Fan Post: Dwight Gooden – what could have been?
By Alan Schechter
Go back with me for a minute to when you attended your first major league baseball game. You were what, six, seven, or eight years old? Remember walking into the stadium for the first time, and seeing those colors. The bright green of the freshly cut grass, the colors of the outfield wall (bright blue if you were at Shea), the bright white lines, just all of it. Breathe in, and remember the smells of the hot dogs, the steaming pretzels…….great memory, right?
My experience like that was in 1985. I was eight years old, for the life of me I don’t remember who they were playing, but I was at Shea Stadium to see…my Mets!
The Mets were the team on the rise, and I was going to see my team live. I couldn’t wait. I got there, and all of those experiences I mentioned above were beautiful. There is something special about a child connecting with their favorite baseball team. Baseball and youth just has a magical connection. I was no different.
I do remember, however, who was on the mound. It was a young pitcher taking the world by storm. He brought a blazing fastball, and a 12 to 6 curveball that buckled knees all over the sport. And on this day, he was just brilliant. It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen to date. His name? Dwight Gooden. He won that day, and as most of you know, almost every other day as well on his way to a Cy Young award and a 24-4 record.
I was hooked. These were my guys. This was my pitcher! I was going to watch this guy play for a long time, and it is going to be great. Then came 1986, and Dwight fell off the pace a bit. He was mortal. He pitched well at times, but got rocked at others. What happened? How could Dwight Gooden be mortal? He won 17 games in 1986, and never got close to a 20-win season again.
You all know what happened. Drugs are what happened. Suspensions, widely critiqued returns, and more suspensions. For his career, the pitcher now known as Doc Gooden was good, but never became what he should have become. He never had the career that was ahead of him, because of the drugs. He deprived Mets fans of my generation from watching our Sandy Koufax, our Bob Gibson. And I never forgave him for it.
Doc turned his life around, and as a human being, I applaud him for it. But I’ll never get over the fact that he ruined part of my first experience with baseball. It came to a head on Saturday night, April 19th, when the Mets took on the Braves. Doc Gooden came out to throw out the first pitch of the game. Most everyone cheered for him. I did not. For what he did to my team, the team I grew up living and dying with, I can’t forgive him. As an adult, I can applaud him for turning his life around. But deep inside will always be that eight year old that he left in the dust, because he was on drugs.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am the editor of the Jets FanSided site TheJetPress.com. Come check us out!