Film Of Former MLB Star’s Life To Be Discussed In Cooperstown
Next week, Willie Mays Aikens is back in front of his baseball public.
It was back in 1985 that Aikens played his last dozen MLB Games as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Just a few seasons earlier, in 1980, Aikens was the starting first baseman for the American League pennant-winning Kansas City Royals. It was during the World Series that fall that Akens' bat was hot.
Aikens made baseball history by being the first player to register a pair of two-homer games in World Series play. Although the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Royals in the Fall Classic, Aikens' career and life appeared promising. Then, illegal drugs became a part of Aikens' world. An incredible fall from fame and freedom was in the cards for the former top draft pick of the then California Angels in 1975.
His addiction to cocaine ended Aikens' MLB career.
In 1994 Aikens was arrested and indicted on charges of crack cocaine distribution. Aikens ultimately received a sentence of 15 years and eight months, and received an additional five years because he allegedly had a loaded gun in the room where the drugs were sold.
This is where the former Royals' star's life turned upside down.
The amazing, positive turnaround for Aikens is on display for all in the film - The Royal.
Aikens, who will be joined in Cooperstown with his former Kansas City teammate and Hall of Famer George Brett, for a question-and-answer program, on Friday May 27 in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Grandstand Theater at 2 p.m.
" We'll be in Washington, D.C. the day before (Thursday), then to Cooperstown the next day," Aikens said during a telephone conversation earlier this week. " It (The Royal) hasn't fully kicked in. For most people, having a movie made about them doesn't happen. The good, the bad, and the ugly, it's all in the film of my life."
Amin Joseph, who portrays Aikens in The Royal, is a graduate of Howard University. The Washington, D.C. viewing of The Royal will be at Joseph's alma mater.
Gregory Jordan, who co-wrote the 2012 release of Aiken's biography - Willie Mays Aikens : Safe At Home, also receives writing credit for The Royal.
After being released from prison in 2008, Aikens tells of keeping touch with Brett. It was the hall of famer that took Aikens back to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where he played four of his eight major league seasons, and set up a meeting with then Royals General Manager Dayton Moore.
" He (Moore) said that he would keep me in mind for any openings in our minor league system. Three years went by before I heard back, " says Aikens. " I've been with the Royals now for 10 years."
According to Aikens, his tenure with the Royals since he left prison has been great. His wife, Sara Aikens, suffered a stroke 11 years ago. Aikens is thankful for the assistance the club as afforded him in being able to take care of his wife.
" It was a blessing (going to prison)," Aikens tells. " I wasn't going to stop using drugs. It saved me."
The Royal is being distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. July 15 is when the film will be released.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.