Darryl Strawberry: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & The ‘Moonshot.’
When baseball fans speak about the most feared ‘sluggers’ in the game, Darryl Strawberry’s name usually appears with the likes of DiMaggio, Aaron, Rose, and Ruth. And what many fans also speak about is the fact that ‘all of the above’ lived controversial lives while they became some of the best – if not THE best – baseball players in American history.
One of the most intimidating things about Strawberry is the fact that he stands six-six, and can literally make all pitcher’s think twice when they see the large shadow that he casts as he takes his place at home plate, and gears up to slam that small white ball into next year. In fact, even his swing is beyond interesting – using a long ‘looping’ motion that reminds one of a mobster who is more into breaking legs than a baseball player breaking the sound barrier. This is a man who spent seventeen years leading teams to world championships, as well as making records and astounding fans all over the globe with his ability to be one of the most exciting baseball players of all time.
Of course, with all the celebrity, records, and fame – there were also other things in Darryl Strawberry’s past that drew headlines, and unfortunately those things were not all good. But where that baseball diamond was always concerned, Darryl Strawberry became one of the most popular players ever during his tremendous run, and was even voted to the All-Star game eight times straight, definitely promoting the fact that no one was as good as he was.
Strawberry always knew he wanted to play baseball, right from the get-go. Playing in high school and being drafted right out of that world as the first overall pick in the 1980 draft by the New York Mets system, Strawberry was certainly focused and driven to become the best on the field.
His batting stance – unique to say the least, with a high leg kick – was what he honed over time, and he soon rose in the Mets organization to play his first major league game in 1983. Talk about a ‘dream’ player for the Mets. In his very first year, Strawberry hit twenty-six home runs and was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year. And only one year later, he was invited to that glamorous All-Star Game for the very first time. Talk about a young man who didn’t need a great deal of time in order to find himself being associated with the ‘best of the best.’
The Mets, in the amazing period of 1984-1990, became one of the greatest teams in history. There was no season played where the Mets weren’t found in the first or second slots for their division. The odd part was, it seemed that fighting, anger, and battles, made this team really shine on the field – in fact, it seemed like ‘bad blood’ off kept ‘perfection’ on. Every year there was a Mets’ feud. Of course, no matter what the Mets were doing, Darryl Strawberry remained one of America’s favorite baseball players. The opposing teams literally hated to see him walk on the field because he almost never missed that ball, but the youth of America looked up to the man and wanted to grow up to become just like their most beloved icon in sports. When I say popular, I’m not just talking about RBI’s and home runs, Darryl Strawberry was so well-liked that he could be found on posters, lunch boxes and action figures, so all the kids could envision themselves as one day meeting the Mets’ best.
Was Darryl Strawberry all sunshine and roses when he was playing baseball? Nope. Darryl was an icon, but his behavior at times was more than a little disruptive, even getting into a physical argument with the team captain on picture day. Darryl also had trouble with oversleeping (like most kids do), as well as missing team workouts, and he was quite publicly upset when he was pulled from Game 6 in the 9th inning of the 1986 World Series. Most could see why he was a bit ticked by that move, seeing as that in 1986 twenty-seven homers and 99 RBIs was quite a good record. The Mets, of course, went on to win the Series.
His numbers soared even higher the next year as Strawberry became one of only 10 players in baseball history to join the 30-30 club by hitting thirty-nine home runs and stealing thirty-six bases. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Mets year, as they missed the shot of wining back-to- back World Series.
In 1988, Strawberry also led the National League in home runs, yet the Dodgers went on to the title.
Years followed where the Mets were either number one or narrowly missed by claiming the number two slot, and in 1991, they said goodbye to Strawberry as he signed a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His skill was seen in L.A., where he once again took over the City and had millions of fans falling in love with his talent. But…as bad things will usually do, they began to occur simultaneously in Strawberry’s world, and injuries and these dreaded personal problems kept him on the bench for many, many games.
Hank Aaron was the incredible player that Strawberry was most compared with, yet in 1994 he was released by the Dodgers and signed up with the San Francisco Giants. Here is where Strawberry tried desperately to make a comeback, yet the negative issues that were going on in his personal life ended up causing his suspension from the league in 1995, due to his involvement with drugs.
The next few years were a true struggle when it came to baseball. From playing for the Saint Paul Saints to the New York Yankees, Darryl Strawberry did his absolute best to find that spark from his true golden years with the mighty Mets. Did he? Well, let’s just say that the old Strawberry came back for some pretty amazing appearances, including hitting twenty-four home runs and helping the Yankees win the World Series
Life on the baseball diamond was what Strawberry was all about. His personal life saw some serious issues, including a diagnosis of colon cancer, an arrest for soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute, to an addiction to painkillers and having to go into drug treatment. Strawberry’s highs and lows have been huge, yet the public still sees him as a brilliant light in the world of baseball. Seems that American forgives Mr. Strawberry – the man who could hit a “Moonshot” home run in so many games it wasn’t even funny!