Gooden at Candlestick Park in April 1991
|Born: November 16, 1964
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|April 7, 1984 for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 2000 for the New York Yankees|
|Earned run average||3.51|
|Career highlights and awards|
Dwight Eugene Gooden (born November 16, 1964), also known as Doc Gooden or Dr. K, is a former major league baseball player. He was one of the most dominant and feared pitchers in the National League in the middle and late 1980s, but his career declined because of injury, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
A native of Tampa, Florida, Gooden was drafted in the first round in 1982, the fifth player taken overall. He spent one season in the minors, in which he led the Class-A Carolina League in wins, strikeouts and ERA while playing for the Lynchburg Mets. Gooden had 300 strikeouts in 191 innings, a performance which convinced Triple-A Tidewater Tides manager (future Mets skipper) Davey Johnson that he was capable of making the unusual leap to the majors.
Gooden made his major-league debut on April 7, 1984 with the New York Mets at the age of 19. He quickly developed a reputation with his 98 MPH fastball and sweeping curveball, which was given the superlative nickname of "Lord Charles," in contrast with "Uncle Charlie," a common nickname for a curveball. He was dubbed "Dr. K," (by analogy with basketball's "Dr. J", Julius Erving, and also in reference to the letter "K" being the standard abbreviation for strikeout), which soon became shortened to "Doc". Gooden soon attracted a rooting section at Shea Stadium that called itself "The K Korner," and would hang up cards with a red "K" after each of his strikeouts.
That season, Gooden won 17 games (the most by a 19-year-old since Wally Bunker won 19 games in 1964 and the second most for a Mets rookie, after Jerry Koosman's 19 wins in 1968). The youngest All-Star selection in baseball history, Gooden showed his dominance by striking out the 3 all-stars he faced in that game. Gooden won eight of his last nine starts; in his final three starts of the 1984 season, he had 41 strikeouts and 1 walk.
Gooden led the league in strikeouts (276, breaking Herb Score's rookie record of 245 in 1955), and also set the record for most strikeouts in three consecutive starts with 43. As a 19-year-old rookie, Gooden set the then-major league record for strikeouts per 9 innings, with 11.39. He was voted the Rookie of The Year, giving the Mets two consecutive winners of that award (Darryl Strawberry had been the recipient in 1983). Gooden also became the third Mets pitcher to win the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967) and Jon Matlack (1972).
In 1985, Gooden pitched one of the most statistically dominating single seasons in baseball history. Leading Major League Baseball with 24 wins, 268 strikeouts, and a 1.53 ERA (the second lowest in the Live Ball Era, trailing only Bob Gibson's 1.12 in 1968) earned Gooden the major leagues' pitching Triple Crown. He led the National League in complete games (16) and innings pitched (276 2/3). From his second start onward, Gooden's ERA never rose above 2.00. At age 20, he was the youngest pitcher of the last half-century to have an ERA+ above 200. Gooden's ERA+ was 226; 23-year-old Dean Chance (200 ERA+ in 1964) was the only such pitcher under the age of 25 to do so.
Even in the eleven games when Gooden didn't earn a win, he was still dominant. In September, he pitched back-to-back 9-inning shutouts, but received no-decisions in both games. In his four losses, Gooden allowed 26 hits and 5 walks in 28 innings, with 28 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA. The Mets finished second in the 1985 NL East, and teammates jokingly blamed Gooden for having lost 4 games, thereby mathematically costing them the division title. One of only 12 African-American pitchers to win 20 games, he became the youngest-ever recipient of the Cy Young Award. There was even media speculation about Gooden's Hall of Fame prospects. That November, Gooden turned 21.
However hyperbolic that early Hall of Fame speculation appears more than 20 years later, it was a natural extension of Gooden's larger-than-life presence in New York City. Travelers descending the steps of the side entrance to Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station were greeted by an enormous photograph of Gooden in mid-motion that recorded his season's strikeout totals as the year progressed. Likewise, those strolling the streets of Manhattan's West Side could gaze up at a multi-story Sports Illustrated mural of Gooden painted on the side of a midtown building, whose caption asked "How does it feel to look down the barrel of a loaded gun?"
While Gooden would be an effective pitcher for several more seasons, he never again approached such heights. 1985 would prove to be the only 20-win season of Gooden's 16-year career. Many reasons have been offered for his decline: early overuse, cocaine addiction, the league catching on to some of his pitches (notably a fastball that rose out of the strike zone, which hitters increasingly avoided), or the influence of Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who convinced Gooden to change his pitching motion in the hopes of prolonging his career.
Whatever the cause, Gooden's period of dominance was memorable. In a span of 50 starts from August 11, 1984, to May 6, 1986, Gooden posted a record of 37-5 with a 1.40 ERA; he had 412 strikeouts and 90 walks in 404.6 innings.
Gooden was the Mets ace going into the playoffs, and his postseason started promisingly. He lost a 1–0 duel with Scott in the NLCS opener, then got a no-decision in Game 5, pitching 10 innings of 1-run ball. He was substantially worse in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, not getting past the 5th inning in either of his two starts. Nevertheless, the Mets won four of the five non-Gooden starts and the championship. In an early red flag, Gooden no-showed the team victory parade. The team announced that their star pitcher had overslept, but years later, it was revealed that he was on a cocaine binge.
Gooden was arrested on December 13, 1986, in Tampa, Florida after fighting with police. A report clearing police of misconduct in the arrest helped start the Tampa Riots of 1987. Rumors of substance abuse began to arise, which were confirmed when Gooden tested positive for cocaine during spring training in 1987. He entered a rehabilitation center on April 1, 1987, to avoid being suspended and did not make his first start of the season until June 5. Despite missing a third of the season, Gooden won 15 games for the 1987 Mets.
