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dabvu2498
08-04-2006, 11:04 AM
Dwight will miss the 1986 Mets' reunion:


Doc writes that life behind bars is 'torture'
Thursday, August 3, 2006

By BOB KLAPISCH
SPORTS COLUMNIST



AP
When the 1986 Mets celebrate their world championship in two weeks, Dwight Gooden will be in the Gainesville Correctional Facility.

The reunion at Shea is scheduled for Aug. 19, when everyone will officially be transported back to 1986. On that day, Keith Hernandez will still be the lean, chiseled hitter who was impossible to retire after the seventh inning. Gary Carter's knees will miraculously stop aching. Ron Darling will remember how hard he used to throw (he hasn't picked up a ball in almost a decade) and Mookie Wilson will take up the debate for the ages -- whether he would've beaten Bill Buckner to first base.

Nostalgia, of course, is the fuel that keeps baseball's engine running. What better way to recreate the memories of the summer of '86 than to bring everyone together for the 20-year anniversary. It's the perfect time, considering the Mets are crushing the National League all over again. It's hip to be a Met again. Hip to root for them. Just like the good old days.

Only, the picture isn't quite so idyllic for Dwight Gooden. Locked away at the Gainesville Correctional Facility in Florida, Doc is serving time for violating the terms of his most recent probation. He was incarcerated in April, he'll be out in November -- nowhere to be found while the party rocks in Flushing.

"It's sad, it's a shame, we're all going to be thinking of Doc," is what Darling was saying over the phone Wednesday. He was in a cab, on his way to the SportsNet studios where he's found a second life as a broadcaster. Darling remembers the most vivid images of Gooden from the 1980s: charting him from the dugout in the magical 24-4 summer of 1985, it was Strike One, Strike Two to every hitter.

"If there'd been a higher league in 1985, Doc would've been called up in May," Darling said. "You know how you see in the Little League World Series, some kid who's 6-0 and looks like he's already shaving? Too good to be playing against everyone else? That was Doc that year, he embarrassed hitters. He was one of the faces of the Mets, he and Darryl and Keith and Kid rejuvenated the franchise from the early Eighties."

Don't think Gooden is unaware of the world passing him by. He has limited phone privileges in prison, but he's had visitors in Gainesville, including the New York Post, which sent a reporter to see him in May. Gooden told the paper how slowly the days pass and what a mistake it had been for him to choose his seven-month sentence instead of reinstatement of his probation.

Gooden apparently knew he could no longer trust himself in the outside world. One more slip-up and he was facing a five-year term, said the judge, so Doc decided seven months was manageable, considering that he would he entering the prison's drug rehab program. Irony of ironies, this was the same facility that housed Darryl Strawberry in 2002.

I wrote to Gooden in June, asking for an interview. Two weeks later, a letter appeared in my mailbox. It was Doc's handwriting, but instead of the flowing, charismatic autograph from his heyday, his name was neatly printed like a grade schooler's in the return address line. Dwight had a nickname, but it wasn't Doc. It was his prisoner number, T4 7272A2 118, right next to the postmark which was stamped: "Mailed from a State Correctional Institution."

Gooden wrote in long-hand. on old-school, three-hole notebook paper. He didn't hide his misery.

"The treatment part of [jail] is nasty and it's like a torture chamber," Gooden wrote, later adding, "This place has changed a lot since Straw was here."

The letter concluded with an invitation -- no, a plea -- for me to fly to Gainesville.

"The sooner the better," Gooden wrote. He also asked that I respond immediately to his letter so he could be sure prison officials hadn't intercepted his correspondence.

It took several phone calls and a flurry of paperwork, but the interview was arranged for this week. I was going to interview Doc in front of ESPN's cameras in a segment to be aired on "SportsCenter." The print version would appear in The Record. Gooden would tell his story, I was assured, although prison officials warned that he'd made similar arrangements in June and July with ABC News and the New York Daily News. Both times, Gooden canceled at the eleventh hour.

