Mets retire Strawberry’s number

In this up-and-down Mets season, owner Steve Cohen gave fans something to really cheer for when Darryl Strawberry returned to Citi Field on June 1 to have his No. 18 retired. Strawberry became the 10th Met to have his number placed on top of the left field rafters, joining his 1986 championship teammate Dwight Gooden, whose No. 16 was retired earlier this year.  

From the moment Strawberry stepped on the field, fans filled the stadium with applause as “The Straw Man” greeted them along with his family and former teammates assembled at second base. After suffering a heart attack in March, Strawberry was determined to make this appearance once he got clearance from his doctor. Now living in St. Louis with his wife Tracy, the Mets’ all-time home run hitter (252) runs a not-for-profit group that serves autistic children. He also serves in an evangelical ministry.

Darryl Strawberry greets fans at Citi Field.

Strawberry, who graduated from Los Angeles’ Crenshaw H.S., was 18 when the Mets made him the first pick in the 1980 draft. After three years in the minors, he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1983. During his eight seasons with the Mets (1983-1990), he averaged 32 home runs per season, was a seven-time All Star and was a major contributor to the Mets’ 1986 championship season.

Before his retired number was unveiled, Strawberry gave an inspiring and heartfelt speech of gratitude for those who helped him during his career. In particular he thanked former teammates Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson for taking an inexperienced kid under their wings, and especially Keith Hernandez, who mentored him on how to be a professional ball player.  

However, the most surprising and touching part of his speech was saved for the end when he said, “I’m so sorry for leaving you guys,” referring to 1990 when he left the Mets as a free agent to play for the L.A. Dodgers. Fondly recalling taking curtain calls at the dugout steps after hitting home runs, Strawberry stated that he even missed the boos when he didn’t perform well.

Strawberry wrapped up the ceremony by saying it was a combination of the fans and his teammates that drove him to perform each time he came to Shea Stadium. He closed by saying, “My eight seasons in New York were the greatest in my career and I’ll always be a Met. I’m homegrown from the organization and proud of it.”  

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