DOC: A MEMOIR by Dwight Gooden (famous Met’s Pitcher)

These passages from reading a famous Met’s Pitcher around addiction were interesting to me…

What an emotional rollercoaster! You think you want to be famous but there are certainly a lot of things people don’t think about when being famous. Everyone knows your business all of the time.

“How could these things happen in the same family that was so supportive and made me feel so secure? That’s not an easy question. For a long time, I buried most of these dark family memories. I took comfort from all the love I got at home, which truly was the vast majority of my experience, and I shrugged off the rest. I never wanted to dwell on the bad parts. But they must have affected me somehow. Did they plant silent seeds that grew into adult demons? Did I absorb unhealthy patterns that played out later on? Being related to all these people, did I have some genetic tendency to take reckless risks in my own life? Or is the majority of the responsibility my own? I’ve spent a lot of years trying to untangle all that. And the answer to all those questions, I am convinced, is yes. Yes, my upbringing had a huge affect on me. Yes, my family helped to shape the person I became. And yes, the choices I made—the good and the bad ones—had a giant affect as well.”

“Certainly, my family, like a lot of families, was a whole lot more complicated than I realized when I was growing up. But here’s the strange part that gives me hope today: Whatever else was happening inside my family, I always felt loved, supported, and appreciated. I loved them, and they loved me. My family background might have set some traps for me. But it also laid a foundation for all I have been able to achieve in my life. I’m convinced that kids have a much higher tolerance than we give them credit for, as long as they feel that love. I sure hope so, given some of my own failings as a dad.”

“He considered himself a good spotter of young talent, and he told my father he saw something in me. He had a unique way of being encouraging. He’d lean on the fence along the third base line and chatter constantly at players on the field. He liked to dream up little nicknames that only he understood.”

“When I was on the mound, he would wait until I reached 0 and 2 on a batter. Then, he’d start to yell. “Operate on him, Doc! Time to operate, Doc!” He told my father I performed like a surgeon out there. Steady and smooth. Getting the job done.”

“But Coach Reed started to notice that every time he’d put me in to pitch, no one seemed to hit the ball. And one afternoon, the coach pulled me aside. “You may have something, kid,” he said. That made me feel pretty good. It was a lucky break that I got noticed at all. Early in my first season, several scouts came to see my friend Vance Lovelace, who was a senior and had also been on a nice pitching run. But Vance had a couple of rocky innings that day, and Coach Reed pulled him out.”

“I couldn’t believe it. I knew I had ability. I didn’t feel like I was undeserving. But there were some very talented players who were drafted after me that year: Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, Will Clark, David Wells, Roger McDowell, Jimmy Key, Bo Jackson, Mitch Williams, Terry Pendleton, Rafael Palmeiro, Todd Worrell, Barry Larkin, and my high school teammate, Floyd Youmans. The list went on and on.”

“I was too excited to drive the Duster home. I gave Eddie the keys. I couldn’t wait to see the look on my dad’s face. “We did it!” I yelled as Eddie parked the car and we ran up the sidewalk, as my dad was stepping onto the porch. “Fifth pick! First round. I was the Mets’ first player.” The look on my dad’s face, right then and there, might have been the happiest I had ever seen on him. That was it. All our time on the diamond. All those Saturdays in the den. The promise I had made to my mother. His dream and my dream, finally mushed into one.”

“Then he went inside and got on the phone, calling what seemed like everyone he knew, making sure they understood how big this was. Within a few minutes, news trucks from Channel 8 and Channel 13 were pulling up on our block. Other reporters were calling on the phone. Neighbors came out to see what all the excitement was. Soon, moms in housecoats and dads in Bermuda shorts were giving interviews about what a nice, decent kid I was. My mom was happy too. But she remained pragmatic. “Will the Mets let you go to college first?” she asked. Dad and I both laughed. “No, Ella,” Dad said, “It doesn’t work like that. The deal is for now.”

