In 1980, the Padres selected two players in the Rule 5 Draft for the first time. Nine picks after they took Mario Ramirez, San Diego plucked slender speedster Alan Wiggins from the Dodgers organization. Wiggins had stolen 120 bases with single-A Lodi that season.
As they did with Ramirez, the Padres worked out a deal that allowed them to send Wiggins to AAA Hawaii for the 1981 season. He earned a late-season call-up by batting .302 with "only" 73 stolen bases. Wiggins had a good small sample size in San Diego that September, singling five times in 14 at-bats and stealing a pair of bases.
Wiggins spent most of 1982 in the majors, stealing 33 bases in only 72 games and picking up several firsts. On the field he hit his first doubles, triples, home run, and runs batted in. Off the field he notched his first cocaine possession charge and rehab stint. As in the "get off drugs" kind, not the "play a week in the minors to get back in shape" kind.
He doubled his steals in exactly double the games in 1983. He also saw action at first base for the first time, filling in for fifteen games. Until then, he had been used as an outfielder by the Padres. The next season would bring another position change, this time a permanent one. Wiggins, who last started a game at second base in the low minors half a decade earlier, was named the starting second baseman and played 157 games there in 1984. He stole a career-high 70 bases as the Padres ran away with the division on their way to their first pennant. Wiggins hit .341 in 10 games split evenly between the NLCS and World Series but stole only one base despite reaching base 16 times.
That was pretty much it for Wiggins in brown and orange. He played 10 games at the beginning of the 1985 season before just not showing up for work one day. He was back in rehab in a matter of days and never played for the Padres again. Owner Joan Kroc and team president Ballard Smith took a hardline approach and had general manager Jack McKeon send him out of town. The Orioles took him on in a conditional deal that stipulated the Padres would pay a portion of his salary if he relapsed. Wiggins managed to get into about half of Baltimore's games the next three seasons, clashing with coaches and teammates along the way. He failed a drug test on September 29, 1987, and was released the same day. He had played his last game.
A little more than three years after leaving the game, Alan Wiggins was dead. He passed away from AIDS-related complications at age 32, becoming the first major league player to do so. Wiggins left behind a wife, two daughters, and a son. His youngest daughter Candice went on to basketball stardom; she is Stanford University's all-time top scorer and was selected third overall in the 2008 WNBA draft. His son Alan, Jr. also played professional basketball in Europe.
While Alan Wiggins will best be remembered for his off-the-field struggles and untimely passing, he was the catalyst that made San Diego's first pennant possible. Sadly, only one member of that 1984 Padres team, first baseman Steve Garvey, attended Wiggins's funeral.