Strawberry, Darryl 1962–

views updated May 14 2018

Darryl Strawberry 1962

Professional baseball player

A Major-League Sensation

Life in Los Angeles

Back to the Big Apple


Darryl Strawberry was born on March 12, 1962 in Los Angeles, CA and would grow up to be one of the most controversial figures in Major League Baseball history. He was the middle child of Henry and Ruby Strawberrys five children. His parents divorced in 1974 when he was 12, and his father moved out of the house. Strawberry grew up two miles from Dodger Stadium and attended Crenshaw High School. He was a shy student, but he loved to play baseball. By his senior year he was the most highly regarded high school player in the country and the New York Mets made him their first pick of the 1980 free-agent draft. In 1981 Strawberry played Class A ball and was promoted to Double A in 1982. He led the Texas League with a .602 slugging percentage hitting .283 with 34 home runs, and 97 runs batted in (RBIs). He was named the Texas Leagues Most Valuable Player.

A Major-League Sensation

In 1983 he was called up to the Mets. Though he struck out his first three times at bat, the rest of his year was like a dream. Strawberry was named the National League (N.L.) Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News and the Baseball Writers Association of America. But off the field Strawberry was having trouble dealing with his success. He began to use alcohol and eventually he started to experiment with cocaine and amphetamines. Strawberry had been drinking beer casually since high school but started using drugs upon his arrival with the Mets as a way to fit in. It was easy to drink after the game as the team gave the players complimentary beer and then Strawberry and other Mets would continue the party often all night long. He began to use amphetamines to overcome his hangovers before games. Still his performance on the field was outstanding. He followed up his rookie season in 1984 batting .250 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs and was named to the N. L. All-Star team.

Before the 1985 season Strawberry signed a six-year $7.2 million contract. He also married Lisa Andrews and the two endured a short and stormy marriage. Strawberry admitted to hitting his wife and to threatening her with a gun in his 1992 autobiography, Darryl. On the field Strawberry hit 29 home runs with 79 RBIs and a .277 average. In 1986 Strawberry and the Mets won the World Series. Though Strawberry put together another solid

At a Gtlance

Born Darryl Eygen Strawberry on March 12, 1962 in Los Angels, CA; son of Henry and Ruby Strawberry; married to charisse Strawberry; children: Darryl Jr., Diamond Nicole: gratuated crenshaw High School, 1980

Career: selected by the New York Mets with the first overall pick, june 3, 1980;promoted to the Mets, 1983; signed by the Los Angels Dodgers, 1990; released by the Dodgers and signed by lh4 Saili Fmpciscd Giants, 1994; released by the Giants, February 8, 1995; signed by the New York Yankees, June 19, 1995; signed by the St. Paul Saints May 3, 1966; signed by the hfew York Yankees, Jyly 4, 1996 placed on administrative leave from baseball, April 24, 1999.

Awards: Most Valuable Player in the Texas League, 1982; National League Rookie of the year, 1983; holds New york Mets record for most runs(662), most home runs (252), and most runs batted in (733); selected to the national leaque All-star team, 1984-1991.

Addresses: Residence-tamba, FL.

season, his behavior was becoming more and more erratic. He even charged the mound and started a brawl after a team mate was hit by a pitch. After the World Championship Strawberry received more attention, more adulation, and got into more trouble. By 1987 he was drinking virtually every night and was using more cocaine. Though he reached career highs in batting average (.283), home runs (39), and RBIs (104) he was starting to wear on the Mets organization. He skipped part of spring training and then missed a late-season game claiming he had a virus when he had cut a rap record earlier in the day.

Strawberry seemed to redeem himself in 1988 making the SportingNews N. L. All-Star team and the magazines N. L. Silver Slugger team. He followed up that year with an embarrassing start to the 1989 campaign. During picture day with all the media present Strawberry and former friend and Mets first base man Keith Hernandez got into a highly publicized brawl. The incident began the year poorly and it continued that way. Strawberry had the worst season of his career batting just .225, with 29 home runs, and 77 RBIs.

