Eric Show wasn’t your typical baseball player.
In fact, everybody who knew him said he was a guy who marched to the beat of a different drum. Some called him “eccentric” and said he didn’t fit in with fellow baseball players, often bringing his guitar along on road trips. However, friends and family knew him as a generous-hearted man who handed money to the homeless or bought them restaurant dinners. He was an articulate guy who possessed a great intellect, loved music with a passion, played jazz guitar, read voraciously, and showed a tremendous interest in world affairs and politics.
He also struggled with a demon that killed him before his 38th birthday.
A California native who attended UC Riverside, Show signed on with the San Diego Padres and pitched his first game with that team in September, 1981. He spent nearly all of his eleven-year career with the Padres and was a member when the Padres had their first shot at the World Series.
Show’s childhood was a tough one in many ways, thanks to a father who didn’t hesitate to slap him around when he didn’t quite measure up. A cocky street fighter and boxer who grew up in Pittsburgh, his father was determined that his son would be a star athlete, and nothing would get in his way. Luckily, Show was a good student, because poor grades weren’t an option. Music, and anything else that didn’t relate to school or baseball, wasn’t important and often not tolerated.
It’s difficult to say if an abusive father was the reason Show turned to drugs, but many think he used amphetamines for the first time in 1988, possibly to cope with the pain of a back injury. Many think he needed an escape from the pressure, or that he may have been bored and disillusioned with baseball. He was reportedly frustrated when his relationship with his father continued to be contentious, in spite of his many attempts to patch things up. There’s no doubt that drug use among baseball players wasn’t uncommon in the mid-80s.
Things deteriorated rapidly for Show, who, by 1990, had switched from pills to meth he could purchase on the street. He was hooked quickly and began to display signs of drug-induced paranoia. He began showing up late for games, often seeming listless or acting erratically. He was let go by the Padres in the fall of 1990. At some point, he added cocaine and heroin to the mix, and the paranoia worsened.
The Oakland A’s decided to give the pitcher a chance and he signed a two-year contract with the team in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, 1991 didn’t go well, and he was released by the team in the spring of 1992. This was about the time his wife asked him to move out, and he went to a treatment center in Kentucky in hopes of saving his failing marriage — one of several failed attempts at rehab.
The paranoid behavior accelerated when rehab failed, and in summer, 1993, Show was picked up by cops as he ran down a San Diego street, yelling that somebody was trying to kill him. He was sprayed with pepper spray, cuffed, and put in the back seat of a patrol car, where he kicked out a window and ran. When the police caught up with him, they took him to a psych warm at the county medical hospital for three days of testing.
Show entered rehab again in February, 1994, but left against medical advice after 30 days. He went on a massive drug binge, reportedly chasing heroin and cocaine with beer. He called the treatment center, told them he was in trouble and not feeling well, and asked if they would send somebody to pick him up.
When he didn’t appear for breakfast early the next morning, a staffer went to check and found Show in bed, unresponsive. Paramedics were unable to revive him.
Show was buried with the things he loved — his guitar, a baseball, and a Padres baseball cap. Reports say a photo of his wife was tucked into his pocket.
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