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Straw fails to communicate with system

By GARY SHELTON, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2002

Hey, you. Guard! Yeah, you. I demand to see the warden. Now.

Hey, you. Guard! Yeah, you. I demand to see the warden. Now.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Who am I? You must not be a baseball fan. I am Straw. Straw! You know, Darryl Strawberry. And I've got some complaints for the manager.

Exactly what kind of joint are you guys running here? I've been here at the Gainesville Correctional Institution since Tuesday, and I've got to tell you. Some changes need to be made. Pronto, or Don Fehr's gonna have someone's heart for lunch.

That's right. Go tell your boss. I'll wait right here.

Until June 29, 2003, they tell me. I am not happy. For one thing, when I checked in the other day, I handed my golf clubs to the bellman, and I haven't seen them since. Not only that, but he swore he'd call me with my tee time, and I haven't heard a word.

And the rooms? For goodness sake, do I look like Gomer Pyle? That isn't a room, it's a barracks. There are 79 other men in there? Seventy-nine. Uh, I don't think there were 79 showers the night before, if you know what I mean.

You look in the eyes of these guys and you get the feeling they aren't the best teammates you could have. I don't trust them. Of course, I played with Ruben Rivera, so that's nothing new.

Look, I've made a list of complaints. The maid hasn't come in five days, and I can't find the mini-bar, and somebody stole the phone. Think about it, guard. How in the world do you expect a guy to order room service if he doesn't have a phone?

And what's the deal with these 6 a.m. wakeup calls?

I'll tell you what I'm beginning to believe. I'm beginning to believe this isn't a Marriott property at all. I bet we don't even get points.

What's that? Yeah, yeah. I know it's supposed to be jail and all that. But they told me it was a minimum custody facility. I figured it was like a country club where they only have one masseuse on duty and they never rake the clay courts, you know what I mean?

Instead, I get this ... this ... prison?

Are you kidding me?

I mean, it's not Starke, but it's stark. And it's hot. Can't we turn up the air-conditioning? Huh? No air-conditioning? The players association is definitely going to hear about that.

And what's the deal with the television set? I went to watch Cops! the other night because I'm an occasional guest star, and there isn't any cable! There are these rabbit ears, and the TV shows they watch are this horrible, PBS kind of stuff.

I asked someone there if we could watch the Devil Rays game, and they told me no, that the governor had ruled that to be cruel and unusual punishment.

Then there are the bunks. They're ugly and hard as a jailhouse rock, and they're only wide enough to go to about two inches on either side of your spine. How I'm expected to entertain on conjugal visits is beyond me.

What do you mean, no conjugal visits?

Did you know there isn't even a health club? There is a basketball court, but you can only play in the evenings. The winner gets treated for heat stroke.

The guards tell me I can't have my own TV, or my own DVD player, or my own computer. It's too noisy to read, and they shut the lights off at 11, and a nightcap is out of the question. I can only call the 10 people on my phone list, and no calls are more than 10 minutes, and my 900 numbers don't seem to work. Not only that, but Hooters does not deliver.

I ask you. Just because I've gone from con man to con, is that fair? When my agent shows up on visiting day, I'm going to give him an earful. This wasn't supposed to be the Strawshank Redemption.

Look, I'm upset. Even now, I would be dragging my cup across the bars like they did in the old movies except, well, there aren't any bars here. I'd drag it across the chain link fence, but I don't think that would be the same thing.

Look, get me the warden, and I'm sure we can straighten everything out. I don't care how tough he is. I don't care if he's like Eddie Albert in The Longest Yard or Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke. Hey, I played for Steinbrenner. You think I'm intimidated? And if the warden is a little full of himself, like James Gandolfini in The Last Castle, well, I played for Lasorda, too.

For one thing, we have to do something about these clothes. Look at them! If I wanted to wear blue, I'd have stayed with the Dodgers! And what's up with this number? "T17169?" I'm No. 39. Everyone knows that.

And the food! It's unbelievable. At dinner last night, I asked for the sea bass, with cajun seasoning, and asparagus tips with Hollandaise, and the guy just laughed at me. He gave me some sort of gray meat, and when I asked him what it was, he said, "Trust me, you really don't want to know." I could only eat two bites, but the cook said that was fine, that he'd sell the rest on eBay.

Tell the warden that, from now on, I'll take my per diem and order a pizza before we go clubbing.

What do you mean, no per diem?

What do you mean, no pizza?

What do you mean, no clubbing?

After lunch, one of the guards said I could get help with my drug problem. I was excited until he said he meant treatment. I hate being teased, don't you?

Then there is the job list. Personally, I'd prefer to sit on my bunk and sing Roxanne all day, like Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours. But the other day, at orientation, I was told we would all work as groundskeepers, or cooks, or in the laundry, or in maintenance. And I checked, but as near as I can tell, there is no job called "designated hitter." Like I said, there have to be some changes before the big baseball game between the guards and the inmates.

What do you mean, no game?

I'm not sure the other inmates are impressed with me, either. I walked into the place, and I heard some guy yell out "Braindead Man Walkin." No autographs for that guy, I'll tell you right now.

Someone else, a guy named Chain Saw, told me that if he had his way, I'd be introduced to Oz. And I said "Ozzie Smith is here?" And he just walked away.

Not everyone is bad, though. The guy in the next bunk, Wharf Rat, seems nice enough, except that he keeps telling me how his magical pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, is going to come home at any moment. I told him that movie was a piece of fiction, and he said, "so is your autobiography."

I told Wharf Rat how I was thrown out of my last facility for breaking the rules, trading memorabilia for cigarettes and having sex. He told me not to worry, that in prison, that was called "Monday." Then he called me "Strawberry Shortcake." I'm not quite sure what he meant by that.

I'm sure you can see my problem. None of this is acceptable. I'm a celebrity, for goodness sake.

What's the matter? Don't you people believe in 11th chances? Come on. Look in my lost-puppy eyes the way everyone else has. Listen to the conviction in my voice.

I don't deserve prison. I deserve sympathy. I'm addicted to that, too.

What do you mean, no sympathy?

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