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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Darryl Strawberry

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Darryl StrawberryDarryl at batDarryl Strawberry New York Mets

Strawberry’s Mets from 19841990 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 93 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 DodgersKirk 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 rebounded by hitting 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 himself finished third in MVP voting that season.

Strawberry signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers on November 8, 1990, 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.

By the end of the 1991 season, he had 280 lifetime homers at the age of only 29, drawing comparisons to home run king Hank Aaron.

Later years

Strawberry’s numbers tailed off considerably after 1991; over the next two years he only played in 75 games. 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.[14] 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. He played in just 11 games that year, collecting just two runs batted in.

But in 1998, he had 24 home runs, once again helping the Yankees win the World Series and playing 100 games for the first time since 1991. 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.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes…Darryl Strawberry

MLB debut
May 6, 1983 for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
October 3, 1999 for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Batting average .259
Home runs 335
Runs batted in 1,000
Teams
Career highlights and awards
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