In 1988, Gooden recorded an 18–9 record as the Mets returned to the postseason. In the first game of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gooden was matched against Orel Hershiser, who had just finished the regular season with a 59-inning scoreless streak. Gooden pitched well, allowing just 4 hits and recording 10 strikeouts, but left after seven innings trailing 2–0. In Game 4, Gooden entered the ninth inning with a 4–2 lead and the chance to give his Mets a commanding 3–1 advantage in the series. But he allowed a game-tying home run to Mike Scioscia, and the Dodgers eventually went on to win in 12 innings.
The game remains one of the great disappointments in Mets franchise history. The 1980s Mets were considered a dynasty in the making; after they underperformed, some looked to this game as perhaps the key moment of the dynasty that wasn't. On a personal level, Gooden never won a postseason game, going 0–4 in eight series.
Gooden suffered a shoulder injury in 1989, which reduced him to a 9–4 record in 17 starts. He rebounded in 1990, posting a 19–7 season with 223 strikeouts, second only to teammate David Cone's 233. However, after another injury in 1991, Gooden's career declined significantly. Though drug abuse is commonly blamed for Gooden's pitching troubles, some analysts point to his early workload. It has been estimated that Gooden threw over 10,800 pitches from 1983-85, a period in which he was just 18 to 20 years old. Gooden hurled 276 innings in his historic 1985 season; in the 20 years since, only two pitchers have reached that amount (Charlie Hough and Roger Clemens, both in 1987). By the time he reached his 21st birthday, Gooden had already accumulated 928 strikeouts between both the minor and major leagues.
Gooden was accused along with two other teammates with rape in 1991; however, charges were never pressed.
1992 was Gooden's first-ever losing season (10-13); it was also the first time he had lost as many as 10 decisions. 1993 was no improvement, as Gooden finished 12–15. During the 1993 season, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story on Gooden entitled, "From Phenom to Phantom."
In 1994 at age 29, Gooden had a 3–4 record with a 6.31 ERA when he tested positive for cocaine use and was suspended for 60 days. He tested positive again while serving the suspension, and was further suspended for the entire 1995 season. The day after receiving the second suspension, Gooden's wife, Monica, found him in his bedroom with a loaded gun to his head.
Kirk Radomski, the New York Mets clubhouse attendant whose allegations are at the base of the Mitchell Report later claimed that he took two urine tests for Gooden during the 1990s. Gooden denies the allegations.
Gooden signed with the New York Yankees in 1996 as a fise followed by drug and legal problems paralleled Gooden's. After pitching poorly in April and nearly getting released, Gooden no-hit the Seattle Mariners 2-0 at Yankee Stadium on May 14. He ended the 1996 season at 11–7, his first winning record since 1991, but only briefly regained his early form when he went 10-2 with a 3.09 ERA from April 27 till August 12. It would be the last time he would win more than 9 games in a season.
Gooden was left off the 1996 postseason roster due to injury and fatigue. The following year, he had one start for the Yankees in the 1997 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians; coincidentally, he again faced his 1988 postseason nemesis Orel Hershiser. Gooden left Game 4 during the sixth inning with a 2–1 lead, but the Yankee bullpen faltered in the 8th and Gooden was left with the no-decision.
He pitched for three teams from 1998 to 2000 (the Cleveland Indians from 1998-1999 and the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000) and was unconditionally released twice before signing a minor-league contract with the Yankees. Returning to the Yankees during the 2000 season, Gooden only made 5 starts.
Gooden ended his career as a mop-up reliever for a championship team. He made one relief appearance in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, both times with the Yankees trailing. Gooden did not pitch in the 2000 World Series against the Mets.
In 1999, Gooden released an autobiography titled Heat, in which he discussed his struggles with alcohol and cocaine abuse.
Gooden retired in 2001 after he was cut by the Yankees in spring training, ending his career with a record of 194–112. More than half of those wins came before age 25.
Gooden appeared at the Shea Stadium final celebration on September 28, 2008, the first time he had appeared at Shea Stadium since 2000. On April 13, 2009, he made an appearance at the newly-opened Citi Field. Gooden spontaneously signed his name to a wall on the inside of the stadium. The Mets initially indicated that they would remove the signature, but soon decided instead to move the part of the wall with Gooden's writing to a different area of the stadium and acquire additional signatures from other popular ex-players. In January 2010, it was announced that Gooden would be inducted to the New York Mets Hall of Fame.
Gooden's legal problems did not end with his career. On February 20, 2002, Gooden was arrested in his native Tampa and charged with driving while intoxicated, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle, and driving with a suspended license. He was arrested again in January 2003 for driving with a suspended license.
On March 12, 2005, Gooden was arrested in Tampa, Florida for punching his girlfriend after she threw a telephone at his head. He was released two days later on a misdemeanor battery charge.
Troubles continued to mount for the former star when, on August 23, 2005, he drove away from a traffic stop in Tampa, after being pulled over for driving erratically. He gave the officer his driver's license, twice refused to leave his car, then drove away. The officer remarked in his report that Gooden's eyes were glassy and bloodshot, his speech was slurred, and a "strong" odor of alcohol was present on him. Three days after the traffic stop, Gooden turned himself in to police.
Gooden was again arrested in March 2006 for violating his probation, after he appeared intoxicated with cocaine at a scheduled meeting with his probation officer, David R. Stec. He chose prison over extended probation, perhaps in the hope that incarceration would separate him from the temptations of his addiction. He entered prison on April 17, 2006. On May 31, Gooden said in an interview from prison, "I can't come back here. [...] I'd rather get shot than come back here. [...] If I don't get the message this time, I never will." Gooden was released from prison November 9, 2006, after nearly seven months' incarceration, and was not placed on further probation.