HomeTeamsMetsDoc Gooden’s Number 16 is Where it Belongs

Doc Gooden’s Number 16 is Where it Belongs

A light rain at CitiField early Sunday afternoon did not dampen the spirits of Dwight ‘Dr. K’ Gooden or his legion of Mets fans in attendance.  In his short speech which was made without referring to any notes, Gooden finally got to tell Mets fans how much he appreciated the support he received over his 11-year-career with the team. When the fans booed his mention of his Yankees tenure as a player, Gooden went out of his way to emphasize that “Hold on, I’m always a Met.”

The Yankees for whom he pitched a no-hitter and later was a non-playing member of the Yankees 2000 World championship team, Dwight Gooden has always been a Met at heart. He explained that he did not really want to leave the Mets when he left for Cleveland, (isn’t it interesting that both Gooden and former teammate Keith Hernandez went next to Cleveland after leaving the Mets). After two decent years with the then Indians, Gooden again asked the Mets for a reunion, but was rebuffed. He started the 2000 season with the Astros, but not before asking the Mets if they were interested. They were not. During the 2000 season he was traded to Tampa, starting eight games before being again traded, this time to the Yankees for whom he started five games late in the season. It had to be a bit surreal for Doc to be in the Yankee dugout at Shea Stadium on October 26, 2000, when Mike Piazza’s deep fly ball to center field off Mariano Rivera was caught by Bernie Williams and the Yankees jumped all over themselves while Mets fans like me could only watch in stunned silence.

Doc Gooden excelled in the era before mobile phones and social media. The back page of the New York Daily News and New York Post were the forums in which the discussion on state of the Mets took place. Gooden was truly a phenom, joining the Mets in 1984 under manager Davey Johnson who had managed to get Gooden to join his 1983 Tidewater Tides for the AAA playoffs. There were seemingly daily back page stories about Dwight Gooden’s incredible rookie year in which he struck out 276 National League batters.

Davey Johnson had first seen Gooden at age 17 in 1982 and was deeply impressed. In Gooden’s 1983 Lynchburg, VA (single A) season, he struck out 300 batters in 191 innings. Johnson and the Tides along with playoff addition Gooden, won the 1983 AAA championship.  Johnson made a promise to himself – “I said wherever I’m managing in 1984, that kid will be my opening day pitcher”.

As it turned out veteran right-hander Mike Torrez was the Mets 1984 opening day starting pitcher. After the ceremony yesterday, Torrez (check him out as he had a very good MLB career winning 185 games only having a losing record for one of the seven teams he played for – of course it was the Mets), and like so many on Sunday was invited by Mets owner Steve and his wife Alex Cohen, talked with SNY noting that he tried to help Gooden that season with what it took to being a successful major league pitcher. Gooden found those lessons invaluable, and Torrez came away impressed with the youngsters understanding of pitching. It’s just one contributing factor to Doc Gooden’s otherworldly pitching maturity that he displayed when he joined the Mets a age 19.

After the ceremony was complete, Gooden sat in the SNY booth with Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling. To watch and listen to the former teammates talk about Gooden’s career reminded how great that 1986 team was. Darling asked Gooden if he had to pick one of his pitches (Gooden only threw two pitches a fastball and a curveball), which would it be? Gooden did not hesitate to say his fastball. Dr. K’s ‘Lord Charles’ 12-6 curveball was an anomaly at the time, and as Gooden noted, few MLB pitchers throw a 12-6 curve today (Clayton Kershaw does but he’s left-handed) but Doc’s fastball was legendary.

Now Doc’s #16 hangs on the rafters of CitiField with all the all-time Met greats. Retiring the #18 of Gooden’s teammate and friend Darryl Strawberry is to follow on June 1st in a separate ceremony. Strawberry, who’s recuperating from a recent heart attack, made a big effort and was there to greet Gooden in person yesterday. Credit should be given to the Mets ownership for helping make the Mets feel more like a family than they’ve been in a long time.

Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner have had their names raised in the rafters with the Mets retired numbers. Former pitching star turned broadcaster Ron Darling and broadcasting legend Gary Cohen will get their turn having their names raised for all to see once they have retired. And that would feel right as they’ve been an important part of the Mets family for more than 30 years and in Darling’s case more than 40 years.

Yesterday the Mets family finally asked Doc Gooden to come back home. 

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.


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