If 1989 was a disappointment, 1990 would be different. In January Strawberry was arrested after a domestic violence complaint by his wife. Strawberry spent a short time in an alcohol rehabilitation center and admitted that he had a problem with alcohol, though he told no one at the center about his drug use. It was crucial he put together a good season in the final year of his contract. And Strawberry delivered. He improved in virtually every offensive category batting .276 with 37 home runs, and 108 RBIs. He was again named to the SportingNews N. L. All-Star team and its N. L. Silver Slugger Team. After the 1990 season it was clear that he was going to move on. In his autobiography he claimed that the Mets was a racist organization. He had always wanted to go back home to Los Angeles and also to play with his boyhood friend Eric Davis. Before the 1991 season he signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $20.25 million. He left the Mets all-time leader in RBIs (733), home runs (252), and runs scored (662).

Life in Los Angeles

Strawberrys life appeared to be finally in order. In 1991 he became a born-again Christian and seemed to be living a sober life. He made the N. L. All-Star team and finished the season batting .265 with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs. Though the 1991 season seemed like a turning point in Strawberrys life, it would only be a brief break in the years of uninterrupted turmoil. On the field Strawberry hurt his back which eventually would require disc surgery. His back problems would limit him to just 75 games in the 1992 and 1993 seasons combined. At the end of the 1993 campaign the once Herculean hitter had only managed a .139 average in 100 times at bat. The only thing worse than his professional life was his private life. To cope with his injury and personal problems he resumed drinking alcohol and soon after he turned to cocaine. He had an altercation with a homeless man in September of 1993 and then divorced his wife in October. Later that year Strawberry uttered the infamous comment about his hometown. When informed that people were rioting and looting in Los Angeles he said, Let it bum. Later Strawberry told Sports Illustrateds Richard Hoffer, I regret it of course. I was just joking around on the telephone, not knowing how serious it was. I mean, I live here in L.A., grew up here; my children were born here. But it should never have been said anyway. I was wrong. I admit it. Then he was arrested for hitting his soon-to be wife Charisse Simon. The two still got married in December of 1993. Strawberry also commented on his arrest and his status with the Dodgers in Hoffers Sports Illustrated article: I dont care about what happened before, because we werent married then. All I know is that I love my wife Im excited now. Im going to give Los Angeles a treat. Darryl owes the fans one. I just want to love everybody, be happy and bring the Dodgers a championship.

Strawberry began his season of redemption with the news that he was under investigation for tax fraud. The day before the 1994 season Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had a direct confrontation with Strawberry telling him he had to produce in 1994. Strawberrys reaction was to walk out. He did not return to Dodger Stadium the next day and missed the opener. Finally Strawberry came back to the Dodgers general managers office with his lawyer Robert Shapiro and his family. He confessed that he was addicted to drugs. The Dodgers put him on the disabled list, and he entered the Betty Ford clinic. After his time in drug rehabilitation, his career with the Dodgers was over. The team paid him almost $5 million and released him.

He immediately signed with the San Francisco Giants on June 20, 1994. At 32 he was back in the majors on July 7th. Strawberry was making a contribution to the team and staying clean when the strike cut the season short. Just when it seemed events were turned around for the positive, on December ninth Strawberry was charged with tax evasion and income tax conspiracy for hiding $500, 000 in earnings from baseball card shows. The government said Strawberry owed $146, 000 in taxes on income he hadnt reported. Strawberry was facing jail time, his legal bills were bankrupting him, and he turned to alcohol, which led him to do a line or two of cocaine. His brief cocaine use caused him to fail a drug test. He was released from the Giants and received a sixty-day suspension from baseball. Suddenly Strawberry was broke, had no income, and was facing a trial. Strawberry was fully prepared to go to jail after pleading guilty to the felony, but the judge gave him three years probation, six months home confinement, 100 hours of community service, and he had to pay $350, 000 in back taxes.

