Throughout the years the Mets have had their share of power hitting outfielders. Whether it was Jim Hickman or Cleon Jones, Dave Kingman or Rusty Staub, Kevin McReynolds or Carlos Beltran. But none of these men could induce the most stoic of pitchers to soil their uniforms like infants like the player that belted his way to the number four spot on this countdown as voted by you the fans. Than man is Obviously the best ” homegrown” power hitter in Mets history, Darryl Strawberry .
Darryl Eugene Strawberry was born in Los Angeles California on March 12, 1962. As a teenager, Darryl played high school baseball for the Crenshaw High School Cougars. His childhood friend, and later fellow Major League ball player, Eric Davis played for his high school rival, Fremont High School. Upon graduating from high school, Darryl was selected the first player overall by newly minted Mets G.M, Frank Cashen in the 1980 Major League Baseball Draft.
Darryl spent two and a half seasons in the Mets minor league farm system when he was (in many peoples opinion way too early) called up to the big league team. He made his Mets debut on May 6,1983. Darryl played well even though he was on a losing team. He finished his first season with a batting average of .257, belting a Mets rookie record of 26 home runs, 74 runs batted in. Darryl was named the National League’s Rookie of The Year.
In 1984, Darryl’s batting average remained almost unchanged ( down to .251 from six points from the previous season) and his home run numbers stayed the same at 26 and a 97 RBIs. But the Mets had surrounded him with the nucleus of a winning ball team with late ’83 addition Keith Hernandez, late ’84 acquisition, Ray Knight and scrappy second baseman , Wally Backman . As well of a starting rotation that included Dwight Gooden Walt Terrell and Ron Darling. Darryl was elected to his first All Star game that season. Darryl and the Mets were almost unstoppable for the better part of the decade. In 1986, Darryl batted .259 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs while helping the Mets propel into the playoffs.
In the ’86 NLCS against the Houston Astros, Darryl hit a anemic .227, but he hit two homers and drove in 5 RBIs while the Mets defeated the Astros in five games. In the ’86 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Strawberry hit .208 with one home run. While he was playing in Boston’s Fenway Park, Darryl was taunted with the cries of DAAAA-RYYYLLL DAAA-RYYYLLL. It would be affectionately used by Mets fans whenever he came to the bat after that season.
During the later years of Darryl’s career with the Mets, his behavior became more and more disruptive ( pick up ” The Bad Guys Won” by Jeff Pearlman for a complete dissection of his antics). During Picture Day of either ’07 or ’08, he got into a fist fight with first baseman Keith Hernandez. He also got into verbal altercations with Wally Backman.There were always rumors of substance abuse but they didn’t come to light until he left the Mets after the ’90 season. In 1990, his last year under contract with the Mets, the newspapers ran stories on how Straw was being greedy for wanting to break the bank during the off season. Darryl felt hurt by the media and betrayed by the Mets front office. In his last season with the Mets Darryl hit .277 with 37 homers and 108 RBIs. He was second in the MVP vote.
Sadly Darryl didn’t resign with the Mets after they reportedly low balled him during contract negotiations. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent in 1991, inking a lucrative five-year $22.25 million contract. Mets fans every where had feelings of both anger and melancholy towards both Darryl and the Mets after his defection to the west coast.
In his first season in Los Angeles, Darryl blasted 28 home runs and driving in 99 runs. But injuries sidelined him for much of the ’93 and ’94 seasons. He would hit a combined 10 hone runs for the Dodgers in those two years. Darryl would be released by the Dodgers mid season and was quickly snatched up by the San Francisco Giants. Darryl saw limited playing time with the Giants that season, hitting four homers and plating 17 RBIs that season.
In the beginning of the ’95 season, Darryl was suspended from baseball after testing positive for cocaine as well of charges of tax evasion. He was soon released by the Giants.In ’06 he was out of the Major Leagues completely. Darryl signed with the Saint Paul Saints of the Northern League in order to prove he was both sober and healthy. The New York Yankees, spurned on by then owner, George Steinbrenner’s penchant for tweaking the Mets signed Darryl signed Darryl to a contract on July 4,1996.Darryl was used as a reserve outfielder as well as a DH. He hit11 homers for the Yanks that season while being reunited with former Mets teammates Dwight Gooden as well as David Cone. He won his second World Series ring that season. In 1997, Darryl was out of action for most of the season due to injuries.
In 1998, Darryl rebounded to have his best season in years. He walloped 24 home runs, and he earned his third World Series rings ( second with the Yanks). That off season Straw was diagnosed with colon cancer. He recovered and played sparingly with the Yanks during the ’99 season. After the ’99 season Straw’s cancer came back and needed to have his kidney removed. He had a relapse in his battle with cocaine and wes sent to jail , and after that rehab where he has been clean ever since.
Since his retirement after the ’99 season, Darryl has been a familiar face during Mets games. He was a roving instructor with the Mets during the ’05 season. He attended the Mets’ 1986 World Champion team reunion on August 19, 2006. Darryl was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Shea Stadium before Game 1 of the ’06 NLCS against his one time nemesis, St Louis Cardinals.From ’07-’08, Darryl co hosted the Mets pre and post- game shows on SNY. He was a part time analyst for the Mets in 2009. Darryl attended the closing ceremonies at Shea Stadium in September of ’08. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame last season along with teammate, Dwight Gooden, manager, Davey Johnson, as well as the architect of those dominant Mets teams fromt he ’80′s , Frank Cashen.Th e late Bob Mandt was also inducted that day. This past year, Strawberry opened his own restaurant, the aptly named Strawberry’s Sports Grill in Queens .
In his seven years with the Mets, Darryl had a batting average of .263 with 252 homers and 733 RBIs. In my opinion he is still the best offensive power threat the Mets ever had.
Tomorrow we will profile at number three the second best pitcher to ever wear a Mets uniform .
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today includes:
Mets reserve outfielder from ’64-’66, Larry Elliot is 73 (1938) .
Mets spot starter/long reliever from ’67-’69, Les Rohr is 65 (1946) .
Middle reliever from the 1990 team, Kevin Brown is 45 (1966) .
Reserve infielder, Mike ’Crash Davis“ Hessman is 33 (1978) . He lived up to his reputation as being a prototypical AAAA player.
And while you give into watching the monotony that is Grapefruit League baseball, just remember that there are just 27 Craig Swan days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and only 34 more days to go until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn thinks he can beat out Luis Castillo for the starting second base job !!!