Darryl Strawberry, Don't Showboat, Retaliation

If Darryl Can Handle Al Nipper, He Can Certainly Handle Trump

The cast for the upcoming season 3 of Celebrity Apprentice was recently announced, and Darryl Strawberry is among the contestants.

Straw, of course, hopes to avoid many of the same conflicts that got him in repeated trouble over the course of his 17-season career. One thing’s certain: If he inspires boardroom attacks like he inspired ballpark attacks, things likely won’t go well.

Need an example? A passage deleted from the final edit of The Baseball Codes has more:

* * *

There are many reasons a pitcher may have to postpone punishment he’s dying to deliver. It’s often a matter of game situation; regardless of how inherently a pitcher feels an opponent deserves a fastball to the ribs, it’s simply not going to happen in the late innings of a close game, especially if it moves a runner into scoring position. If response to personal vendettas could hurt their teams, most pitchers are happy to handle business another day, another series—or, if it comes down to it, another season.

“How long do you wait?” asked one big-league manager. “As long as it takes. If it takes a month, you wait a month. If it’s the last game of a series and you’re not going to see that club again for awhile, you wait.”

Take Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, when Darryl Strawberry of the New York Mets hit a mammoth home run off Boston’s Al Nipper, the ball caroming off the center-field scoreboard at Shea Stadium. Strawberry proceeded to take one of the slowest home run trots in the history of postseason play, a deed that was unequivocally intended to send a message. That the message was more likely meant for Mets manager Davey Johnson—who pulled Strawberry from Game 6 in a late-game double-switch, outraging his volatile superstar—didn’t matter a bit to Nipper, who barely tried to hide his contempt for the moment and the player behind it.

Strawberry described the moment in his book, Darryl: “Okay, so I put it in his face when I pounded that homer in game seven and then took—what was it?—five or so minutes to walk around the bases while the fans went crazy. It was my first Series, my first Series game-winner, and my last home run of 1986. So maybe I wasn’t cool about it. But then I’m not always Mr. Cool.”

With that in mind, when the Mets and Red Sox next met—in St. Petersburg the following spring—it wasn’t much of a secret that Nipper sought payback. The ballpark was packed with media members from New York and Boston who weren’t so much hoping for fireworks as expecting them. This was the era before interleague play, and Nipper knew he wouldn’t get the chance to face Strawberry during the regular season.

With his first pitch, Nipper hit Strawberry on the right hip. It was hardly a blazing fastball, and, in proper retribution fashion, connected well below the shoulders. Still, it was enough to incite the batter to charge the mound, leading players from both teams to flood the field.

“There are times when, yes, you send a message and go, okay, we’re getting you right now, we’re letting everyone know,“ said Nipper. “And there are times when everyone knows you’re going to get him.”

(In fact, Nipper did get to face Strawberry again, as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1988. In three at-bats, Strawberry was intentionally walked, reached on an error and, in his third at-bat . . . was hit by Nipper in the calf. This time Strawberry merely glared at the mound before taking his base.)

– Jason

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