A Late-Night Ode to Darryl Strawberry

Oh the things the internet holds.

I was perusing Google late at night last night, and I stumbled across this discussion archive from 2001. The thread is titled ‘Memories of Darryl Strawberry’. And pretty soon I couldn’t stop reading. After the jump are a few of my favorites told by Mets fans themselves.

Say what you will about Strawberry, he was one of the greatest power hitters in Mets history and, if he hadn’t hurt himself with drug and alcohol, he would have been one of the greatest ever.

I will always have fond memories of Straw. He was my favorite player growing up. My first Mets game was in April, 1985 vs. the Reds. Rookie Tom Browning and Ed Lynch both pitched well and the game was scoreless into the 9th. John Franco came on to pitch for the Reds. Darryl Strawberry homered to win the game and I was a Mets fan for life.

I remember a game in 88 against the Expos where Darryl was sitting out due to a stomach virus but was available for pinch hitting. Pascal Perez was pitching for the Expos and the Mets were behind by like one run. So Davey Johnson sent Darryl up to face Perez. Perez thought he was being cute (even though he was A NUT) by throwing “Hesitation” pitches to Straw (I swear I never saw ANYTHING like it). Strike one, Straw’s getting mad. Strike two, Straw’s getting pissed. Third pitch and Darryl hit a TOWERING homer to tie the game (or there was a man on base and we went ahead?? I don’t remember except that the Mets WON the game). It was the best game I ever personally saw!! It’s a shame Straw ruined his career. He would have been a Hall of famer!

The Darryl Strawberry I want to remember is the Darryl Strawberry who stepped up in the eighth inning in Game 7, 1986 World Series, and hit that ICBM shot of a home run over the right field fence. Anyone who says (and many did, exposing themselves as asses) it was meaningless has never tried to hold a 6-5 lead against a team which was just as good at a late-inning revival that season as were the Mets. Strawberry bought the insurance policy with that homer, and there were people idiotic enough to say (and publish) that it was a meaningless shot.

I remember back in ’85 Darling & that pain in the ass John Tudor were 0-0 going to extra innings in one of those Mets vs Cards classics. D Straw came up top of the 11th and hit a shot off of the clock in deep right center, Mets win 1-0. One of the best games I ever saw the Mets play, he could have been one of the best but pissed it all away. Wish you well Straw – a fan.

I always thought that he looked like “Dino” the dinosaur, from the Flintstones…

If Charles Dickens was a Met fan and he wrote a book about Straw he might start it off like this, “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”

Looking back, its kinda sad.

I am in no way condoning Straw’s addiction, but I will be forever grateful for the late inning heroics that thrilled me as a kid. He gave a dream that led me all the way to the Little League World Series, and I will always look back fondly on those warm summer evenings listening to the game on that old clock radio back home in NY.


Forget the drugs and all the crap. Other than Bonds and maybe Sosa, there has never been a more exciting guy to come to bat than Straw. Never got the credit he deserved. In his day, he was the best.

I was at Shea when Darryl made his first appearance in a Mets uniform after being called up from the minors. He hit a long foul ball that was more exciting than anything else that happened in the game. Like Dwight Gooden, Darryl had tremendous talent but his personal demons kept him from making the Hall of Fame. I hope he conquers his battles with cancer and drugs. Thanks for some of the most exciting moments in Mets history, Darryl.

There’s not much more that can be said bad or good about Darryl…but I know this…he’s the reason I’m still the diehard Mets fan I am today. No one player captured my imagination as a teenager watching the Mets as Darryl. The sweet swing, the flick of the wrist, the unleashed power. He struck out a lot, but man, when he was up, no matter what, you sat up in your seat expecting to see something great…and he showed it…the clock in St. Louis…the roof in Montreal…the speaker in the AstroDome…his power was feared across the league on a scale unmatched by anyone in the game during his era. Maybe McGwire or Canseco…but no right hander in the NL ever wanted to face that guy.

What his life became was a waste and a shame. He broke my heart a thousand times over the years. But I know this…his downfall came AFTER his career as a Met. He left Shea hitting 37 homers and driving in over 100 runs in his final Met season. Let the Dodgers, Giants and Yankee fans curse “what might have been”.

Those of us Met fans who thrived on the ’80s teams got to see “what was” of Darryl Strawberry. He was the first true superstar the Mets ever had.

I had season tickets from 1985-1990 three rows off the right field line. It kills me to watch guys like Shane Spencer roam Strawland nowadays. Although when I think about him, it makes me want to cry. It’s a sad emptiness that will never be replaced. To think that I was a 7 year old child idolizing him and he was probably high on 7 different drugs as I marveled at his every move. What a loss of innocence when I was old enough to understand.

It doesn’t matter. I miss that swing. Who can forget his game winning, walk-off home run against Lee Smith on September 11, 1990 (my 10th birthday) to keep the fading Mets in the race.

OK, he didn’t live up to his potential, rarely performed well with a game on the line, hit 0 walk off game winning HR’s between one in ’83 off Franco and one in ’90 off Lee Smith, worked about as hard as Uncle Joe in Petticoat Junction and generally embarrassed himself publically. However, how many of you stuck around the ballpark during a blowout just to see if he would bounce one off the scoreboard? We paid our money for entertainment, not pennants and at least he gave us that much. Still, one wonders.

Like so many before me that have written. That 1-0 game against the Cardinals in Oct of 85 is my favorite memory of the Straw-man. He is the only player that ever made me stop what I was doing so I could watch him bat.

I lived in Brooklyn in 1990 when the Mets played the Reds on a June day when they both were in first place. I snapped a picture of Straw and Eric Davis that day during BP; it is one of my favorite pics. (Incidently, Davis jacked one that hit off the facade of the upper deck down the left field line and ricocheted back the field as hard as it went out.)

Straw was my hero growing up. He was the cleanup hitter on my favorite team and in my eyes he could do no wrong. June 19, 1988 was my sixth birthday and the first Mets game I ever attended in person. David Cone brought a no-hitter into the 8th inning that day, however, I was more excited that Straw hit a homer.

I got to watch Darryl play during some of his Met years, when I lived in NYC, and then during his Dodger years, because I had moved to L.A. To this day, I have never seen electricity in the stands like when Darryl came to bat. Even in laid back Dodger Stadium, the place would just crackle and buzz. You never knew what one swing of that sweet stroke would bring.

In nearly forty years of watching baseball, I’ve still never seen anything like it. It was awesome.

On a side note, people I knew in L.A., who lived there when he was growing up, told me that Darryl was already a legend when he was in his early teens. He was already expected to blast away the record book. They told me that I had no idea of the hype when he was in high school. I wonder what kind of pressure that must have been. That, and growing up in an era of tremendous partying (remember the trials and scandals that involved Dave Parker and Keith and other ballplayers) on a team that certainly did more than its share of partying.

September 1983. Night game. Shea Stadium. George Foster spanks homer over right-center field fence. Place goes nuts cheering for the old geezer. Next batter up – Daryl Strawberry. First pitch – the baseball ten miles into the black night sky, out over the left-center field fence, out over the bullpen…it’s still flying.

Shea Stadium shaking like a billion elephants stampeding, cheering so loud it swallowed me up.

God I love baseball. Strawberry was one of the reasons I fell in love with the game. I still don’t regret trading that expensive Eric Dickerson NFL rookie card for that .35 cent Bowman Darryl Strawberry that broke down his stats in a neat way on the back of the card. Even if my mother made me walk over to the neighbor kids’ house and trade it back.

I miss the Straw that stirred the Big Apple.