“In the end, Joe came back with one more offer. An $85,000 signing bonus on top of the $40,000 that was then the standard first-year major-league salary, which sounded like a huge pile of money to me. But really, I just wanted to play baseball.”

“I—” “You’ve got a shitload of talent that’s gonna go right into the sewer,” Cumberland said. “So you know what you gotta do now, don’t ya, Doc?” “What?” “The only thing you can do,” he said, looking at me like I was in the back of the slow class. “You gotta put the fear of God into these sons-of-bitches! Christ, kid, you’re throwing in the mid-90s. Scare ’em!” I just nodded. “From now on, anytime a guy gets a base hit off of you, the next guy up to bat, you knock his ass down. If a guy hits a home run off you, the next guy up gets drilled. Hit him.” I’d never pitched that way before. Frankly, it made me a little uncomfortable. Was he saying “Hit batters on purpose?” I guess he kinda was. But prior to that, I had no strategy of intimidation. Growing up, I relied on straight heat and controlling my curveball. Those were the two pitches I had, and that was enough.”

“It’s not what you think,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re going to Tidewater, triple-A.” He didn’t have to tell me that Davey Johnson was managing the Mets AAA club in Tidewater, Virginia. “Davey wants you for their playoffs.” All of a sudden, an old, familiar feeling swept over me. “I want to stay here,” I said immediately. I knew it was an honor, Davey Johnson wanting me to leap entirely over AA ball and help his AAA team. It was flattering too. But I was doing well in Lynchburg. I felt loyal to my teammates there. I was having fun. The Lynchburg team was on its way to winning the Carolina League. Didn’t they need me? “That’s not how it works, kid,” Sam said. “You’ll be one step away from the majors. You should be excited.”

“Congratulations, Doc,” he said, smiling. “Didn’t I tell you? You made the team. Now get out to the bullpen. I’m gonna use you in the seventh.” Before I trotted to the bullpen, I asked one of the clubhouse kids to get my stuff out of my dad’s car and put it on the bus to the airport. I went into the game and struck out four of the six batters I faced. After the game, I told my dad I made the team. He had the same look on his face he did the day I was drafted, like this dream of ours kept coming true. I was on my way to the majors—drafted, signed, and tested—a full-fledged member of the New York Mets. I was heading off to opening day in Cincinnati, ready to face the team my dad and I had watched on television in the family den.

“Rookie Season WHEN I WAS CALLED UP to the big team, I felt like a whole lot of people had been waiting around for me, and I thought I understood why. To the players, the fans, and the sportswriters who’d been following my progress in the minors, I was the bright, shiny hope for a baseball team that desperately needed some. These were tough times all around in New York, and not just for the Mets. Crack was exploding. Crime was high. People felt jittery in their own neighborhoods. When the rest of life is difficult, sports can bring important relief. That was true in Georgia in my father’s and grandfather’s days. Maybe it would be true again in New York, a city with two professional baseball teams. But being a sports fan is a whole lot more fun when your team has a shot at winning. Given all the hype about me in the minors,”

“Mets fans were thinking I could help turn some things around for them, maybe bring back some of the fun that had been sadly absent since the Mets’ World Series season of 1969. Of course, I wasn’t going to rescue the struggling franchise alone. That would take a team effort, literally. I was nineteen years old. But I could help. I knew I could. And I was about to learn something else: if I could do that for New York, there was almost nothing New York wouldn’t do for me. This was a city in search of a savior. Maybe it was wishful thinking. But coming into the 1984 season, a whole lot of Mets fans thought that savior might be me. The Mets’ idea was to let me get a taste of major-league life before I actually took the mound, especially in front of the home crowd in New York. Everyone knew what a pressure cooker Shea Stadium could be. Our first nine games that season—fourteen of our first seventeen—were away games. So I had some time to ease in.”

