When the Mets play in Cincinnati, it always reminds me of perhaps the most volatile  episode in the team's history. It occurred July, 3, 1987. Let's take a look back in a report I wrote for Newsday. Some of the language that appeared during the time of the then-breaking story has been omitted:

A pre-Fourth of July explosion narrowly was averted in the Mets' clubhouse yesterday after an angry Darryl Strawberry threatened to fight teammates Wally Backman and Lee Mazzilli over their comments regarding his two-game absence from the lineup earlier this week. A closed-door team meeting seemed to soothe some of the bitterness, but Strawberry still remained hurt over the incident and repeated he wants to leave New York after his contract is up in two years.

"I feel like I want to get out of here now," Strawberry said before last night's game against the Reds. "I feel I might end up hurting somebody around here," he added, specifically referring to Backman and Mazzilli. The 6-6 Strawberry then directed his ire at the 5-7 Backman. "I'll bust him in his face, that little...'' Strawberry said. Backman, reacting to Strawberry's absence because of a virus, had said, "From the stuff I heard in the trainer's room, he should have been out there. Nobody in the world that I know of gets sick 25 times a year. There's only so much you can take. "


Backman said he would not hide if Strawberry came after him. "You think I'm going to back down? If he can't understand the things said were trying to help him, then there's nothing you can say. We ain't trying to bury the guy. "

Mazzilli, told of Strawberry's threats, appeared shaken. "I meant it as constructive," he said. "I'm sorry he feels that way. " Mazzilli had said Strawberry "let the manager down, the coaches down and his teammates down" by missing the two games.

Strawberry called Backman and Mazzilli an expletive and added, "They rip me and they can't even hold my jock. "

The incident started when players saw a newspaper picture of Strawberry at a recording session. Strawberry said he started to feel ill Monday night, but was at the session Tuesday. He did not play Tuesday night or Wednesday night against the first,place Cardinals at Shea Stadium. Strawberry yesterday said he made the recording Monday and went back Tuesday to "take pictures. "

Team captain Keith Hernandez said Strawberry should channel his anger toward the game. "Take it out on the baseball," he said. "The whole crux of this is that it's been going on for years [with Strawberry] and patience has run out with some of the guys. We need him [but] we don't know what side of the bed he's going to wake up on. He seems to respond to disciplinary action. "

Strawberry's problems this year have included showing up late for two games against the Cubs in Chicago, one lateness in spring training and a 45-minute walkout from training camp when he was fined for that lateness. He repeatedly has denied rumors of drug use. "I don't care what they say," he said in response to the rumors. "Now they say I got a drug problem? If they think that and they're unhappy with me, they know what they can do. "

Hernandez added that he didn't think Strawberry would be traded. "Darryl would have to provoke it, go out and play like a complete ..." he said.

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Hernandez did not doubt Strawberry's intent to get physical. "He might," he said. "I hope no one gets hurt. "

Manager Davey Johnson, upset that the incident had reached the point of near physical confrontation, cleared the clubhouse of reporters after conferring with Hernandez, and a 10-minute meeting was held. Backman and Mazzilli proclaimed the incident "over," but Strawberry only slightly retreated. He did not exactly recant his earlier statements. "I don't want to feel that way," he said, "but guys can make you feel that way. "

Johnson said he did not mind "a little creative tension" but called the meeting because he felt things were getting out of hand. "A little rain must fall; I don't want a thunderstorm," he said. "I said to Keith, `Why don't you guys talk about it. Instead of being back-page news, let's be a team. ' The principals spoke up and got things off their chest."