Darryl Strawberry may also be a star of the '80s, but don't look for his name—certainly a memorable one—in a major league box score for three or more years. Darryl is only 18 and a senior at Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, alma mater of the Expos' Ellis Valentine and Marques Johnson of the NBA Bucks. If you have trouble finding Crenshaw High, ask any baseball scout; chances are he has been keeping tabs on Darryl for more than a year.
Darryl is 6'4" and 180, throws and bats lefthanded and has reminded several observers of Ted Williams. "He's got a Williams-type physical makeup—tall, rangy, good leverage," says Phil Pote, former A's scout who now coaches baseball at Los Angeles City College. "He's got bat quickness, he can drive the ball. The ball jumps off his bat.
"He's got what we call 'bat presence'—an intangible, a something. Any swing of his can hurt you. He's just a natural hitter. He could make a lot of money in baseball."
Says Crenshaw Coach Brooks Hurst, "I asked Darryl, 'Do you know who Ted Williams is?' He said, 'Well—' and kind of hesitated. I said, 'Well, there's a little generation gap here. But you're going to be a black Ted Williams, because you hit just like Ted.' "
April 7, 1980
Last year Crenshaw High made it to the city-championship final before losing to Granada Hills 10-4 in Dodger Stadium. Four Crenshaw seniors signed pro contracts, including Western League Player of the Year Chris Brown, a third baseman who hit .454 and then accepted a substantial bonus from San Francisco. Darryl hit .372 with five home runs and had a 4-1 pitching record. When not pitching, he plays center or right.
"As a pitcher he throws the ball fairly hard," says Hurst. "Darryl's ball moves—it just has natural movement—and he has a good fast curveball. He has tremendous leverage and doesn't really have to strain to throw hard. From the outfield he has a rocket."
Not only is Darryl versatile on the diamond, but he also excels in other sports. As a 10th-grade J.V. quarterback he passed for more than 300 yards a game; he took up basketball as a junior and this year was a starting forward on Crenshaw's city-championship team, which delayed his appearance at baseball practice.
Two years ago Darryl had earned a starting outfield spot, but quit when Hurst disciplined him for not hustling. "I was acting like a child in the 10th grade," Darryl admits. "Really wasn't into it. I changed myself over the summer, matured myself as a ballplayer, and came back. I did it myself. I said, 'The Lord gave you all this talent. Why mess yourself up?'"
Somebody also gave some talent to his two older brothers. Centerfielder Michael hit .361 last season as a freshman at Los Angeles Southwest J.C., has a good arm and, according to his coach, is "definitely a major league prospect." Ronnie is a freshman lefthanded pitcher at the same J.C. but is inexperienced. He was never eligible to play at Crenshaw, says Hurst, because of poor grades.
The brothers live with their two younger sisters, Regina and Michelle, and their mother, Ruby, in a modest stucco house in southwest L.A. Mrs. Strawberry works for the telephone company—"struggling all her life," according to Darryl—and he hopes to soon do something to make life easier for her. Darryl's father does not live at home.
"I dream about being in the major leagues at the age of 20," Darryl says. "I dream about making it to the World Series at the age of 20 if I go to a good ball club. And if I play well this year, I dream of coming out the No. 1 draft choice in the nation."