“After two games in Cincinnati—we won one, we lost one—we flew to Houston, where we won all three. I made my first major-league start on Saturday, April 7, in the Astrodome, four games into the season. The team flew my mom and dad to Houston to watch me pitch, laying on the full star treatment. The whole experience was exciting—for me and my folks. Someone gave Dad a hat and a satin Mets jacket, which I don’t think he took off until he got back to Tampa—and maybe not even then. I made it five innings and picked up the win. I pitched—not great but okay. I was nervous the whole time. But I guess I made an impression on the Astros’ Ray Knight, who told reporters after the game: “His fastball explodes just like Nolan Ryan’s.” All in all, it was a fairly gentle initiation to major-league baseball.”

“Caution around the media wasn’t a lesson I ever learned very well. Over the years, the reporters would get plenty of mileage out of me. But the experience in Chicago did make me want to shut down the Cubs every time I ever faced them again. I’m proud to say I almost did. My career record against the Cubs was 28–4. That was no accident.”

“My eyes went there too. I didn’t want to be too obvious, but as the ball was being thrown around the infield after a strikeout, I often turned to left field, sneaking a peek and doing a quick tally of the Ks. Strikeouts became almost an addiction for me—and for the fans. Once I’d get two strikes on a batter, the people would rise to their feet and begin clapping. The K Korner would start waving the next K in the air, taunting the batter and pulling me along. I figured the whole thing worked only to my advantage. It put extra pressure on the hitters. What self-respecting hitter would want to have his failure memorialized with yet another Shea Stadium K? If the pitch was even close and the hitter didn’t swing, the umpire might be slightly more inclined to call a strike. A lot of times, unless I had two or three balls in a count, I would intentionally aim a hair out of the strike zone to make the hitter chase a pitch he was unlikely to reach.”

“You know these fuckers are scared of you, don’t ya?” he’d say about opposing batters. “Your fastball comes in at their belt and ends up near their face. Half the time they’re swinging in self-defense. Use that to your advantage, Doc. Don’t back down from anyone.” Ever since spring training, Darryl Strawberry had been working on my attitude. Two years older than I was, with way more life experience, Darryl specialized in attitude. “You’re a professional now,” he told me. “So carry yourself like one. Act like you belong here. Walk with your head held high.”

“Take a look at his stance,” Keith said. “When he spreads his legs, he gets extension with his arms. He’s thinking fastball. When he stands more straight up? He’s thinking curve.” Keith’s lessons never stopped. Mike Torrez was the same way. A veteran player in his last year with the team, Mike had no hint of resentment at us younger guys coming up. “As long as I’m on the team, I’m gonna help you out,” he told me. He was passionate about playing and teaching the game the right way. He often had me sit with him in the dugout. As the games progressed, there would be pop quizzes. He would stop and ask, “Okay, what would you throw in this situation?” However I answered, Mike would ask, “Why would you do that?” I felt like I was back in Tampa with my father, analyzing the game of the week. Mike’s advice was ten times more useful than any scouting report. Keith and Mike were extraordinary resources, influencing how I pitched and, more important, how I thought about pitching.”

“There were so many big-league rules to learn. It was Hubie Brooks who decided to share his grand-slam dating advice. Walking off the bus into the hotel in Montreal, Hubie tapped my shoulder and smiled. “Lemme tell you a little somethin’ about the road, Doc,” he said. “You gotta learn this early, ’cause I don’t want to hear about you getting tangled up in some bullshit.” “What do you mean?” I asked. We kept walking into the lobby, where a dozen young women seemed to be waiting for us. And it was still early in the day. “Look around,” he said, his eyes scanning the couches and chairs. “It’s gonna be pretty easy to get laid out here, but it’ll be a little bit tougher to stay out of trouble.” “Yeah?” “You’re gonna be going to a lot of cities,” he explained. “You mess around with a gal, you can’t let them think it means anything, right?” “Sure,” I said, “I hear you.” “So you pick one, then bang ’em and get ’em out of your room,” he advised. “Politely. Don’t lead them on. Don’t give ’em any souvenirs. Don’t cuddle excessively. God knows what can happen if some chick gets mad at you, hunting you down, claiming she’s pregnant, or making up stories about you.”

