It’s a shame to see Dwight Gooden brought to so many lows when his Major League Baseball career started on such a high note. The good Doctor burst onto the scene as a teenager and made a splash in an MLB All-Star Game people still talk about.
Doc and the 1984 All-Star Game
Dwight Eugene Gooden grew up in Tampa, Florida. The New York Mets made the pitcher the fifth overall pick in the 1982 MLB Draft right out of high school.
His time in the minor leagues was brief, as he was called up to the big leagues for the beginning of the 1984 season. Gooden was a 19-year-old phenom already in the majors, and he quickly proved he wasn’t in over his head.
With an incredible fastball and a better curveball, Gooden racked up so many strikeouts Mets fans began calling him “Dr. K.” This quickly became shortened to “Doc,” giving Gooden his lifelong nickname. “Doc” pitched so well as a teenager that he was named to the 1984 All-Star Game as a rookie.
Representing the National League, Gooden took the mound in the fifth inning. He became the youngest All-Star ever. “Doc” was undaunted. He faced three hitters: Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. Gooden struck out all three of them. By the way, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela struck out the side in the fourth inning, meaning the American League whiffed in six straight at-bats.
The rest of the 1984 season went great for Gooden. He led the majors with 276 strikeouts, and while nobody would have known it at the time, he also led the majors with an 1.69 FIP. “Doc” finished second in Cy Young award voting, but he did end his first regular season with the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Dwight Gooden’s Career
The 1985 season went even better for Gooden. He led the NL with 16 complete games and won the pitching Triple Crown. That season did end with “Doc” winning the Cy Young at the tender age of 20, and he finished fourth in the MVP voting.
While the 1986 season was a step down for Gooden personally, it was a dream season for the Mets. For the first time in his career Gooden appeared in the postseason, and the Mets went all the way to the 1986 World Series. They faced the Boston Red Sox, and you may remember how that series went. Bill Buckner was involved, and the Mets took home the World Series title.
Weirdly, the only other award Gooden won with the Mets was a Silver Slugger in 1992. In 1994, he was suspended for testing positive for cocaine. Later in life, Gooden noted in his autobiography a long-stranding history of alcohol and cocaine abuse.
“Doc” signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees in 1996 and threw his only career no-hitter. The Yankees won a World Series that year, but Gooden wasn’t on the postseason roster.
Gooden then spent two seasons with the Cleveland Indians in 1998 and 1999, though they didn’t go great. He spent stints with the Houston Astros and his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000 before heading back to the Yankees. He returned to the playoffs and the Yankees won the World Series over his former Mets team, giving Gooden one more ring. He retired after the 2000 season.
After retiring, Gooden was elected into the Mets Hall of Fame in a class that included his fellow troubled teammate Darryl Strawberry. However, in spite of the strong start to his career, he would fall off the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame after appearing for the first time.
That being said, the story of Gooden after his career is primarily colored by repeated run-ins with the law. Most of them involve alcohol or cocaine, and he has been arrested for driving while intoxicated on multiple occasions.
Maintaining a fandom of “Doc” has been difficult for some Mets fans, and he’s been left in the dust as we’ve watched Jacob deGrom dominate the Mets’ rivals in the NL East like the Phillies and the Braves.
The story of Doc’s life is an ugly one. The story of his magical rookie campaign in 1984, though, has not lost its charm.