Willie Mays Aikens has its own history in “Kingdom”

Copperstone, New York – The greatest player in the history of Kansas City Royals knocked on the conference table of the Baseball Hall of Fame last Friday. George Brett posed as an FBI agent showing off his badge.

It’s just that you were not in Cooperstown. NY, no more. You were somewhere with the kingdoms in the early 1980s and you might have serious problems.

“He’s naming me, he’s naming Jamie Quirk – and he’s naming you,” Brett said, pointing to his old teammate, Willie May Aikens, across the table.

“And he named Vida Blue, Jerry Martin and Willie Wilson. And he says: “You know, we used to have a meeting about booking invitations and betting games. Let’s say George and Jamie are calling a guy we got to hear… “

Brett shuddered and quickly realized: he had stopped betting on football games. But the FBI did not care much about him and Quirk. Investigators were trying to signal to others that they were going to use cocaine.

“If we had stopped immediately, we would never have had a case of drug addiction,” Aikens said. “They were trying to warn us, man.”

“And you keep doing it,” Brett said.

“And we continued to do that,” Aikens replied.

Aikens has been doing this for ten years. Like Blue, Martin, and Wilson, he served a short prisoner after the 1983 season, but that was not the worst. That’s not why Samuel Goldwyn Films has turned Aikens’s life story into the movie ‘Kingdom’, which is scheduled for release on July 15th. It will be available in streaming and limited theaters and premiered last Friday at the Hall of Hall. Glory.

For the 67-year-old Aikens, it was his first trip to Cooperstown, where Brett has a career that ended in 1993 with 3,154 hits. At the time, Aikens was deeply addicted to cocaine, which led to his six-year career. After eight seasons in the Mexican Majors as the first base tennis player for the California Angels, Royal and Toronto Blue Jays until 1985.

In 1994, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for selling 2.2 ounces of crack cocaine, four times for a female undercover officer. Aikens said he was interested in women and obeyed when he asked them to prepare cocaine in a crack.

That decision made Aikens – the first player to play two multi-homer games in the same World Series, in 1980, when the Royal Club lost to Philadelphia – the public face of a gross difference in punishment for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenders. The 1986 federal law punished people much more severely for crack; It took Congress until 2010 to reduce the sentence difference between crack and powdered cocaine from 100 to 1 to 18.

Aikens had been in prison for 14 years and was now in prison before he was released. The “Royal” mainly depicts his return to society – reconciling with his wife and family, becoming a father again, working in the road crew. He dug shells and, with the help of Brett, found a job as a small league coach at the Royal.

“How many people go through life on this earth and make a movie?” Said Aikens, who is now a special assistant to the kingdoms as part of their leaders development team. “There are not many people. “I hope the film saves a few lives.”

Actor Amin Joseph, who plays the crack dealer in the FX series “Snow”, plays Aiken. Joseph, 42, grew up in Harlem and said he remembers the vials scattered on the playgrounds. He was drawn to another type of figure game under the influence of drugs.

“There are real people in our community who have this problem and are still being treated, and as Willie often says, not all of them were major league baseball players who had the luxury of having friends in strong places to give them a second chance,” Joseph said. “Many of these people are lost, forgotten, the underworld of what we consider society, the people we judge.”

Aikens’s past allowed him to return to baseball, but it was not always smooth. He first had to confront the past and show that he could share his experiences.

Aikens was something of an unlikely public speaker who dealt with grumbling for much of his life. Brett first encouraged him to tell his story to Brett’s son’s high school athletes, a scene that was freely portrayed in the film. It became a revelation.

“When I took him in the middle of the road and heard him talking, tears came to my eyes. “I really did,” said Brett. “I was very proud of him.”

Aikens – who testified in Congress in 2009 calling for drug punishment reform – has repeatedly told his story to members of the royal family and students on the team’s Urban Youth Academy. The message remained very relevant in baseball; While cocaine was a scourge in the 1980s, the death of Tyler Skags, the pitcher of angels in 2019, revealed the damage of an opioid epidemic in sport.

Four of Angel’s teammates announced in court this year that they, like Skags, had taken Oxycodone pills from Eric Kay, the former director of Angel Communications, who was found guilty of his role in Skags’ death. Prosecutors argued that Skags died from pills taken from Kay or pills that were disguised as oxycodone but were actually fentanyl, a much more potent opioid.

“The drug they have now is mixed with oxycodone and similar drugs, and it is a blind killer,” Aikens said of Fentanyl. “When I’ve used drugs, you can sit there for hours or days and just smoke or smoke cocaine. But now with this medicine, fentanyl, you can drink this one pill and it will just destroy it. It does not even give you a chance. “

Almost on his own, however, Aikens survived to get another chance. Now he’s moving his story to the Cooperstown Theater – and, soon, far beyond.

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