Strawberry's no-show may end Dodger career

April 04, 1994|By Maryann Hudson | Maryann Hudson,Los Angeles Times

ANNAHEIM, CALIF. — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Darryl Strawberry, missing for nearly 24 hours, was located in apparently good health late last night, but his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers appears to be over.

In a sudden turn to what the Dodgers had hoped would be a promising season for the troubled outfielder, Strawberry failed to show up for yesterday's game against the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium. Attempts to locate him proved futile until about 8 p.m. PDT, when Strawberry spoke to executive vice president Fred Claire. Afterward, Claire issued a terse statement, calling Strawberry's action inexcusable.

"I have spoken to Darryl and he is with his family," Claire said in a prepared statement. "I am not satisfied with the explanation he has given me for his failure to report for the game today. I intend to meet with Darryl [today] to review the matter in detail and to determine what the appropriate disciplinary action will be. This type of behavior is extremely detrimental to the ballclub and will not be tolerated."

Yesterday's incident is the latest in a series of troubles Strawberry has endured with the Dodgers since signing a $20.25 million contract before the 1991 season.

His contract could be voided if he breached a standard good-behavior clause. The reason for his absence was not disclosed.

Either way, Claire said late last year that one more incident by Strawberry would not be tolerated.

That sentiment was precipitated by last season's problems. Strawberry, trying to come back from back surgery, had a dismal time on the field as well as off it. In September, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Charise, now his wife. The charge later was dropped.

But after a season of defying clubhouse rules, Claire had had enough.

After Strawberry showed disrespect for Los Angeles fire victims last November, Claire put Strawberry on the waiver wire, making him available for $20,000, plus his remaining contract. There were no takers.

That move seemed to shake up Strawberry re-dedicated himself. Since then, he has shown a strong work ethic, often the first one to arrive at the clubhouse and one of the last to leave.

"My guess is as good as yours," said Dodger Brett Butler after hearing Claire's statement. "I look at the spring and it looked like change."

The Dodgers moved him from right field to left field to help ease the stress on his back from throws, and he was starting to hit. But Friday night, in his debut at Dodger Stadium after not playing since June of 1993, he was booed by the fans. It started in the first inning when he misplayed a ball and continued as he went 0-for-4.

After the game, Strawberry said the booing didn't bother him. Then Saturday night, he hit a home run. After the game, teammates said he appeared happy. So, when he didn't show up for yesterday's game, the players were concerned. Claire continued throughout the day to try to locate Strawberry, but attempts were unsuccessful.

"I just hope he's all right," said Delino DeShields. "I'm thinking of his health. The man's got a family. He's got children. Regardless of what happens he's still going to be my friend."

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