Back to the Big Apple

Strawberry made the most of his next chance at baseball signing with the New York Yankees before the 1995 season. After signing the troubled star Yankee owner George Steinbrenner tried to renegotiate Strawberrys contract to include payments to charity and more extensive drug testing. While the owner and Strawberrys agent argued, the former Mets leader spent 44 days in the minor leagues. Strawberry passed the time living with a Yankee vice president under house arrest in Columbus. On August 4th Strawberry was called up to Yankees. Because the Yankees were clogged with talent, Strawberry played sparingly. But unlike the old days, the newest Yankee was no distraction. Strawberry even met with manager Buck Showalter to assure him that he would not be disruptive to the club. Despite his mounting frustration with the Yankeesa team that followed his every off-field move but then left him out of the line-upStrawberry continued to stay clean through the 1995 season.

After the season the Yankees had to decide whether to release Strawberry or pay him $1.8 million for the 1996 season. The club sent him to play in Puerto Rico. Strawberry tore up the pitching south of the border, but Yankees released him anyway. Instead of throwing in the towel on his baseball career, Strawberry ended up signing with the St. Paul Saints of the Independent Northern League on May 3rd. Strawberry made the most of his time in Minnesota. He told Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times: To play in that atmosphere brought me back to a totally different place involving what the game is all about It helped shape my priorities. Gave me an appreciation for my life and family. Strawberrys .435 average with 18 home runs and 39 RBIs in 39 games proved to his old team that he could still play. In July the Yankees called again and Strawberry signed a minor league contract with the club for the rest of the 1996 season with an option for 1997. The day after his signing he agreed to pay his ex-wife Lisa $200, 000 in back child support. The Yankees called him up in time for Strawberry to hit 11 home runs and 36 RBIs in 202 at bats in a World Series-winning season. In 1997 Strawberry battled a knee injury and only played in 11 games all year. Though he came back in 1998 the Yankees had brought in Chili Davis to replace him. After Davis was hurt, Strawberry made the most of his opportunity platooning in left field and as a designated hitter. The Yankees were on their way to the best record in baseball and another World Series victory, when Strawberry was set back again. This time his pain was not self- inflicted. During the second part of the 1998 season Strawberry had been losing weight and having stomach pains. He kept quiet until late September and then had the problem checked out. Strawberry and the rest of the Yankees learned on October 1 in the middle of a play off series against the Texas Rangers that he had colon cancer. He had surgery soon after his diagnosis to remove a 2.4 inch tumor from his colon.

Strawberry spent the off-season recovering from his illness and receiving chemotherapy. In 1998 he had one of his best seasons since he played for the New York Mets. His battle with cancer made him an inspiration to his team-mates and to many fans. He had been off drugs since his return to Major League baseball in 1995. He had reconstructed his image and was set to report to the Yankees AAA club in Columbus for rehabilitation to start the 1999 season. He had even signed a $2.5 million contract with the Yankees after his surgery. All these accomplishments came crashing down on him yet again on Wednesday April 15th when he was arrested for possession of.3 grams of cocaine after allegedly soliciting a prostitute, who turned out to be an undercover police officer. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig put Strawberry on administrative leave, which meant he was not able to play or practice with the team. Strawberry claimed that the cocaine did not belong to him, and he was joking with the woman and would not have met her at a hotel. The Yankees kept him off the 40-man roster and some sources believe the team suspended his pay. In the roller coaster ride that has been Strawberrys career as a major league baseball player, this last indiscretion appears to be particularly serious for the 37-year-old outfielders career.



Klapisch, Bob. High and Tight: The Rise and Fall of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Villard: New York, 1996.


Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1996.

People Weekly, October 19, 1998.

The Sporting News, April 25, 1999.

Sports Illustrated, March 14, 1994.


