Saturday, March 27, 2010

When Doc Was Clocked

The year was 1986. Dwight Gooden was 21 and coming off a Cy Young Award-winning season. Darryl Strawberry was 23 and coming off a season in which he missed two months due to a thumb injury, yet still managed to hit a then-career high 29 HR. Mike Tyson was an up-and-coming 20-year-old boxer who was about to become the youngest heavyweight boxer in history.

They met for the first time at Shea Stadium where a wayward punch by Tyson connected with the chin of Doc Gooden. Everything changed after that fateful day when Doc was clocked.

Although Gooden finished the 1986 season with a 17-9 record, he failed to show up during the World Series, not getting past the fifth inning in either of his two starts. Continuing his AWOL trend, he was also conspicuously absent at the team's World Series ticker-tape parade. Fortunately for him, he did show up to Smithers that following spring to begin a drug rehab stint that would keep him out of action for the first two months of the 1987 season.

Injuries and more drug and alcohol troubles led to more DL trips and suspensions, eventually ending his once-promising career with the Mets in 1994. Gooden continued his career with the Yankees (pitching a no-hitter for them in 1996), followed by stints with the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He returned to the Yankees to finish up his career in 2000 and retired before the 2001 season.

Gooden finished his career with a 194-112 won-loss record. However, 100 of those wins came before his 25th birthday. He re-appeared in a Mets jersey during the Shea Goodbye ceremonies on Sept. 28, 2008 and had been making appearances at Citi Field.

It looked as if Doctor K had finally turned the page. However, that was not to be the case. A few days ago, Doc was arrested in New Jersey after he left the scene of a traffic accident. Upon his arrest, he was found to be under the influence of an undisclosed controlled substance. He was charged with DWI with a child in the car, endangering the welfare of said child and leaving the scene of an accident.

It is not believed that this recent behavior will affect Doc's induction into the Mets' Hall of Fame on August 1. However, it is still sad that a once-promising athlete continues to struggle with his personal demons long after his retirement from the sport that gave him his popularity and his livelihood.

Doc Gooden was a role model to many kids. He now has kids of his own who need him to be a father to them. Someday they're going to have problems of their own and they'll need the guidance that a father can provide. But can they really come to a man who hasn't been able to deal with own problems, continuing to create new ones for himself and those around him?

I'm glad Darryl Strawberry moved out of the way of Mike Tyson's punch back in 1986. Although Darryl also succumbed to the pressures surrounding him, he was able to exorcise his demons and is now back to being a respected member of the Mets community.

If Gooden wants to take the same road to recovery that Darryl took, he's going to have to want it. The demons that continue to rear their ugly heads have to be faced head on. Otherwise, there will be no saving Doc. Once he saves himself, he will be able to enjoy his life again, perhaps getting into the newspaper for positive things (like the 2010 Mets Hall of Fame induction) than for negative things.

Doc Gooden will never truly live his life until he can overcome the vices that are living his life for him. We wish Doc well so that he can make a triumphant return to Citi Field on August 1, but most importantly, we wish Doc well so that he can make a triumphant return to life. It can be a beautiful thing once you allow yourself to live it properly.

3 comments:

Sollywood's Mayor said...

Well said, Bear Man

DyHrdMET said...

Well said. I hope this doesn't prove out to be very very ugly for him. And I feel more for this incident because he's been back in the Mets family.

Ed Leyro (and Joey) said...

Thanks, guys. Doc Gooden was a very important part of my childhood. I listened to many of his games from 1984-1986 on a radio hidden underneath my pillow while my parents thought I was sleeping. For his sake, for his kids' sake, I hope this is the last time we have to hear of a relapse.