“Cy Season I FINISHED OUT MY ROOKIE year with a nice pile of numbers and a big boost in confidence. “I guess I can play at this level,” I told my dad. At the end of the season, I was 17–9 with 276 strikeouts, the most ever by a rookie pitcher and the most I would ever record in my career. For my efforts, I was voted National League Rookie of the Year. Dad was impressed with the honor but not the trophy. “I thought for sure it would be a great, big, fancy thing,” he told me with a shrug. “That doesn’t look like much at all.” The Mets hung with the Cubs as long as we could, but they won the East before losing in the playoffs to San Diego. Still, we gave the fans a genuine turnaround from 1983 and a reason to be hopeful about 1985.”

“I was following the off-season news in the Tampa and St. Petersburg papers and talking on the phone with some of my teammates. Heading into the 1985 season, we traded Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, Hubie Brooks (gosh, who’d advise me about women now?), and Floyd Youmans to Montreal for Gary Carter. I was especially sorry to see Floyd slip away. He had still been on the Lynchburg farm team. But he and I had been playing together since Belmont Heights Little League, and he’d been drafted by the Mets right behind me. Still, after pitching to Gary in the All-Star Game, I knew what a phenomenal piece of the puzzle he could be. He seemed to like my throwing style, and I was certain he would draw the best out of me. Just before spring training, Jim finalized my new deal, $275,000 plus $200,000 in bonus money. When I got back to New York, I bought an even fancier new Mercedes to drive up there, trading in my pimped-out Camaro Z28 for a silver 500 SEL with tinted windows and flashy rims.”

“Much has been written and said about my wins that season, my various records and awards. But it was the simple joy of playing well that I loved the most. I took the mound. I threw the ball. My fastball kept rising. My curveball got even filthier than it was. People had trouble hitting me. I struck a lot of them out. I had some good fielders behind me. And working the other half of the innings, our hitters put runs on the board. After a so-so 6–3 start, I won and I won and won. And then I won some more. In Gary Carter, I had the perfect partner to bring out the fire in me. I was quiet and focused on the pitcher’s mound. He was the Energizer Bunny behind the plate. He was aggressive, and he never shut up. On the days I had my good stuff, he kept demanding more of it. On the days I struggled, he would pop his fist in his glove and yell at me: “Come on, Doc! What the fuck are you doing? You’re better than this!”

“The game crowds kept growing larger. The team noticed an attendance bump on the days that I pitched. Thirty, forty, sometimes fifty thousand people were coming to watch me work. It was all pretty head-turning for an awkward twenty-year-old. Nineteen eighty-five was the year I learned I couldn’t hide. The media knew me. The other teams knew me. The fans certainly did. Almost everyone was being swept up in the story of the great young pitcher who brought it, the shy boy dominating the big leagues, the savior not just of a struggling baseball team but of the struggling city it symbolized. I was tossed into a whirlwind of attention, endorsements, and fame. I signed a lot of contracts with big companies. Jim made deals for me with Polaroid, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Sports Illustrated, Spalding, even Toys “R” Us. Major brands with major marketing budgets.”

“The praise kept pouring in. Jesse Orosco, my sometimes late-inning reliever, said I reminded him of Fernando Valenzuela. No, Gary Carter said. Think Bob Gibson. Mel Stottlemyre, the veteran pitching coach who’d worked with lots of major talent, said even Bob Feller wasn’t this good at my age. Sandy Koufax said he’d trade his past for my future. Mickey Mantle said he wanted to be me. Davey Johnson pushed all the comparisons aside. My talent, he said, just was. “He has command of pitches and of himself,” Davey told reporters one day. “He’s a prodigy—that’s all. Why try to define it? How can you define a prodigy?”

