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Strawberry Hit With Cocaine Charge

April 15, 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Darryl Strawberry’s turbulent baseball career has taken another off-field jolt: He has been charged with possession of cocaine with a street value of about $20 and soliciting a prostitute.

The New York Yankees’ outfielder offered a female undercover officer $50 for sex, Tampa police said after Wednesday night’s arrest a few miles from the team’s training complex.

A search turned up 0.3 grams _ about 100th of an ounce _ of powder cocaine wrapped in a $20 bill inside Strawberry’s wallet, police said. He was booked and released on $6,000 bond early today.

``It appeared for personal use,″ police spokesman Joe Durkin said. ``One hit size.″

The 37-year-old outfielder told police that the cocaine did not belong to him and that he never intended to have sex with the undercover officer.

According to the police report, Strawberry said his wife’s uncle used the vehicle the previous night and that it was possible he might have left the folded $20 bill in the glove compartment where Strawberry found it Wednesday.

The eight-time All-Star said he was joking around with the undercover officer about sex and drove off with no intention of meeting her at a nearby motel room.

Strawberry has been in Tampa to work himself back into shape following colon cancer surgery last Oct. 3.

Cocaine possession is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said. The maximum penalty for solicitation, a misdemeanor, is 60 days in the county jail for a first offense. After that, the maximum penalty is a year in the county jail, she said.

However, those are general guidelines, Bondi said, indicating that charges for Strawberry had yet to reach the prosecutor’s office.

Lonn Trost, the Yankees’ general counsel, declined to comment, saying the team would allow the legal process to run its course before speaking out.

After the Yankees won the World Series without him, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani praised Strawberry ``for the comeback he’s made as a baseball player and the comeback he’s making in life.″

He was in New York last weekend to receive his World Series ring, but was not expected to join the Yankees until he completed chemotherapy and a stint with Triple-A Columbus.

Strawberry’s list of substance abuse problems is lengthy.

Major league baseball suspended him for 60 days in 1995 after he tested positive for cocaine. The previous year, he entered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and spent four weeks undergoing treatment for a substance abuse problem.

In 1990, while with the New York Mets, he entered the Smithers Center in New York for alcohol rehabilitation.

In addition to substance abuse, Strawberry also ran afoul of tax laws. In 1995, a federal court ordered him to repay $350,000 in back taxes and sentenced him to six months of home confinement, except for games.

Strawberry, the National League Rookie of the Year in 1983 and a World Series champion with the Mets in 1986, also was accused of failing to make timely payments to an ex-wife.

He rebounded after signing with the Yankees in June 1995 and had remained drug free, with regular testing by major league baseball. Strawberry had his best season in seven years in 1998.

Strawberry has a .250 career average with 332 homers and 994 RBIs in 16 major league seasons with the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Yankees. He led the NL with 39 homers in 1988 and topped 100 RBIs three times with the Mets from 1987-90.

The Yankees, because of complicated rules involving baseball’s luxury tax, shifted him to a minor league roster during the offseason, fearing he would not be healthy enough to play by opening day.

Strawberry, the No. 1 pick in baseball’s June 1980 amateur draft, joined with Dwight Gooden to help lead the Mets to the 1986 World Series title.

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