I took a trip down nostaliga lane this afternoon, and here is where the path led me. I was reminiscing about my first favorite player ever, the player that got me interested in the greatest sport on earth. I’ll never forget when I ran an errand with my dad to “Hart’s” Convienent store here in Columbus that early spring afternoon in 1989. He told me I could go pick out a toy, and as fate would have it I found 2 figures, manufactured by Kenner. They were called Starting Lineup Figures. There I saw it. It was a figure of a ballplayer swinging, with the last name “Strawberry”. I was all of 7 years old and I couldn’t turn my head away from it. Something captivated me. On his card he was taking a big, left handed swooping swing that even looked beautiful on the baseball card. At 7 years old, a kid finds stupid reasons for root for a particular player or team. All I knew is I liked what I had found in this Strawberry guy. Strawberries were also my favorite food. I don’t know if that was just coincidence or not, but for what it matters the other figure I picked up and begged my dad for, was Barry Larkin, of the hometown Cincinnati Reds. I do remember liking the Reds because they were named after my favorite color. Off I went with my Darryl Strawberry figure, and I was hooked right then and there hopelessly.
Quickly I began feverishly collecting anything “Strawberry”. I still remember my 1988 Topps card featuring that same big arching swing and Darryl in his Mets pinstripe uniform. It said on the back that Darryl had led the league in 1988 with 27 Homeruns. As a gift my mom and dad bought me a Darryl Strawberry autographed baseball, for which I still have as nothing more than a memory keepsake.
Later that spring I quickly learned that Darryl was no longer a New York Met, which caused me to jump ship as a Mets fan, short lived, I know but what could I do? In an instance I was a HUGE Los Angeles Dodger Fan. I remember that 1991 Dodger team and following them like I was the leader of a Dodger Cult. Brett Butler, Orel Hershiser, Ramon Martinez, Mike Sciosia, Mike Sharperson, Eddie Murray. We used to have standard television, so I’d check the box scores every summer day the morning after, if we were lucky enough to get a paper. If Darryl hit a homerun, and the line next to “Strwbry” in the box score read 4 1 1 1, I’d cut that baby out and put it on my bulletin board. I was a real faggot for “Strwbry”. On RBI Baseball for Nintendo, I was always the Amazin’ Mets. I stole one of my mom’s check books and learned to keep stats, in which I did only for Darryl. I wrote in a giant # to start in the check book. 4,556 to start keeping track of Darryl’s homeruns. I knew that it was for surely bullshit but every time I hit one with him, I just erased the # on the end, and added +1. I eventually started doing the same for RBI’s, too.
Later that summer, I took an Eric Dickerson rookie card I had, which was like, the baddest ass card we had in our neighborhood (cause Beckett magazine had it listed for $50.00), and I traded it for a Darryl Strawberry 1990 Bowman card that booked for $0.35 cents. Why did I do this? Well, I had a man crush on old Darryl, you know. I also liked the fact that the ‘Bowman’ cards would breakdown what Darryl did against every team in a given year. Now THAT was cool.
Today on Retrosheet.com I found the first baseball game I ever attended. My Uncle Frank lived in Cincinnati and had season tickets to the Cincinnati Reds games. He always looked out for me and liked the fact that I took a liking to following Darryl. On May 26, 1991 (a sunday), my mom and dad took my to my first ballgame ever at Riverfront stadium. It was an afternoon tilt that featured the Reds and my Dodgers. When we arrived to the stadium, the starting lineups were posted. From our upper deck seat in the “red” up in left field, the players looked like dots. No matter. I was there to see my Darryl. I searched the lineup card on the score board. I knew he hit 4th or 5th. What did I see? NO Darryl! I had came all that fucking way for no “Strwbry”. I was pissed! Keep in mind this was very tramatic for a 9 year old. What if I never got to see Darryl play again? He’d never know I even came to see him. I threw a ridiculous fit, told my mom and dad I hated them and hated baseball, for fucks sakes I hated life. I hated this shit. Fuck the Reds and fuck school. I’m quitting baseball. Fuck. Eventually my dad got me to calm down and watch the game. “Eddie Murray is good too,” he said. Fuck you dad, I didn’t want Eddie Murray. I wanted Darryl! Little did I know, as a 9 year old kid, that Darryl probably went out the night before, inhaled thte finest two 8-balls off the titties of hookers that the city of Cincinnati had to offer, and was given the day off because he wasn’t “on his game” that morning.
Eventually, I got to see Darryl play. I even got to see him hit a double that one hopped the wall in right where I was sitting. It all worked out. My obsession with “Strwbry” ended the night before the 1993 season started, when he was AWOL from Dodger camp, and caught and arrested for coke, or hookers–one of the two. When he came back and became a San Francisco Giant, I had just lost interest. Darryl had broken my heart too many times.
I still owe Darryl big time, man. Without him, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog today. I wouldn’t be into baseball. It might have changed my whole life path. If you’re wondering what Darryl is up to today, like I was, you can read about him here. Thanks for everything Darryl.