The life of Darryl Strawberry has been a roller coaster, full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. As a professional MLB player for 17 years during the 1980s and '90s, Strawberry's looming physical presence and ability to slug huge home runs made him a household name. He was sought after by multiple baseball teams, and boasted a prolific roster of women and wealth. Unfortunately, Strawberry took advantage of his fame and fortune by overindulging in sex and drugs, then faced severe health and legal battles as he slipped out of the public's graces.
But after surviving multiple arrests, cancer, and two divorces, Darryl Strawberry got sober and found redemption though it all. Now he is a respected author and evangelical Christian preacher, giving sermons about the path he took and how it was all part of God's plan. He has also started The Darryl Strawberry Foundation, an organization for supporting children with autism.
From his stint as a raucous athlete who was known for his bad behavior to his new life as a minister working to advance noble causes, the life of Darryl Strawberry is a fascinating tale of transformation.
Strawberry has admitted that he used to be addicted to sex, and would seek out willing participants even during MLB games. Strawberry said in an interview that he would point to a woman, have a locker room attendant go get her, and then they would consummate their dalliance between innings. He also asserted that his teammates and coaches were well aware of what was going on and would "cover for him." He told Dr. Oz:
"In the middle of games, yeah, I would go between innings, and stuff like that, and run back, and, you know, have a little party going on. And, you know, I thought it was pretty cool. I mean, that's just the addiction, the drive."
Darryl Strawberry was born in Los Angeles in 1962 to Hank and Ruby Strawberry, one of five children. Hank, known as "Big Hank," was a violent man and a raging alcoholic who used to beat Darryl and his older brother, Ronnie. According to Strawberry,
“Me and Ronnie was basically his whopping pole. He would lay us across the bed. We had our shirts off, and he would have like an extension cord. He would beat us and tell us, ‘You’re never going to be nothing. You don’t do nothing right,’ and it was just so bad. I was terrified inside of the fact that what he was saying to me I truly believed it.”
When Darryl and his brothers got old enough, they started confronting their father. In one particular altercation, Big Hank pulled a gun and Ronnie responded by getting a knife while Darryl grabbed a frying pan. Hank backed down and later left the family, leaving Ruby to raise five kids on her own.
For Darryl, baseball became an outlet for his anger and a refuge from his family trauma. His success as a high school player fed his ego,
“I thought I was bigger than life and nobody could tell me nothing. That wasn’t anything personal, it was always because of the fact that I had been controlled for so long. Now, this was my outlet, and this was where nobody was ever going to control me again.”
In 1980, at the age of 18, Strawberry was drafted to the New York Mets and, after three years in the minor leagues, was on the Mets roster in 1983. During his rookie year, Strawberry hit 26 home runs and stole 19 bases, earning him the National League Rookie of the Year prize. He continued to play well, helping the Mets win the World Series in 1986. The success got to Strawberry, however, and he turned to amphetamines and alcohol to escape. From there, he began using cocaine and "everything. I could shoot dope, shoot heroin, smoke crack, it didn't matter. Drink alcohol, it didn't matter. Whatever I liked to do on that particular day, that's what I would do."
Strawberry left the Mets in 1990 for the Los Angeles Dodgers but his personal problems, injuries, and less than stellar play got him traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1994. Strawberry was let go from the Giants after he tested positive for drugs, was suspended from baseball, and entered rehab. After rehab, he played for an independent league before being recruited by the New York Yankees for the 1995 season.
While recovering from a cancer diagnosis and surgery, Strawberry was arrested for approaching an undercover police officer and soliciting sex - for $50 - in Florida. He also had cocaine on him at the time, wrapped up in some cash inside his wallet, although he claimed it wasn't his. He also claimed he'd been merely joking when he propositioned the woman. Eventually, he pled no contest and was suspended from the Yankees for 140 games.