Gooden, Dwight 1968–
Dwight Gooden 1968–
Professional baseball player
Dwight Eugene Gooden, who would become one of the most dominant young pitchers of his generation, was born on November 16, 1964, in Tampa, Florida. His father Dan worked in a chemical plant and coached a semi-professional baseball team based in Tampa. His mother Ella May worked in the health care field. Gooden grew up the youngest of three brothers and two sisters. Though his other siblings were not baseball fans, Dwight immediately took to the sport and spent hours with his father’s team over the summer. Gooden did not play ball his first two years of high school, but was the star in his final two years at Hillsborough High. In his senior year he posted a 7–4 record with 135 strikeouts. His raw power attracted major league scouts from all over the country. Despite his mother’s wish that he attend college, the call of Major League Baseball was stronger. At the age of 17 Gooden was the fifth player drafted in the first round by the New York Mets. Gooden began in the Rookie Appalachian League in Kingsport, Tennessee. After being named a Rookie-League All-Star, he finished the season with the Mets’ Class A affiliate in Little Falls, New York. He was then promoted the next season to Lynchburg, Virginia, and by the end of the year was playing Triple A ball in Tidewater, Florida. After the 1983 season, Gooden had struck out 300 batters in 191 innings and posted a 19–4 record.
In Gooden’s third season as a professional, he was invited to try out for the Mets. Though he believed he was going to rejoin Tidewater in the Minor Leagues, Gooden had a strong Spring and the gifted 19-year-old made the team. In 1984 the youngest player in the National League (NL) became the first rookie to lead the league in strikeouts. Against the Dodgers Gooden established a new single-game rookie strikeout record with 14. He was named Player of the Week and then was named to the All-Star team. Gooden finished the season with a 17–9 record and a 2.60 Earned Run Average (ERA). He recorded 15 double-figure strikeout games and broke the rookie strikeout record with 276 strikeouts in only 218 innings. Gooden finished second in the NL Cy Young Award vote and was named the NL Rookie of the Year. He received 23 of the 24 first place votes to become the youngest player ever to win this honor.
In 1985 Gooden signed a new contract and proceeded
At a Glance…
Born Dwight Eugene Gooden, November 16, 1964, in Tampa, FL, to Dan Gooden (a steelworker) and Ella May Gooden (a health care worker); married Monica; children: Dwight Jr., Devon, Darren, Eugene, Ashley, Ariel D’Schae. Education: Graduated from Hillsborough High School, 1982.
Career: Fifth Selection of the New York Mets in the first round of the draft, 1982; Earned a spot on the Mets’ roster, 1984; On suspended list, June 28, 1994, through 1995 season; Signed with the New York Yankees, February 20, 1996; Signed with the Cleveland Indians, December, 1997.
Awards: National League Rookie of the Year, 1984; National League Cy Young Award Winner, 1985; First pitcher in the Major Leagues to record 200 or more strikeouts in first three seasons, 1986; Started in All-Star Game, 1988; Won Silver Slugger Award, 1992; Pitched a nohitter against the Seattle Mariners, 1996; Holds the Major League record for most rookie-season strikeouts (276) and the most strikeouts in two consecutive games (32).
Addresses: Home —St. Petersburg, FL; Professional —Cleveland Indians, P.O. Box 94954, Cleveland, OH 44101-4954
to top his astounding rookie season. In the off-season he added a change-up to his curveball and blazing fastball. By the All-Star break he was 13–3 with a 1.68 ERA, but by the end of the year he had shattered both marks. He finished the 1985 campaign with a 24–4 record, 268 strikeouts, and a 1.53 ERA. Gooden led the league in all three categories and was the unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young Award. He became the youngest player to ever win the ultimate prize for a pitcher with one of the most dominant seasons ever recorded in the history of Major League Baseball.
The 1986 season started out where Gooden left off. He recorded a complete game victory on opening day. Gooden stormed through the regular season racking up a career high 250 strikeouts and a 17–6 record. He became the first major leaguer to complete 200 strikeouts in each of his first three seasons. While he pitched ten innings in leading the Mets in the National League Championship Series, Gooden lost two games in the World Series. Though Gooden did not perform as impressively in the post season, the Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox to become World Champions.
Add his World Series title to the birth of his first child Dwight Jr. and 1986 should have been the best year of his life, but all was not well with the 21-year-old “Dr. K”. Gooden told Cecil Harris of Westchester Today that after he returned to Tampa following the World Series victory, he was surrounded by people who wanted to help him celebrate his success. “I started drinking beer and mixed drinks in the 11th grade. Just hanging out with friends, being part of the crowd. I would say the drinking didn’t get heavy until the 1986 season. That’s also when I got involved in drugs. I started using cocaine.” Gooden’s drinking and drug-use quickly spun out of control. He began the 1987 season not with the Mets in spring training, but in a Manhattan substance abuse center trying to beat his drug and alcohol addiction. Gooden came off the disabled list in June and won his first game back before a sellout crowd at Shea Stadium. Though Gooden seemed fine and stopped using drugs, he continued to drink. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and a 3.21 ERA though he pitched less than his standard 200 innings.
