St. Petersburg Times: Super Bowl XXXV
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Super Bowl XXXV Tampa, Florida 2001
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  • The Road to Super Bowl XXXV

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    Trouble will find you in Tampa Bay area

    [Times file photo]
    Gary Sheffield, left, and Dwight Gooden arrive for their arraignment after being charged in a scuffle with Tampa police.

    By ERNEST HOOPER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2001


    Celebrities in the Tampa Bay area for the Super Bowl should be wary, and not just because the NFL is warning players about the potential pitfalls of Tampa's nude-dancing clubs. Celebrities and athletes have quite a history of getting into trouble in the bay area.

    Jim Bakker

    The television evangelist resigned from his Praise The Lord ministry in March 1987, reportedly over a sexual encounter that occurred in December 1980 at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel near Clearwater Beach. The encounter with then-church secretary Jessica Hahn, and the sex-and-money scandal that ensued, toppled the PTL ministry.

    "I sorrowfully acknowledge that seven years ago, in an isolated incident, I was wickedly manipulated by treacherous former friends and then-colleagues who victimized me with the aid of a female confederate," Bakker said at the time.

    Bakker went on to admit he paid more than $250,000 to keep the tryst under wraps. He eventually was indicted for defrauding followers of $158-million and served five years in prison before being released in 1994.

    Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield

    The Tampa natives were arrested along with Vance Lovelace, Phillip Walker Jr. and a minor on Dec.13, 1986, in a bitter and highly publicized scuffle with Tampa police.

    The group was pulled over on Nebraska Avenue in Gooden's silver Mercedes. Police said Gooden hit two officers. Gooden's attorneys said he was beaten with nightsticks and flashlights as he was handcuffed and that officers, all of them white and eventually numbering more than 20, uttered racial slurs at the black baseball player and his black passengers.

    Gooden and the others received probation; a city investigation cleared the officers.

    Gooden, who battled a drug addiction and later moved to St. Petersburg, had this assessment in February 1995: "My problems have never been here in St. Pete. I was always getting into trouble in Tampa. ... If I go to Tampa during the day, I'm fine. But in Tampa after the sun goes down, it's like I'm a vampire."

    In October 1995, Sheffield, who is Gooden's nephew, was shot by an assailant who ran up to his white 1993 Mercedes at a stoplight in East Tampa and fired once. Sheffield was able to drive away and call for help. He was treated at St. Joseph's Hospital and released.

    Denny McLain

    The former Detroit Tigers pitcher, the last player to win 30 games in a season, ran afoul of the law when he was accused of using the Tampa office of a now defunct Fort Lauderdale mortgage company as the center for a loansharking, drugs and gambling operation.

    McLain was convicted in federal court in 1985 and sentenced to 23 years. After serving 29 months, he was granted a new trial by an appeals court. He ended the four-year case by pleading guilty in 1988 to two charges: racketeering and cocaine possession and distribution.

    "I think (probation) will be tough for him," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ernst Mueller said at the time. "It wouldn't surprise me if we see him back."

    In 1997, McLain was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $2.5-million for stealing from the pension plan of a company that went bankrupt 18 months after he bought it. He remains in jail today.

    Dexter Manley

    The defensive end came to the Tampa Bay area in 1991 looking for a fresh start with the Bucs after testing positive for drugs three times. But in December 1991, Manley received his second lifetime ban from the NFL after testing positive a fourth time. He gave a tearful farewell speech, saying, "Today is the day I prayed would never come."

    A year later, Manley blamed his failure to stay sober on the city where he played his last NFL game.

    "Tampa's a seedy town, man," Manley wrote in a book. "Tampa probably wasn't a good place for me. In Phoenix I never went to strip bars, and the players I hung out with weren't into seedy things. But the Tampa players liked to party, and I'm so impressionable."

    Darryl Strawberry

    The one-time baseball player was arrested on April 14, 1999, in Tampa and ended up pleading no contest to charges of soliciting a prostitute and cocaine possession. But his troubles didn't end there.

    He has violated his probation three times. In January 2000, Strawberry tested positive for cocaine in a random drug test. In September, he admitted to trying to leave the scene of an accident after rear-ending a car, and to driving under the influence of prescription drugs. In October he was arrested for leaving a drug treatment residence Oct.21 to smoke crack cocaine and take Xanax, which are prescriptive, mood-enhancing pills.

    "I'm not a danger to society," said Strawberry, who also has colon cancer. "I've never harmed nobody; I never will."

    After his latest arrest, Strawberry was sentenced to 30 days in prison. He served 21 days and was released in November.

    Lawrence Taylor

    Bakker's fall began in Room 538 of the Sheraton Sand Key. Taylor's run-in with the St. Pete Beach police happened in Room 509 of the Sandpiper Resort in October 1998.

    The Hall of Fame linebacker was arrested on charges of purchasing and possessing crack cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. After the arrest, he gave a profanity-laced denial in front of television cameras, saying he was a victim of entrapment.

    In February 2000, Taylor was placed on 18 months' probation after pleading no contest to buying crack cocaine. When the arrest occurred, Taylor was visiting the area to play in a charity golf event. Nothing outside of golf -- or possibly the Super Bowl -- will bring him back to the area.

    "As far as I'm concerned, St. Pete is over with," Taylor said in December 1999. "I don't plan on going back that way anyway unless I'm going to play golf."

    Dave Stewart, Todd Stottlemyre

    In February 1994, the Toronto Blue Jays pitchers were charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest after an argument over a $3 cover charge at an Ybor City nightclub.

    During the altercation, police reports said, a woman later identified as Stottlemyre's wife, Sheri, jumped on an officer's back as he attempted to arrest her husband. She was not charged.

    Stewart and Stottlemyre were charged with battery on a law-enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. Stewart also was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

    During a seven-day trial, dozens of witnesses testified about the battle at 19th Street and Seventh Avenue. The jury took 36 minutes to sift through the conflicting testimony and decide that, juror John Metroka said, "it was just an overreaction by the Tampa Police Department, and once it got to that point, there was no turning back."

    Today’s Super Bowl story lineup

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