Dwight Gooden

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Dwight Gooden
DwightGoodenSF 2.jpg
Gooden with the New York Mets
Born: (1964-11-16) November 16, 1964 (age 51)
Tampa, Florida
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 7, 1984, for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 2000, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 194–112
Earned run average 3.51
Strikeouts 2,293
Career highlights and awards

Dwight Eugene "Doc" Gooden (born November 16, 1964), nicknamed "Dr. K", is an American former professional baseball pitcher who played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). Gooden pitched from 1984 to 1994 and from 1996 to 2000 for the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In a career spanning 430 games, he pitched 2,800 23 innings and posted a win–loss record of 194–112, with a 3.51 earned run average (ERA), and 2,293 strikeouts.

Gooden made his MLB debut in 1984 for the Mets and quickly established himself as one of the league's most talented pitchers; as a 19-year-old rookie, he earned the first of four All-Star selections, won the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Award, and led the league in strikeouts. In 1985, he won the NL Cy Young Award and achieved the pitching Triple Crown, compiling a 24–4 record and a league-leading 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, and 16 complete games. The following season, he helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series. Gooden remained an effective pitcher in subsequent years, but his career was ultimately derailed by cocaine and alcohol addiction. After posting a losing record in each season from 1992–1994, Gooden was suspended for the 1995 season after a positive drug test while serving a prior suspension. As a member of the Yankees in 1996, Gooden pitched a no-hitter and helped the team on its path to a World Series championship. He pitched four additional years for as many teams, but never approached the success of his peak years with his Mets. In 2010, Gooden was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame.

Gooden's troubles with addiction continued after his retirement from baseball and resulted in several arrests. He was incarcerated for seven months in 2006 after violating the terms of his probation.


A native of Tampa, Florida, Dwight 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, to bring him up for the Tides' post season, believing that Gooden was capable of making the leap to the major leagues.

1984–1994: New York Mets[edit]


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.

When he took the mound in the fifth inning on July 10, 1984, Gooden became the youngest player to appear in an All-Star Game. He complemented this distinction by striking out the side, AL batters: Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, and Alvin Davis. Setting up Gooden, NL Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela had already struck out the side in the fourth, putting down future Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett. The two pitchers' combined performance broke an All-Star game record, coincidentally on its celebrated 50th Anniversary—Carl Hubbell's five consecutive strikeouts in 1934.

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. 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, his 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, breaking Sam McDowell's record of 10.71 in 1965. 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). Gooden finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting, even though he had more NL wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, and a lower ERA than the NL winner Rick Sutcliffe.[1][2][3]


In 1985, Gooden pitched one of the most statistically dominating single seasons in baseball history having the highest WAR in 60 years.[4] 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) Gooden earned the major leagues' pitching Triple Crown. He led the National League in complete games (16) and innings pitched (27623). From his second start onward, Gooden's ERA never rose above 2.00.[5] At age 20, he was the youngest pitcher of the last half-century to have an ERA+ above 200. Gooden's ERA+ was 229; 23-year-old Dean Chance (200 ERA+ in 1964) was the only other pitcher under the age of 25 to do so.

From August 31 through September 16, Gooden threw 31 consecutive scoreless innings over four games, and through October 2, threw 49 consecutive innings over seven games without allowing an earned run. The highest "quality start" percentage for a given season was recorded by Dwight Gooden, who had 33 of them in 35 games in 1985.[6]

Even in the 11 games when Gooden didn't earn a win, he was dominant. In September, he pitched back-to-back nine-inning games allowing no runs, but received no-decisions in both games. In his four losses, Gooden allowed 26 hits and five 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. That year, Gooden became one of only 14 African-American pitchers ever to win 20 games, the most recent of whom was CC Sabathia. Gooden became the youngest-ever recipient of the Cy Young Award and Pitcher of the Year 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 102 feet tall Sports Illustrated mural of Gooden painted on the side of a building at 351 West 42nd Street in Times Square, whose caption asked "How does it feel to look down the barrel of a loaded gun?"[7][8][9][10]

While Gooden would be an effective pitcher for several more seasons, he never again approached such heights. The year 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's hitters 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.

