Fast Chat: Darryl Strawberry

In 1983, Darryl Strawberry was New York's rookie sensation—a tall, skinny, 21-year-old slugger with the sweetest swing since Ted Williams. But a blossoming career soon shriveled in a haze of substance abuse. In 2000, after a stint in prison and battling cancer, he told a judge he'd lost the will to live. A sad obituary seemed imminent. But Strawberry recuperated and cleaned himself up. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Matthew Philips about his new memoir, "Straw: Finding My Way."

Was it cathartic to revisit all these painful moments?
To be honest, no. It was tough digging back through.

Do you think fame came too quickly for you?
That wasn't it. It was not having an identity. Baseball was what I did, but it wasn't who I was. I took me a long time to figure that out.

Was going to prison a low point?
No, because I came out feeling better about myself. I realized I wasn't a criminal. I was in there with guys doing time for drug trafficking, murder, manslaughter.

Was that scary?
I've never been scared of anything. I'm 6 foot 5 and from the streets. People in there respected me.

Did the rehab stints help?
Yeah, but you have to be ready, and I wasn't.

Can you have a casual beer?
If I wanted to. But I won't. I like my life as it is today: waking up not hung over, not having to worry about looking for your car, wondering where you parked it. If you parked it.

Do you ever wonder how good you could have been?
A lot. It's like what Mickey Mantle said: had I known how good I was, I would've taken better care of myself.

In the book, you recount a time when you and Mets teammate Doc Gooden were throwing $100 bills out of your limo. Do you look back and wonder, "What were we thinking?"
We were having fun, that's what. We didn't take any of it seriously. Maybe we should've, but at the time, that was just how we lived.

Does it upset you that steroids have put such a stigma on the game?
Why should it? If steroids were around in my day, would I have taken them? Of course.

Looking back, what would you do differently?
Nothing. That's the way my journey was supposed to happen. That's the lesson of my life. I went through hell, I was great at something, but I couldn't stop hurting myself. But I survived, and now I have peace.