November 16 – Happy Birthday Dwight Gooden
For those first initial glorious years of ”Doc’s” career, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award his first season with the Mets, the Cy Young Award his second, and a World Championship in his third. He won 24 games, led the National League in strikeouts and ERA, and threw eight shutouts when he was just 20 years of age. Unfortunately for Gooden and the Mets, he couldn’t handle his immense success. He gave it all up for cocaine.
George Steinbrenner made Doc a Yankee in 1996 and Gooden responded with 11 wins and that glorious no-hitter against Seattle. But the Gooden-pitched Yankee game I’ll remember most is the fourth game of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland. Even though New York was leading that series two games to one at the time, the Indians had hit both a hurting David Cone and a healthy Andy Pettitte hard in earlier games. Doc was Torre’s surprise choice to start the next game at Jacobs Field. When he took the mound, it had been ten days since he last pitched and Gooden probably surmised that New York was not going to re-sign him for ’98. He had gone a lackluster 9-7 that regular season and Yankee fans like me would not have been surprised if the hard-hitting Indians got to him early. Instead, Gooden was masterful for about as long as he could be. The only blemish had been a David Justice home run and when Torre came to the mound to take him out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees were leading 2-1.
Of course, New York went on to lose that game and that series but Doc had certainly impressed the heck out of me. He must have impressed the Indians quite a bit as well because less than two months later, Cleveland signed him to a two year deal for over $5.5 million. It seemed Gooden had conquered his demons at last, but of course we have found out since that he had not. What could have been.
Today is also my beautiful wife Rosemary’s birthday and my lovely sister-in-law Maria’s birthday too. Happy with love birthday ladies.