However brief, 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 1.38 ERA; he had 412 strikeouts and 90 walks in 406 innings.


In 1986, he compiled a 17–6 record. Gooden's 200 strikeouts were fifth in the National League, but more than a hundred behind the league leader, Mike Scott of the Houston Astros.

In another All-Star record pertaining to youth, in 1986 Gooden became the youngest pitcher to start an All-Star Game at 21 years, seven months and 30 days of age.

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 one-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 failed to attend the team's victory parade.

Early drug problems and injuries[edit]

Gooden was arrested on December 13, 1986, in Tampa, Florida after fighting with police.[11] A report clearing police of misconduct in the arrest helped start the Tampa riots of 1987.[12] 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 the game in 12 innings, and the series as well, 4 games to 3.

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 was not.


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 to 1985, a period in which he was just 18 to 20 years old.[13] Gooden hurled 276 innings in his historic 1985 season; in the 20 years since, only two pitchers have reached that amount (Charlie Hough, a knuckleballer, 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 of rape in 1991; however, charges were never pressed. The other two players were Vince Coleman and Daryl Boston.[14]


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."

During the strike-shortened 1994 season 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.[15]

In July 1995, the famous longstanding Dwight Gooden Times Square mural was replaced with a Charles Oakley mural. The Dwight Gooden mural was a part of the NYC landscape for over ten years.[16]

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.[17]

1996–2000: New York Yankees and three other teams[edit]

Gooden signed with the New York Yankees in 1996 as a free agent. After pitching poorly in April and nearly getting released, he was sent down to the minors where he worked on his mechanics and soon returned with a shortened wind-up. He no-hit the Seattle Mariners 2-0 at Yankee Stadium on May 14.[18] He ended the 1996 season at 11–7, his first winning record since 1991, and showed flashes of his early form, going 10-2 with a 3.09 ERA from April 27 through August 12. He proved to be a valuable asset for the Yankees that season as David Cone was out until early September with an aneurysm in his shoulder.

Gooden was left off the 1996 postseason roster due to injury and fatigue. In 1997 he posted a respectable 9-5 record with a 4.91 ERA. 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.

Gooden signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1998 and enjoyed moderate success, going 8-6 with a 3.76 ERA. He started 2 games for the Indians in the 1998 post-season, including one against his former team the New York Yankees, both of which ended in no-decisions. He remained with the Indians in 1999 but did not match his respectable numbers in 1998, going 3-4 with a 6.26 ERA.

Gooden began the 2000 season with 2 sub-par stints with the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays but found himself back with the Yankees mid-season. He would go on to have a respectable second stint with the Yankees, going 4-2 with a 3.36 ERA as a spot starter and long reliever, including a win against his former team the New York Mets on July 8 in the regular-season Subway series. 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, though 2000 would be the 3rd time Gooden received a World Series ring in his career.

In 1999, Gooden released an autobiography titled Heat, in which he discussed his struggles with alcohol and cocaine abuse.

Postseason career[edit]

Gooden failed to win a postseason game, going 0–4 in the course of nine postseason starts over eight series.[19] In the 1986 National League Championship Series, however, he had an earned run average of only 1.06 after starting two games and allowing just two earned runs in 17 innings pitched.[19]


Dwight Gooden on September 28, 2008

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 on the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. He was named on only 17, or 3.3 percent, of the 520 voting writers' ballots, and, having been named on less than 5 percent of the total ballots, was removed from future HOF consideration.