I thought back to the last time I'd seen Gooden. It was March 2 at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., and to everyone's surprise, Doc was standing in the lobby. It was a bold appearance, considering he was no longer working for the Yankees. The previous summer Doc just stopped showing up at the ballpark, a downward spiral that ended in catastrophe. On Aug. 22, 2005, Doc fled from the police after being pulled over on suspicion of DUI. He turned himself in three days later and was sentenced to rehab and probation.

That was the last the public saw of Gooden until this past March at the Yankees' spring training headquarters. He looked happy -- he said George Steinbrenner was about to hire him back -- but strangely energized, almost jittery. Could Gooden have been crazy enough to show up at the ballpark high? The thought occurred to everyone he spoke to that day.

Looking back, friends are certain Gooden was in the worst-possible state, reckless enough to do anything, including reporting to his probation officer under the influence of drugs. The officer took one look at Doc, all twitchy and sniffly, and knew the former Met star had relapsed again. Still, Gooden had developed a friendship with the cops. According to a friend familiar with the events that day, the officer told him, "If you pass [the drug test], you can walk right out of here."

It was just a formality, of course. Doc was promptly arrested.

What was Gooden thinking that day? And why, when faced with the choice of jail or more probation, did Doc choose life behind bars? Those were among the questions I was prepared to ask the greatest single-season pitcher I'd ever seen.

Ready, until the call came from the jail: Gooden had canceled the interview.

We may never know why. We may never understand anything about a man who used to own the baseball world, now reduced to fighting for sobriety 24 hours at a time.

"We all have our skeletons and demons, Doc's just seem to be larger," Darling was saying. "All of us die a little bit every time we hear Doc is going backward."

E-mail: klapisch@northjersey.com


http://northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyNjgmZmdi ZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY5NzAzOTcmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZU VFeXk2

15fan
08-04-2006, 12:20 PM
I wasn't alive when Gibson & McLain dominated in 1968. Dwight Gooden's 1985 is probably the best season a pitcher has ever had in my lifetime.

At age 20, these were Gooden's numbers in 1985:

276 & 2/3 innings pitched, 198 hits, 47 earned runs, 268 Ks, 69 walks, 16 complete games, 8 shutouts, and an ERA of 1.53.

It's as if Gooden was using Zeus' right arm on the mound that year.

KalDanielsfan
08-04-2006, 12:51 PM
my heart goes out to the guy.

what a talent he was. remarkable.

LINEDRIVER
08-04-2006, 02:37 PM
My thoughts on Dwight Gooden in jail.....

When you have to eat runny Cream of Wheat with a plastic fork, you know it's time to turn your life around.

cincrazy
08-04-2006, 02:47 PM
I'm sorry, I don't feel one ounce of remorse for him. The guy had the world in the palm of his hand, and ruined it. He's had chance after chance after chance, JUST because he was an athlete, and he still blows it each and every time. The guy was one hell of a pitcher in his prime, but he is the prime example as to what big time fame can do to someone so young. The guy could have went down in the same breath as Pedro, the Big Unit, and others. Instead he'll forever be a cautionary tale to all young athletes.

GoGoWhiteSox
08-04-2006, 06:04 PM
I'm sorry, I don't feel one ounce of remorse for him. The guy had the world in the palm of his hand, and ruined it. He's had chance after chance after chance, JUST because he was an athlete, and he still blows it each and every time. The guy was one hell of a pitcher in his prime, but he is the prime example as to what big time fame can do to someone so young. The guy could have went down in the same breath as Pedro, the Big Unit, and others. Instead he'll forever be a cautionary tale to all young athletes.
I'd have to agree with you there. What a waste of talent.

SteveJRogers
08-04-2006, 10:52 PM
Yup. His tale is much more worse than anything a Kerry Wood (injuries) or a Fernando Valenzuela (peaked early) could tell you.

Hell he could be today matching wins with Clemens and Maddux

Instead...