Darryl Strawberry was one of my first sports heroes. As a from-birth Mets fan, my first favorite player was Dave Kingman, a surly slugger who struck out more than he did anything else. So when Straw joined the Mets in 1983, it was easy to switch allegiances to the sweet-swinging rookie (Kong had 49 hits in 100 games that season — and struck out 57 times). Strawberry was the Rookie of the Year that season, and played in the next eight All-Star games. He never won an MVP, but was second in the voting in 1988, and third in 1990. Then, after his first season with the Dodgers in 1991, his career fell off a cliff. Strawberry never lived up to his boundless potential, derailed before 30 by problems with drugs and alcohol. But he lived, and in the end, that’s what counts most. And he’s still one of my heroes. Happy birthday, Straw.
There is possibly no more tragic figure in jazz than Charlier Parker, and none more important. His playing helped redefine what jazz is — redefined it by itself — yet he died before that impact could be fully felt. Happy birthday, Bird. And, wherever you are, I hope you’re smiling.
For a while, it seemed like Max Fish — the Only Dive Bar That Matters — on Ludlow Street (just south of Houston Street) was going down for the count at the end of this month, victim of skyrocketing rents and a transforming neighborhood. However, an agreement between landlord and tenant seems to have saved the spot for another year, at least. And, as someone who’s spent untold hours (and untold dollars) there, I’m glad one piece of my NYC will survive a bit longer.