In 1988, Gooden returned to form posting an 18–9 record and starting in the All-Star Game. From 1989 to 1993 he balanced moments of excellence with physical ailments and a worsening drinking problem. In 1989 Gooden missed two months of the season with a torn muscle in his right shoulder. However, during that year he became the third youngest player to win 100 games. In 1990 Gooden bounced back posting a 19–7 record in 232 innings, but his injury problems continued in 1991. He had arthroscopic surgery in September and again went on the disabled list. That same year he recorded 1,500 career strikeouts and, despite arm troubles, he gutted out a 13–7 mark. Gooden won the Silver Slugger Award for pitchers in 1992, but he again missed part of the season on the disabled list. He was only able to post a 10–13 record, his first losing season since he soared onto the baseball scene as an 18-year-old dynamo. In 1993, Gooden logged over 200 innings, but continued to have mixed success. His 12–15 record was sub-par by his previous standards, though his seven complete games were the second most in the NL and he earned his 150th career victory. By September, he was done for the year because his shoulder injury flared up again. With still more problems in his once golden arm, which was no longer as reliable and powerful as it had been when Gooden was a younger man, the former ace turned to the bottle more heavily.
In 1994 Gooden suffered at the ballpark and away from it. He spent the season going from the injured reserve list because of a toe injury to the active roster. His final game of the year was on June 24th. At that point in the year he was 3–4 with a 6.31 ERA in seven starts. Four days after his final start, he was suspended from baseball for 60 days for testing positive for cocaine and violating his aftercare program. Two months later Gooden was caught using drugs again. On November 4, 1994, Major League Baseball banned Gooden for the entire 1995 season. His career with the Mets was over, and he was re-addicted to cocaine. The day after the year-long suspension was announced, Gooden considered suicide. He told the Associated Press,” I was destroyed by that (the ban). I was sitting there with a gun. I’d say, ‘Go ahead and end it,’ but then I’d say, ‘No, be a man and face up to your responsibilities, your wife and kids.’” His wife walking in the room may have saved his life. Gooden decided to go on with his life and enroll in a 12-step Narcotics Anonymous Program. As he gradually came to terms with his addiction, he began to throw on the side and to coach his son’s baseball team, waiting for an opportunity to play professional baseball again. Part of his problem was recognizing who had put him in this situation. He told ESPN’s Peter Gammons about his realization: “…the background was always there, but it was just the friends that I chose to hang around with. It was making a bad decision with those guys that I thought were friends. Still, the decisions I made were my own fault and I’m the one to blame for that.”
In August of 1995, Gooden applied to have his suspension lifted. As part of his reinstatement process he was drug-tested three times a week. When Gooden flew to New York to present his case, he told the Daily News why he thought he should be reinstated: “I think I have something to offer to the sport. It hasn’t been a good year for baseball. We’ve both been in rehabilitation. I think I can be an example to people and to kids. I’ve battled back from my problems to get my life in order. I think that sends a strong message.” Gooden was reinstated, and in October of 1995 he signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees. Though he was offered more money by the Florida Marlins, Gooden wanted to return to New York, where fans had supported him throughout his career. Before reporting to the Yankees, Gooden pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and he was not alone. Sitting behind the dugout was his sponsor from Narcotics Anonymous. After a short stint in Puerto Rico, Gooden reported to the Yankees. His return was greeted with widespread skepticism and criticized as a publicity stunt. In spring training before the 1996 season he was not sharp. In his comeback season he was shelled in his first three outings and compiled an ERA of 11.48. After two more poor outings, Gooden was exiled to the bullpen. An injury to Yankee starter David Cone allowed Gooden to regain his status as starter. He got his first win in two years, retiring the last 22 batters he faced against the Detroit Tigers. But Gooden’s best performance came two weeks later and signaled that he was back from the abyss of drug abuse. Using a 94-mile-an-hour fastball and a slider to keep the Seattle Mariners off balance, Gooden pitched a no-hitter. He would finish the season with a solid 11–7 record and a 5.01 ERA over 170 innings. The good news for Gooden was that he pitched well enough for the Yankees to pick up his option for another year, even though he was left off the post-season roster. His professional success was tempered by another tragedy. After the season Gooden’s father, Dan, who had recently undergone open-heart surgery and suffered kidney problems, died in January of 1997.
After winning his first start of the 1997 season Gooden struggled with injuries and spent seven games down in the minors for rehabilitation. Despite his physical problems, Gooden posted a 9–5 record with a 4.91 ERA in 106 innings pitched. He also started Game Four of the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. Though he got a no-decision in the Indians 3–2 win, he must have impressed someone in the Indians organization as he signed a free-agent contract with Cleveland through the 1999 season with a club option for the year 2000. The 33-year-old pitcher again looked like a bust during spring training the following year and then began the season on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder. After completing his seventh stay on the inactive roster, Gooden went through another rehabilitation with the Triple A Buffalo Bisons. In May Gooden began his twelfth Major League season. He started slowly but by the end of the campaign he was the Indians’ best starting pitcher. After losing to the Detroit Tigers, Gooden plowed through his final 11 games without a loss. From August to the end of the regular season Gooden posted a 5–0 record with a 3.19 ERA. Gooden’s career record at the end of the 1998 season was 185–103, ranking him sixth among active pitchers. Though Gooden’s won-loss record is impressive, perhaps the most important victory of his life has come not over other players on the baseball diamond, but over himself.
Newman, Matthew. Dwight Gooden. Crestwood House: Mankato, MN 1986.
Associated Press on Nando.net: http://www.nando.net/newsroom/ap/bbo...yy/feat/archive/062196/htm.
Cleveland Indians website: http://indians.com/club-house/bios/gooden.html.
Detroit News website: http://detnews.com/menu/stories/12566.htm.
Westchester Today website : http://www.nynews.com/topics/doc2.htm.
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