Additional material for this essay was found on the Worldwide Web at

Michael J. Watkins

Strawberry, Darryl

views updated Jun 11 2018

Darryl Strawberry


American baseball player

When Darryl Strawberry was sentenced to an eighteen-month prison term in April 2002 for violating the terms of his court-ordered drug treatment, it marked the lowest point in a decline that had stared two decades earlier. Signed to the New York Mets in 1980 right after he had finished high school, Strawberry's career as a baseball player got off to a promising start. He was named the Rookie of the Year in 1983 and helped the Mets win a World Series championship in 1986. Yet

he had begun abusing amphetamines to enhance his performance in the majors and fell into the habit of easing his pressures through the consumption of alcohol.

The habits first derailed him in 1990 when he entered a treatment center for substance abuse. The next decade was marked by repeated brushes with the law for domestic violence, weapons charges, and drug abuse. Meanwhile, Strawberry moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three seasons, followed by a twenty-nine game stint with the San Francisco Giants that was curtailed when he tested positive for cocaine use. Going back to the minor leagues in 1995, Strawberry was signed by the New York Yankees and claimed to have turned his professional and personal lives around. A diagnosis of colon cancer in 1998 generated public sympathy for Strawberry's struggles, but he continued to abuse drugs during his recovery and ended up back in court on drug charges in 1999. After violating his parole in 2000, Strawberry was placed under house arrest to force him to complete another drug-treatment program. After violating his parole for a sixth time in April 2002, he was sentenced to an eighteen-month term in the Florida prison system.

Grew up in Compton

Darryl Strawberry was born on March 12, 1962, in Los Angeles, California to Ruby and Henry Strawberry. He had two older brothers, Michael and Ron, and two younger sisters, Regina and Michelle. The family resided in Compton, a neighborhood in south-central Los Angeles not far from Dodger Stadium. His father was an employee of the U.S. Postal Service and his mother worked for the phone company; the couple divorced in 1974, in part due to Henry Strawberry's heavy drinking, gambling, and sometimes explosive temper. Greatly affected by his father's departure, Darryl Strawberry looked up to his two older brothers as role models. He shared their love of basketball and baseball and immediately became a star player on the Crenshaw High School's baseball team.

Despite his obvious athletic talent, Strawberry ran into difficulties with authority figures from the start. Criticized by his coach for taking his time getting onto the baseball field one day in his sophomore year, Strawberry quit the team for the rest of the season. When he returned to the team as a six-foot, six-inch, 200 pound junior, Strawberry began attracting interest from baseball scouts from around the country. Despite his reputation as an undisciplined player who took his natural athletic abilities for granted, Strawberry ended up as the first pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft in 1980. He was selected by the New York Mets, a team perennial dwarfed by their metropolitan rivals, the New York Yankees.

Drafted by New York Mets

Strawberry's first assignment was with the Kingsport, Pennsylvania Mets, where the right fielder had a .268 batting average in forty-four games. In 1981 he advanced to the Lynchburg, Virginia Hillcats, where his batting average remained a steady .255. Strawberry spent part of the 1982 season with the Jackson, Mississippi Generalswhere he was the leading home run hitter and earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) status in the Texas Leaguebefore returning to Virginia to play for the Tidewater Hurricanes in the playoffs. Often homesick and uncomfortable with the racism that he sometimes encountered in the South, Strawberry was eager to join the roster of the Mets in New York. He spent just a few games with Tidewater in the 1983 season before being brought up to the major league in May of that year.

When Strawberry joined the Mets, he was hailed as the team's best hope in restoring its fortunes after years of lackluster performance. Although the "Marvelous Mets" had won a surprising World Series championship in 1969, they were often derided by New York fans in favor of the Yankees, who were perennial title contenders. When pitcher Dwight Goodenwho would face his own substance-abuse problems in later yearsjoined the Mets' lineup in 1984, the team completed its turnaround. With a .257 batting average the prior year, Strawberry had already won MLB Rookie of the Year honors. Along with first baseman Keith Hernandez, Strawberry and Gooden powered the Mets to a World Series victory in seven games over the Boston Red Sox in 1986. By that time, however, Strawberry already faced the first of his legal troubles.


