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Darryl Strawberry

Darryl Strawberry

Position(s):
OF, RF, CF, LF, DH
Born:
March 12, 1962
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 6"
Weight:
190 lbs
Major League Debut:
5-06-1983 with NYN
Allstar Selections:
1983 ROOK, 1988 SS, 1990 SS

With one of the sweetest swings of his generation, tall, lithe Darryl Strawberry launched homers out of Shea Stadium and seemed destined to set records on his way to Cooperstown. But by the time he was 30, a drug addiction, injuries, and an ill-advised free agent signing with his hometown Dodgers were his undoing. Later, as a part-time veteran, he contributed to two Yankee World Championships after George Steinbrenner resuscitated his career. The former Rookie of the Year Award winner eventually burned out again, landing in prison after a drug charge. After 285 homers before his 30th birthday, Strawberry finished with just 335, never having reached the heights he was predicted to.

Background and early career

Strawberry was born to Henry and Ruby Strawberry in Los Angeles, California. He played high school baseball for the Crenshaw High School Cougars along with Chris Brown, and against Eric Davis at Fremont High and Chili Davis at Dorsey High (all future fellow big leaguers), was drafted first overall in the 1980 Major League Baseball Draft by general manager Frank Cashen of the New York Mets. Darryl's older brother Michael was also selected in that draft; going to the Dodgers in the 31st Round.

Employing a distinctive batting stance with a high leg kick, Strawberry rose through the Mets system and reached the major league level in 1983, posting 26 home runs, 7 triples, and 74 runs batted in, while hitting for a .257 average. He was named the National League's Rookie of The Year. In 1984, he made it to the All-Star game for the first time, and once again hit 26 home runs, this time driving in 97.

Prime years

Strawberry's Mets from 1984–1990 formed one of the premier teams in the National League, finishing either first or second in the division every year. But as good as the Mets were on the field, they constantly feuded off the field. Despite this, Strawberry remained an iconic figure in not only New York City, but across America. He was loathed by opposing fans, but beloved by New Yorkers and young fans across the country.

During the period from 1983 to 1990, Strawberry was very popular, with his image used on action figures (Kenner's Starting Lineup), posters and banners. He was also known for his disruptive behavior. He got into a physical altercation on team picture day with team captain Keith Hernandez and in the midst of a war of words with infielder Wally Backman, threatened to "bust that little redneck in the face". He often overslept and was late for, or missed, team workouts. He publicly complained about Manager Davey Johnson after he was removed from the game in a double switch during the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which the Mets would go on to win. During the regular season in 1986, Strawberry hit 27 homers and had 99 RBIs.

In 1987, Strawberry hit 39 home runs and stole 36 bases, joining the exclusive 30-30 club, at the time becoming one of only 10 players in baseball history to accomplish the feat. In addition to that, he hit 32 doubles and drove in 104 runs. Despite this, the 1987 team barely missed the playoffs.

In 1988, Strawberry once again hit 39 home runs to lead the National League. He also drove in 101 runs and led the league in slugging percentage at .545 and OPS at .911. He finished a very close second in MVP voting to the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson. Strawberry led the Mets to the playoffs, losing to the Dodgers in seven games in the National League championship series.

In 1989, Strawberry's offensive numbers declined: He had 29 home runs and 77 runs batted, but only had a .225 average. Nevertheless, the Mets came in a close second place to the Chicago Cubs in the National League East.

In 1990, Strawberry hit 37 home runs, while driving in 108 runs and batting for a .277 average. His Mets, however, came once again in a close second place in the NL's east, losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates by three games.

Strawberry signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991, inking a lucrative five-year $22.25 million contract. In California, he was named Big Brother of The Year for 1991. After hitting 28 home runs and bringing in 99 runs batted in a successful first year for the Dodgers, injuries and personal problems kept him sidelined for much of the next two seasons, hitting five home runs in each season.

After the 1991 season in which he was only 29 years old he had 280 lifetime homers, drawing comparisons to home run king Hank Aaron.

Later years

In 1994, he was released in May by the Dodgers and signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he saw limited playing time as he tried to make a comeback, hitting only four home runs and driving in 17 runs that year.

After a suspension from the league at the beginning of 1995 due to his involvement with cocaine, Strawberry signed with the New York Yankees for the stretch run. The next year, Darryl signed with the Saint Paul Saints of the Northern League on May 3, 1996 in an attempt to rehabilitate. On June 2, the Saints faced the Duluth-Superior Dukes at Wade Stadium, where Strawberry hit his first home run for the Saints, at a distance of 522' off of pitcher Pat Ahearne. Soon thereafter, he found himself back with the Yankees who signed him on July 4, 1996.

With the Yankees, he showed flashes of his former brilliance, belting 11 home runs in a part-time role and helping his team win the World Series in 1996 alongside former Mets teammates Dwight Gooden and David Cone. His second career three-homer game came against the Chicago White Sox on August 6 of that season.

