two years, making 48 appearances over that span. He needed a rib removed as a result of thoracic outlet syndrome and tore tendons in his triceps and groin because his muscles were too big for the tendons.
The Southern California native had just gotten traded to the Yankees in November of 1998 when he was arrested for getting into a bar fight. He thought the Yankees were going to release him, but when the cops found out he was an MLB player, they instead took pictures with him and got autographs, and the bar didn’t want to take action against him. He was put on a pedestal and there was nobody stopping him or any other player from drug abuse.
But he decided to stop taking steroids before pitching the ’99 season for the Yankees because of the injuries he had sustained. Naulty said he lost 15 pounds and a lot of velocity. He had a 4.38 ERA in 33 appearances and never pitched in the majors again. He finished his career in 2000 with the Royals’ Triple-A team and an independent league team in Atlantic City.
“Baseball was my God,” said Naulty, who’s now a pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It drove every decision I made. You do anything at all costs to experience your dream. Of course, I wasn’t really experiencing my dream. I was experiencing hell.”