1962Born March 12 in Los Angeles, California to Ruby and Henry Strawberry
1980Drafted by New York Mets
1983Named MLB Rookie of the Year
1985Marries Lisa Andrews in January
1986World Series Championship (with New York Mets)
1990Undergoes treatment for alcoholism
1990Arrested on weapons charge and convicted of tax evasion
1990Loses paternity suit brought by Lisa Clayton
1991Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers
1993Divorces Lisa Andrews; marries Charisse Simons on December 3
1994Undergoes treatment for alcoholism and drug dependency
1994Signs with San Francisco Giants; released from contract after testing positive for drug use
1995Suspended from major league baseball for cocaine use
1995Signs with New York Yankees, but released from contract in December
1996New York Yankees pick up Strawberry's contract; becomes active player the following year
1998Undergoes surgery for colon cancer
1999Arrested for solicitation and drug possession
1999Placed on leave by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
2000Received one-year suspension from baseball after testing positive for drug use
2000Arrested for parole violations; ordered into drug treatment for two years
2002Sentenced to eighteen months in Florida prison for parole violations

Awards and Accomplishments

1982Named Most Valuable Player in Texas League
1983Named MLB Rookie of the Year
1986World Series Championship (with New York Mets)

Substance Abuse Problems

In January 1987, just a few months after Strawberry's World Series appearance with the Mets, his wife, Lisa Andrews Strawberry, filed for legal separation. The couple had been married in January 1985, but in an October 1986 incident, Lisa Strawberry claimed that her husband had broken her nose. The couple reconciled, but Lisa Strawberry filed for divorce in May 1989, a few weeks after her husband was named in a paternity suit filed by Lisa Clayton. Blood tests eventually verified Clayton's claim that Strawberry had fathered their child. Strawberry also had two children by his wife: Darryl, Jr. and Diamond Nicole. In January 1990 Strawberry was arrested again for hitting his wife and threatening her with a handgun. After Strawberry agreed to enter a rehabilitation center to deal with his substance-abuse problems, the charges were dropped. The Strawberrys eventually separated and were divorced in 1993.

Although Strawberry publicly blamed his erratic behavior on his alcohol consumption, he had also been abusing amphetamines and cocaine. His addictions began during his second season with the Mets and continued after he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991. In 1992 a serious back injury that required surgery limited Strawberry to just forty-three games with the Dodgers. His recovery also sent him back into drug dependency. In 1993 he played thirty-two games and his batting average dropped to .140. In September 1993 he was back in court after he was arrested for domestic abuse against his girlfriend, Charisse Simons. Simons dropped the charges and married Strawberry on December 3. The couple subsequently had three children.

After failing to show up for a Dodgers game in April 1994, Strawberry entered the Betty Ford Center for a twenty-eight day drug dependency treatment. Released from his contract by the Dodgers, Strawberry signed with the San Francisco Giants. He played just twentynine games for the team before being released after testing positive for cocaine use in February 1995; he also received a sixty-day suspension from baseball. Strawberry also faced an indictment for tax evasion; according to the IRS, Strawberry had failed to declare over $300,000 in earnings from selling memorabilia with his autograph. Despite his plea of not guilty, Strawberry was ordered in April 1995 to pay $350,000 in back taxes.

Signed with New York Yankees

Although the New York Yankees picked up Strawberry's contract in 1995, the team decided to waive the option at the end of the year. Joining the minor-league St. Paul Saints for the 1996 season, Strawberry attempted to rebuild his career. In July 1996 the Yankees decided to sign Strawberry again and this time put him on the roster in August of that year. With the support of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner , Strawberry seemed to complete his career comeback with a .262 batting average in sixty-three games in 1996. Injuries curtailed his 1997 season, but Strawberry returned to play 101 games in 1998, attaining a .247 batting average.