He had a big series against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1996 ALCS as he blasted three home runs with five RBIs and a .417 average in four games. In 1997, he did not have any home runs, with his playing time limited by injuries.

But in 1998, he had 24 home runs, once again helping the Yankees win the World Series. This was also the year he was diagnosed with colon cancer. In 1999, he made a comeback from his cancer treatment, but saw limited playing time, hitting 3 home runs. He did however hit a crucial 3-run home run against the Texas Rangers in the 1999 American League Division Series helping the Yankees advance to the ALCS.

Post-playing days


Strawberry attended the Mets' 1986 World Champion team reunion on August 19, 2006, where he and the rest of the team received a standing ovation from fans at Shea Stadium in an on-field ceremony.

Strawberry worked as an instructor for the New York Mets in 2005.

Strawberry threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Shea Stadium before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 12, 2006. He was given a rousing ovation by the Shea Stadium crowd. He served as an anchor on the Mets pre- and post- game shows on SNY in 2007 and 2008, eventually settling into a part-time analysis role for the 2009 season.

Strawberry opened his own restaurant, Strawberry's Sports Grill in Douglaston, Queens in August, 2010.

Darryl frequently donates to charity and is a headliner of the BGC Charity day event, where he brokered over 5MM GD4.5 roll.


Legacy

New York baseball fans remember Darryl Strawberry as a clutch post season hitter; capable of delivering one of his signature "Moonshot" home runs seemingly on command. His prolific post season appearances with both area teams garnered him loyalty among both fan bases in the business and media mecca. Despite his controversies Strawberry is generally well regarded by the public and the media. Of the 10 postseason series Strawberry played in, he was on the winning team eight times. In 40 postseason games, Strawberry hit nine home runs with 22 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

Strawberry was the starting right fielder five straight times and appeared at nine All-Star games. Strawberry batted .333 with two stolen bases and two runs in 12 career All-Star at-bats.

Strawberry had two career three-home run games, and both were against Chicago teams and were almost 11 years to the day between each other. His first came against the Cubs on August 5, 1985, and his second, as mentioned above, was on August 6, 1996, against the White Sox.

Strawberry is one of only five Major League Baseball players to hit two pinch-hit grand slams in the same season. The others are Davey Johnson of the Philadelphia Phillies, Mike Ivie of the San Francisco Giants, Ben Broussard of the Cleveland Indians, and Brooks Conrad of the Atlanta Braves.

He now resides in St. Charles County, Missouri with his wife Tracy whom he married in October 2006. He met Tracy, his third wife, in a drug recovery convention and the two have founded "The Darryl Strawberry Foundation," an organization dedicated to children with autism.

1990s

    On December 19, 1995, Strawberry was charged in California with failing to make child support payments. When he missed a June 5, 1996, deadline to pay the child support, a Los Angeles judge set a trial date of July 17, at which time Strawberry agreed to use his signing bonus to pay the debt.
    On October 1, 1998, Strawberry was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two days later, he had surgery to remove a tumor and 24 inches of his colon. On October 14, doctors announced that cancer had been detected in a lymph node so he would also have to undergo chemotherapy.
    On April 3, 1999, Strawberry was arrested in Tampa, Florida for soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute and for having a small amount of cocaine. On April 24, he was suspended for 140 days by Major League Baseball for the incident. On May 29, he pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 21 months probation and community service.

2000s

    On July 28, 2000, a C.T. scan suggested that Strawberry's cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. The next month, he had surgery to remove a tumor and a kidney on August 7.
    On September 11, 2000, in Tampa, Strawberry tried to drive to see his probation officer after taking painkillers. While driving, he blacked out, rear-ended another car, and then tried to drive away. An off-duty police officer witnessed the episode and arrested him at gunpoint. The next day, Strawberry admitted to the charges and his probation was changed to two years of house arrest. On November 21, he was sentenced to a year of probation and community service.
    On October 25, 2000, Strawberry left a Tampa drug treatment center to use drugs with a female friend violating his house arrest and parole. On November 9, he was sentenced to 40 days in jail with credit for time served.
    On November 3, 2000, Strawberry told a judge in Tampa that he had lost his will to live and had stopped chemotherapy. On November 30, he was released from jail and sent back to rehab.
    On April 2, 2001, Strawberry was arrested for again disappearing from his house arrest drug treatment center in Tampa. On May 1, he was sentenced to more time at a drug treatment center.
    On March 12, 2002, Strawberry was back in jail for violating several non-drug rules at the drug treatment center where he was on probation in Ocala, Florida. On April 29, he was ordered to serve the 22-month suspended prison sentence from 1999.
    On December 14, 2005, Strawberry's second wife, Charisse, filed for divorce in Hillsborough County, Florida court.
    On September 21, 2009, Strawberry appeared on "The 700 Club" with his third wife, Tracy, whom he met while in rehab. He recounted his career and his drug problems.

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