After retiring, Gooden took a job in the Yankees' front office. He acted as the go-between man during free agent contract negotiations between his nephew, Gary Sheffield, and the Yankees prior to the 2004 season. In July 2009 he was hired as a vice president of community relations for Atlantic League's Newark Bears. He left the post in November of the same year.[20]

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. On August 1, 2010, he was officially inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame along with Darryl Strawberry, Frank Cashen, and Davey Johnson. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch on the same day to Gary Carter.

VH1 Network announced June 11, 2011 that he would be a patient in VH1's fifth season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

Legal troubles[edit]

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.[21]

Gooden was again arrested in March 2006 for violating his probation, after he arrived high on cocaine at a scheduled meeting with his probation officer, David R. Stec.[22] He chose prison over extended probation, perhaps in the hope that incarceration would separate him from the temptations of his addiction.[23] 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."[24] Gooden was released from prison November 9, 2006, after nearly seven months' incarceration, and was not placed on further probation.[25]

On the morning of March 24, 2010, Gooden was arrested in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey near his home there after leaving the scene of a traffic accident, having been located nearby and found to be under the influence of an undisclosed controlled substance.[26] He was charged with DWI with a child passenger, leaving the scene of an accident, and other motor vehicle violations.[27] Gooden was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, because a child was with him at the time of the accident.[28] He later pleaded guilty to child endangerment, received five years probation, and was ordered to undergo outpatient drug treatment.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NL Cy Young Voting". Baseball-Reference.com. 
  2. ^ "Dwight Gooden Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. 
  3. ^ "Rick Sutcliffe Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. 
  4. ^ "Baseball-Reference.com". BaseballReference.com. 
  5. ^ "Dwight Gooden 1985 Pitching Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 28, 2010. 
  6. ^ Quality start
  7. ^ Coffey, Wayne (November 14, 2009). "Twenty-five years after his phenomenal rookie season, Dwight Gooden takes aim at his demons". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  8. ^ Higbie, Andrea (May 4, 1997). "Young Artist Seeks Brush With Subject – New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ "A fading picture". The Sporting News. Find Articles. November 14, 1994. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ Salvatore, Bryan Di (August 1, 2011). "The Talk of the Town: Doc". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Newspaper Archives". St. Petersburg Times. 
  12. ^ "Newspaper Archives". St. Petersburg Times. 
  13. ^ "Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week". The Hardball Times. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  14. ^ Claire Smith (April 2, 1992). "Baseball; Mets Rape Case Transferred To the Florida State Attorney". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Gooden Discloses Near Suicide Attempt". Apnewsarchive.com. June 21, 1996. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  16. ^ Higbie, Andrea (July 16, 1995). "NOTICED; Gooden Is Benched Again". New York Times. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  17. ^ David Justice, Dwight Gooden Deny Kirk Radomski's Allegations ESPN.com, January 27, 2009
  18. ^ "Gooden Pitches No-Hitter as Yankees Top Mariners, 2-0". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ a b "Dwight Gooden Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  20. ^ Police: Former Yankees and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden arrested on alleged DWI with 5-year-old son in the car NorthJersey.com, March 24, 2010
  21. ^ "Gooden arrested after turning self in on felony charges – MLB – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. August 26, 2005. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Gooden arrested for violating terms of probation – MLB – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. March 14, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Doc's savior sadly could be time spent behind bars – MLB – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. April 6, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Gooden says he'd rather be shot than jailed again – MLB – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. May 31, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Cy Young winner Gooden released from Florida prison – MLB – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. November 10, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  26. ^ Wills, Kerry; and McShane, Larry. "Ex-Mets star Dwight Gooden not ready to talk about drug charge stemming from crash with son in car", Daily News (New York), March 25, 2010. Accessed January 28, 2011. "'When the time is right, I will,' Gooden said outside his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J. 'Now is not the time. Sorry.'"
  27. ^ "Dwight Gooden Charged With DWI (Update)". Deadspin.com. March 24, 2010. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  28. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/03/24/gooden.arrest/
  29. ^ "Dwight Gooden gets probation in NJ DUI case". Fox News. April 15, 2011. 

External links[edit]