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Strawberry and Eric Davis Dream of Playing Together Again

May 10, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Could they become teammates again as they once were for the Compton Moose, a Babe Ruth League team?

Could they still fulfill lingering dreams by finishing their careers as members of the hometown Dodgers?

Darryl Strawberry doesn't rule it out.

He will be eligible for free agency when the option year in his contract with the New York Mets expires after the 1989 season.

Eric Davis, his close friend from their years as athletic prospects in the inner city of Los Angeles and now the sensational center fielder of the Cincinnati Reds, would become eligible for free agency at the same time.

"Oh, man, what Eric and I could do for the hometown folks," Strawberry said. "That would be exciting. We still dream about it. We still talk about it when we work out together during the winter.

"I'll be 28 and will have played seven years (in the big leagues) then. I'll be at my peak, in my prime. Eric is a month younger. It would be a chance for Dodger fans to see something great. If the feeling is there, who knows?"

His reference was to his own feelings at that time, but he then seemed to indicate that he will definitely pursue the possibility, leaving it up to the Dodgers, who refused to bid for free-agent outfielder Tim Raines and have generally resisted the free-agent market.

Can he and Davis change the Dodgers' thinking.

"If they like power and speed, I think we can," he said. "I don't understand why they didn't sign Raines, but a few more losing seasons and they may change their policy.

"They'll have their chance."

Forced to wrestle with his promise and potential amid the intense scrutiny of the nation's media capital and the often chaotic atmosphere of the Big Apple, Strawberry has long believed that the hometown Dodgers represent Utopia, an environment more suiting his skills and temperament.

Davis, in his first full season with the Reds, said of the possibility of a future move:

"Darryl and I reminisce about it during the off-season, but it's just talk. Everyone would like to play in their hometown, but right now I like Cincinnati, I like the way it's going. I'm happy."

The Dodgers had no shot at Strawberry when he graduated from Crenshaw High in June of 1980, the nation's most touted prospect. The Mets held the No. 1 draft pick and used it on Strawberry.

Davis, a basketball standout who also hit .635 and stole 50 bases in 15 games as a senior shortstop at Fremont, wasn't selected by the Reds until the eighth round. More than 200 players were selected ahead of him.

It was a draft in which the Dodgers disregarded scout Mike Brito's favorable reports on Davis and paid the price for an excursion into free agency. They forfeited their No. 2 pick to the Minnesota Twins as compensation for signing Dave Goltz, their No. 3 to the Baltimore Orioles for signing Don Stanhouse and their No. 4 to the San Diego Padres for signing Jay Johnstone.

They otherwise drafted ineptly.

None of the five players they selected before Davis was drafted--shortstops Ross Jones and Peter Beall, catchers Paul Bard and Todd Gauntlett and outfielder Kevin Sliwinski--made it.

Davis, who was given a tryout at Dodger Stadium, reflected on it and said: "I threw well, ran faster than anyone and hit a couple balls off the fence using a wooden bat for the first time. I don't know why they didn't draft me but I wasn't really hoping they would.

"I wasn't even worried about being drafted (because he had been offered basketball scholarships to Arizona, Arizona State and Pepperdine). I mean, you can never tell how it would have turned out. Maybe there would have been too many distractions playing at home. Maybe it was for the best."

It was for the best as far as the Reds are concerned.

Davis leads the National League in virtually every offensive category. Manager Pete Rose says he has more raw talent than any player he has ever seen. He is being billed as the new Willie Mays.

Said Strawberry: "We're like brothers and I'm really happy that he's showing the world what he's all about. To this day, there has to be a lot of disappointed teams who could have had Eric in any of the first seven rounds. It's hard to believe he went that low."

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