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Dwight Eugene Gooden (born November 16, 1964 in Tampa, Floridamarker), 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 drug and alcohol abuse.


A native of Tampa, Floridamarker, Gooden was drafted in the first round in , 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.

New York Mets


Gooden made his major-league debut on April 7, 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 Stadiummarker 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 and the second for a Mets rookie behind only Jerry Koosman's 19 wins in ). 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 led the league in strikeouts (276, breaking Herb Score's rookie record of 245 in ), and also set the record for most strikeouts in three consecutive starts with 43. Gooden was voted the Rookie of The Year, giving the Mets two consecutive winners of that award (Darryl Strawberry had been the recipient in 1983). He also became the third Mets pitcher to win the award, joining Tom Seaver ( ) and Jon Matlack ( ).


In , 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 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.

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. 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.


In , 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. 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.

Early drug problems and injuries

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 . 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 , 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 , which reduced him to a 9–4 record in 17 starts. He rebounded in , posting a 19–7 season with 223 strikeouts, second only to teammate David Cone's 233. However, after another injury in , 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.


 was Gooden's first-ever losing season (10-13); it was also the first time he had lost as many as 10 decisions.  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 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 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.

New York Yankees and three other teams

Gooden signed with the New York Yankees in as a free agent, reuniting him with former Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry, whose rapid rise followed by drug and legal problems paralleled Gooden's. After pitching poorly in April and nearly getting released, Gooden pitched a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 14 at Yankee Stadiummarker. He ended the 1996 season at 11–7, his first winning record since 1991, but only briefly regained his early form when he 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 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians; oddly, he again faced 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 to (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.


Dwight Gooden on September 28, 2008
Gooden retired in 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.

He took a job in the Yankees' front office. Gooden's nephew, Gary Sheffield, was signed to play for the Yankees prior to the season. Dwight acted as the go-between man during the negotiations.

Gooden appeared at the Shea Stadium final celebration on September 28, 2008, making it the first time he has appeared at Shea Stadium since 2000.

On April 13, 2009 he made an appearance at Citi Fieldmarker. Gooden signed his name to the inside of the Stadium. Fans voted to let him leave it there.

Legal troubles

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.

See also


  1. Dwight Gooden 1985 Pitching Gamelogs - Baseball-Reference PI
  2. Newspaper Archives | - St. Petersburg Times
  3. Newspaper Archives | - St. Petersburg Times
  4. Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week - The Hardball Times
  5. David Justice, Dwight Gooden Deny Kirk Radomski's Allegations, January 27, 2009
  6. Gooden Pitches No-Hitter as Yankees Top Mariners, 2-0

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