Ghost of Darryl Strawberry: Impossible-to-miss (or not) explanation for a star's return to glory

From time to time, we at GetReligion reference our "guilt folders."

These imaginary folders are where we stuff all those stories that we'd love to analyze but — for whatever reason — never seem to get around to.

I may set a new record for longest wait to highlight a story with this post as I call attention to one published on July 12, 2013. For those not good at math, that's more than three years ago. I called "dibs" at that time. But something else came along because I never wrote about it.

So why do I mention it now? Because of a new story on the same subject matter that I just came across.

This one is a recent Los Angeles Times interview with former major-league baseball star Darryl Strawberry on his rise and fall — and his rise again:

If Darryl Strawberry didn't exist, a screenwriter would need to invent him.
Enduring a hardscrabble childhood in South Los Angeles with an absentee alcoholic father, Strawberry found escape — and greatness — on the baseball field, thanks to a slinky swing that could quickly dispatch balls to the far side of outfield walls.
Strawberry arrived in New York as a teenage sensation in the early 1980s with a shiny future. He would go on win a rookie-of-the-year award and then, in 1986, help lead the hometown Mets to a World Series title.
That high was soon followed by a series of lows that included a long battle with drugs and alcohol addiction, jail time, an arrest on suspicion of domestic battery and multiple cancer diagnoses. Strawberry was one of the purest talents the game has ever seen. He was also one of its most tabloid-prone.
In recent years, Strawberry has rebounded, finding sobriety a‎nd a stable marriage. He's even started a Christian mission devoted to others' recovery.

The Times uses a Q&A format as it visits with Strawberry about his life and how he's portrayed in "Doc & Darryl," an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary. But there's something missing from the conversation about Strawberry's "colorful life and present views." 

Holy ghosts, anyone?

It's obvious that Strawberry's faith is a major factor — the major factor, it seems — in his transformation, but the Times seems intent on ignoring the religion angle.

Consider this section of the interview, for example:

Do you have a sense that this all could have ended more tragically for you? Watching the film,  it reminded me of how many struggles you had, how deep they were, how dangerous they were.
The life I lived should have killed me. There were multiple times when I know I shouldn't have lived. I should have been dead. I lost a left kidney. Cancer. Drugs. Alcohol.. For some reason God had grace. I never went to school. He stopped me and said, “You're going to do this; you're going to preach the Gospel.” I kept running and he finally stopped me, brought me to my knees.

Now, at this point, would you think that the reporter might ask a follow-up question about Strawberry's faith journey? Would that not be a reasonable direction for the discussion to take?

Apparently not. This is the next question:

Is there value for you personally in getting this story out there?

Wait, huh!?

Which leads back to that 2013 story that I never critiqued, although I thought that I had. I searched in our archives because I wanted to contrast that interview with Strawberry — by USA Today baseball writer Bob Nightengale — with the Times version. But when I couldn't locate it in the archive, I found it in my GetReligion story possibilities folder in Gmail (that folder has 10,803 email threads, in case you're wondering).

The USA Today story really did a nice job of covering the role of faith in Strawberry's life. For example, this is how the piece ends:

As for himself, Strawberry says he's certainly not a hero, nor a savior. He's on a mission.
"We're not into this for publicity," Strawberry says. "We're into it because God called us into ministry. We became who God wanted us to be. We're trying to bring purpose into people's lives, why they're created, so they can fulfill their real purpose and destiny.
"I'll always be grateful for baseball because it was a tremendous platform that God set up for me. That part of me will never go away. But I will never go back into that world, that lifestyle, the one that most athletes never conquer. You look at A-Rod (the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez), and he'll say, 'I want to do well.' What he's really saying is, 'I want people to like me, but they don't like me, because of the stigma attached to who I am.'
"I had all of those issues, too. It was just a different time. A different generation. Here I am, a baseball superstar, falling into the pits, having everybody write you off, and then having God say, 'I'm going to use your mess for a message.'
"How beautiful is that?"

The beginning is interesting, too. I'd recommend — particularly if you're a baseball fan — reading it all. I meant to say that earlier but am just now getting around to it, "guilt folder" and all.


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