In October 1998 Strawberry underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his colon. The surgery ended his season but generated enormous public sympathy for the embattled star, who seemed to have finally put his problems behind him. During his recovery, however, Strawberry was arrested in April 1999 for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer and was found to be in possession of cocaine. He later pleaded no contest to the charges and rejoined the Yankees in September 1999 after serving a four-month suspension from baseball. Strawberry ended up playing twenty-four games with the Yankees at the end of the 1999 season and compiled a .327 batting average.

Career Statistics

LA: Los Angeles Dodgers; NYM: New York Mets; NYY: New York Yankees;
SF: San Francisco Giants.

Continuing Legal Problems

Despite his ongoing legal and drug-abuse problems, the Yankees signed Strawberry for the 2000 season at $750,000. Testing positive for cocaine use in January 2000, however, Strawberry was suspended from baseball again, this time for a year. Entering a clinic for drug treatment in March 2000, Strawberry left the program before completing the program. When a medical checkup revealed the presence of more cancer in his lymph nodes, Strawberry had surgery to remove a stomach tumor in August 2000. The following month he was involved in a car accident and was later found to be driving under the influence of pain killers. Arrested in October 2000 for violating his parole requirements, another drug test showed that Strawberry was again using cocaine; in a subsequent trial he was ordered to a thirty-day jail term. Strawberry also was put under house arrest, which required him to live in a drug treatment center after his release from jail. In March 2001, after leaving the center without authorization, Strawberry was arrested again. Facing the possibility of another jail term, Strawberry was instead sentenced in May 2001 to a residential drug treatment center in Ocala, Florida.

Sent to Prison in 2002

In March 2001 Strawberry left his drug-treatment program for four days and tested positive for drug use upon his return. He was also found to have conducted a sexual relationship with another resident of the program, a violation of the center's rules. As both actions were in violation of his parole agreement, Strawberry returned to court in April 2002. Having racked up six parole violations, Strawberry received a prison sentence of eighteen months, which he began serving on April 29, 2002. Now forty years old, Strawberry's eighteen-month prison sentence indicated that any future in professional sports was over. Suffering from bipolar disorder, Strawberry's health had also suffered from cocaine use, which had possibly caused brain damage.

Sympathy for Strawberry's latest round of legal and personal problems in 2002 focused on the lost potential of a once-great athlete. Although Strawberry had achieved more in his seventeen years in the major leagues than most other playersand in fact still held the Mets' records for most hits and most runs batted inhe seemed to have wasted his natural abilities in favor of decades of alcohol and drug use. Once a Rookie of the Year and World Series champion, Strawberry's personal demons were so strong that they eventually ended his career and landed him in jail. Few could have imagined that the former first-round draft pick would have fallen so far. His

fate stood in particularly stark contrast with the hopeful tone that Strawberry presented in the conclusion of his 1992 memoir Darryl. "Now my days of hanging back are over," he wrote, "I've made too many mistakes that way and let too many people down. You want to see a leader? Just watch us play next year. There's a long winter ahead of us, a long time to think about what's going to happen next season. But as someone once wrote, When winter comes, can spring training be far behind?"

Where Is He Now?

On April 29, 2002, Judge Ralph Steinberg of the Hillsborough Circuit Court sentenced Darryl Strawberry to an eighteen-month prison term for violating his court-ordered parole. It was the second time that Strawberry had been sent to jail for parole violations. In announcing the sentence, the court specified that Strawberry's contact with the media would be limited to one interview per month by advance arrangement.

Although his parole violations included drug use and entering into a sexual relationship with another patient while undergoing substance-abuse treatment, Strawberry's wife of nine years, Charisse Strawberry, declared her support for her husband. She vowed to continue her work as the president of the Tampa, Florida chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Charisse Strawberry also began appearing as a broadcast journalist on a Tampa Bay news station in March 2001. Charisse Strawberry and the couple's three children reside in Tampa.


(With Art Rust, Jr.) Darryl, Bantam Books, 1992.



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