It’s hard to believe my first favorite player Darryl Strawberry turned 53 this past Thursday – there was a post on ESPN SweetSpot by David Schoenfield to honor the popular semi-star of the 80’s and early 90’s.
There were a couple of good snippets out of that post:
Lloyd McClendon, Strawberry’s minor league roommate: “There was a lot of pressure on him, and he didn’t know how to handle it. … He was young, he didn’t have good work habits. In this game, it’s easy to stay in bed all day, especially on the road. What Darryl didn’t understand is that you have to get your body regulated. You’ve got to get up early, walk around and do things — go to the mall, take in a movie. It’s very easy to lie around and grab a bite and go play. But you’re not getting yourself ready either physically or mentally to play the game.”
I had never read that account before on Strawberry. It sheds some light into what the party lifestyle of a Major Leaguer was in that day in age. And if that doesn’t, this does:
He is living in self-imposed exile, talking about his former home cities, New York and Los Angeles, as his versions of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“It became a lifestyle for me,” Strawberry says. “Drink, do coke, get women, do something freaky … all that stuff. I did it for so long. I played games when I was drunk, or just getting off a drunk or all-night partying or coming down off amphetamines. With alcohol and drugs it was the excitement. That’s how I got addicted. It was an exciting way to escape from everything else. Coming to the major leagues at such a young age and coming to New York … maybe someplace else it would be a little different, but New York is a party place, an upbeat place.”
And Strawberry is now an example that no matter how many times you hit rock-bottom, there is hope. He’s a born again Christian today who has a recovery center in Orlando named after him. He’s lived to be 53. He didn’t retire as the ‘Black Ted Williams’ as scouts said he would, and he doesn’t have 500 career home runs to his name. But that’s really not important. Strawberry’s once in a generation talent left it’s mark on the game with moments and stories you hear. I remember my uncle talking about this Olympic Stadium home run in Montreal off Strawberry’s bat (along with a few foul balls he hit in Cincinnati that were over 500 feet).
Strawberry disappointed me many times when I was a youngster (he was out of the lineup the first game I ever attended with my parents and left me crying in the stands as an eight year old, he probably went on a bender the night before) but I am proud of the person he’s become and proud to say he was my first favorite player. It was because of his swing, his power, and his last name.