Darryl Strawberry grateful to still be here for Mets’ jersey retirement, shows remorse to fans for leaving

Darryl Strawberry Mets
Former New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry acknowledges fans during ceremony to retire his number at Citi Field, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Sitting in the media room before his No. 18 jersey was retired by the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon, Darryl Strawberry was jokingly adamant that this would be the last press conference that would be centered around him. 

This has been a bit of a whirlwind for the 62-year-old, who made himself constantly available over the last six months since the Mets announced that his jersey number would be retired just six weeks after Doc Gooden’s No. 16 was also raised to the top of Citi Field.

Like Gooden, he talked about the demons that derailed his eight-year career with the Mets. He relived some of the most challenging, dizzying, historic, and successful times of his life ad nauseam. He spoke about his redemption in becoming a pastor in Missouri where he lives with his wife.

Yet, he almost did not get to see this day. 

He suffered a heart attack in March on his birthday — something he is still recovering from but is continuing to do well.

“I came close to losing my life,” Strawberry said. “But I’m sitting here today because it’s a gift from the Lord, and I don’t take it for granted. I came very close. I almost [died]. But I’m here. I’m grateful. I’m here to celebrate.”

Saturday afternoon provided a fitting commemoration of one of the Mets’ greatest stars. In his near-decade with the Mets from 1983-1990, he won NL Rookie of the Year, two division titles, and the 1986 World Series while garnering seven All-Star Game appearances and two Silver Slugger Awards. He still sits atop the franchise’s leaderboard in home runs with 252.

“My eight seasons in New York were the greatest of my career, Strawberry began. “And I will always be a Met. No matter how anybody wants to look at it, how anybody wants to chop it up, I’m a Met. I’m homegrown from the organization, and I’m proud of it.”

Former New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry acknowledges fans during ceremony to retire his number at Citi Field, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

His relationship with the organization was damaged beyond repair, though, following the 1990 season. After the front office challenged him to have a good season — he posted 37 home runs and 108 RBI that year — they only offered him a two-year deal.

“That was it. I said goodbye,” Strawberry said. “It never had anything to do with the fans and never had anything to do with the media. It had to do with the relationship with the front office.”

He went on to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency and never achieved the same sort of success as he did in Queens as he dealt with well-documented off-field issues that plagued him past his playing days.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I’m so sorry for ever leaving you guys,” Strawberry said to Mets fans during his speech. “I’m truly, deeply sorry that I ever left you guys. I never played baseball in front of fans greater than you guys.” 

The strength of his relationship with the fans was on full display once again on Saturday, though, as Strawberry was lauded with chants of “Darryl, Darryl,” like it was the mid-80s once again as he became the 10th person in franchise history to have his number retired. He joins Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Jackie Robinson, Mike Piazza, Keith Hernandez, Jerry Koosman, Willie Mays, and Gooden in that esteemed company.

“There’s nothing like being home,” Strawberry said. “I’ll always be a Met.”

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