One of the faces of baseball during the 1980s and most popular players in New York Mets history, outfielder Darryl Strawberry started his MLB career on a Hall of Fame trajectory before injuries and off-the-field issues derailed things. Instead, he stands as one of the biggest “what ifs” in the history of the sport.
All told, there are more than 4,000 Darryl Strawberry cards, according to the Beckett database. So where does one begin putting together a Darryl Strawberry PC?
These 10 cards serve as an excellent representation of his playing career and footprint on the hobby, making them a great place to start.
1983 Topps Traded #108T Darryl Strawberry XRC
The Mets selected Strawberry with the first overall pick in the 1980 MLB draft out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. He debuted with a bang three years later, posting a 134 OPS+ with 26 home runs, 74 RBI and 19 steals to win NL Rookie of the Year honors.
The 1983 Topps Traded boxed set provided the first mainstream Strawberry card to hit the market, and while non-pack distribution means it is an XRC, it is his most sought after early card.
1984 Donruss #68 Darryl Strawberry RC
Following his stellar debut, Strawberry put together his first of five straight 20/20 seasons in 1984. He hit .251/.343/.467 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI and 27 steals and was voted to start the All-Star Game in right field.
His Rookie Cards are featured in the 1984 Donruss, Fleer, Topps and O-Pee-Chee releases, though he was not included in Donruss’ inaugural “Rated Rookie” class.
1986 Topps Glossy Send-Ins #11 Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry helped lead the Mets to a World Series title during the 1986 season, posting a 139 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 27 home runs, 93 RBI and 28 steals before slugging three more home runs in the postseason.
One of the first modern “insert” sets to arrive on the market was the Topps Glossy Send-Ins which were a 60-card set that could be redeemed via mail in 10-card packs in exchange for $1 and six special offer cards that were inserted in 1986 flagship wax packs.
1988 Fleer Headliners #4 Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry was runner-up in NL MVP voting during the 1988 season when he led the NL in home runs (39), slugging percentage (.545), OPS (.911) and OPS+ (165), finishing behind Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson in the balloting.
Fleer offers up some of the first in-pack inserts during the late 1980s, including their Headliners set in 1988 that featured a six-card checklist and could be found one-per rack pack.
1991 Fleer Pro-Visions #12 Darryl Strawberry
After eight seasons with the Mets, Strawberry departed in free agency following the 1990 season. He still ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in hits (1,025, ninth), home runs (252, first), RBI (733, second), steals (191, fifth) and WAR (36.6, sixth).
There are few early insert sets more iconic than the Fleer Pro-Visions cards, and Strawberry was part of the first batch released in 1991.
1991 Topps Traded Tiffany #114T Darryl Strawberry
The Dodgers signed Strawberry to a four-year, $20.25 million deal prior to the 1991 season, a deal that trailed only Jose Canseco (4/$23.5M) for the richest in baseball at the time. He logged a 140 OPS+ with 28 home runs and 99 RBI for a Dodgers team that won 93 games but missed the playoffs.
His first Topps card in a Dodgers uniform had to wait until the Topps Traded release, and I opted for the premium Tiffany parallel version which had a print run of 4,000.
1994 Sportflics Rookie/Traded #149 Darryl Strawberry
After playing just 75 games total in 1992 and 1993, Strawberry was released by the Dodgers early in the 1994 season. He signed with the rival Giants a month later and played in 29 games during the strike-shortened season, hitting .239/.363/.424 with four home runs and 17 RBI.
I’ve opted for an outside-the-box option to represent his brief time in San Francisco.
1996 Ultra Gold Medallion #107 Darryl Strawberry
By the time the 1996 season rolled around, Strawberry had been released by the Giants, suspended after testing positive for cocaine, briefly played for the Yankees and spent time in independent ball before rejoining the Yankees as the team’s primary designated hitter. He had 11 home runs and 36 RBI in 63 games and homered three times in the ALCS en route to winning his second ring.
There are not many better looking 1990s parallels than the 1996 Ultra Gold Medallion cards with their distinct gold foil backgrounds, making this card a great low-cost target for Strawberry fans and Yankees fans alike.
1998 Donruss Signature Autographs Century #105 Darryl Strawberry
At 36 years old, Strawberry posted a 132 OPS+ with 24 home runs in 345 plate appearances with the Yankees during the 1998 season. He was diagnosed with colon cancer during the ALDS and ultimately replaced on the postseason roster as he began treatment.
The 1998 Donruss Signature set features the only Strawberry autographs from his playing days, with a blue background “Millenium” version numbered to 100 and a green background “Century” version numbered to 900.
2000 Upper Deck Victory #327 Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry made a comeback from his cancer treatment in 1999 but played sparingly, going 16-for-49 with three home runs in 24 games. He did find his way onto the postseason roster, homering once in the ALDS and once in the ALCS to put the finishing touches on his career.
His final playing days card is part of the 2000 Upper Deck Victory set, and while it’s an entry-level price point product, it was the only mainstream card released of him in 2000.