“jump to $1.3 million. The endorsement deals were still pouring in. After I won the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards, and all the TV ads, people seemed to know me everywhere—not just in Tampa and New York, and not just sports fans. Mets fans were still talking about the dominant season I’d had. Even I felt like I’d pitched well. And the team was only getting stronger. In November, we’d traded with the Red Sox for lefty pitcher Bob Ojeda, a veteran starter who could bring new leadership to our rotation. We were slowly assembling a truly lethal lineup. It wasn’t out of the question that we could go all the way.”

“So why was I feeling so bored? My previous off-seasons, I’d been happy to sit around the house with my parents and have a few beers with my friends. Just waking up in the morning felt new and exciting to me. But now, for reasons I wasn’t exactly sure of, I was having trouble getting used to the off-season pace. Had I finally begun to think of myself as a real big-leaguer? Had I been enjoying the faster New York lifestyle a little more than I thought? One hundred and sixty-two games a year, even if you’re not an everyday player, is a frantic rhythm for anyone. During the season, I could work off my excess energy on the mound, then decompress on the off-days with my teammates. I had focus and purpose and regular demands on me. Now, not so much.”

“Looking past Bo’s shoulder, I could see two of his ladies fooling around with each other on the bed. From what I could tell, they were probably ten years older than me, and they looked like they could be the backup dancers at a Prince concert. The taller one was dark-skinned, trim, and small-breasted. The other one was lighter and shorter, all tits and butt. Bo caught me staring into the bedroom. “Don’t pay any attention to them, Doc,” he cautioned me. “You don’t want to get tangled up in that. Sit down on the couch. Watch some TV. I’ll be back before you know it.” I grabbed a beer and sat. I left the TV off. In a minute, I could hear the ladies giggling in the bedroom. I looked up, and I could see them making out. The shorter one, I could see, had on purple-colored underpants, white boots, and nothing else. Through the door, I could see one of the women grab a handheld mirror and tap some white powder out of a little baggie. The tall girl used an ID card to push the powder into lines. I was mesmerized by their attention to detail—almost as much as I was mesmerized by them.”

“Between the snorting, they took turns making me feel good. Then about an hour after he’d left, my cousin came back. He took one look in the bedroom—I was sweating and talking a mile a minute—and he knew what was up. He started yelling at the girls. Then he looked disgustedly at me. “I know you didn’t do what I think you did,” he said. “I only did a little,” I lied. “Here,” he said furiously, handing me the pot. “I got some weed for you. Take it and get the hell out of here. Get your act together.” “I don’t need that anymore,” I said to him, grinning now. “I want what they got.” He glanced at the girls and shook his head at them. “I can’t believe you got him messed up on that stuff,” my cousin said. “What the—?” “So can you give me what I want?” I interrupted. After the hour I’d just had, weed seemed pointless. “Can’t do that, cousin. You know better.” “If you don’t give it to me,” I said, “I’ll go find it myself.” After more arguing and pleading and a quick good-bye to the girls, I left my cousin’s house empty-handed and met up with one of my friends. Sure enough, he told me where I could score some cocaine.”

“Five games into the season, with the team 2–3, the Mets’ front office woke up to my picture on the cover of the New York Daily News. “I AM NOT A VIOLENT PERSON,” the headline said. The story described a loud disagreement at a Hertz rental car counter at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where I’d been returning a car with my sister Betty and my girlfriend, Carlene. I don’t know why I got so angry at the Hertz clerk. But I did call her a stupid bitch when I thought she was giving Betty and Carlene an unnecessarily hard time. That was stupid of me. I lost my cool. Like it or not, I just had to realize I’d be under a whole new level of scrutiny now. At the level I was playing, my private life would never be private again.”

To this day, I have tried to pinpoint how much my off-time drug use affected my on-field performance—and exactly when the damage began. And how much was I hurt by overusing my arm or other causes? I am haunted by those questions even now. But give the coke credit: it helped me shove some of that pressure and anxiety aside. I didn’t use every day or even every other day. But as the season rolled on, my use slowly began to escalate. A friend of mine from Tampa hooked me up with a connection in New York on Long Island. Whatever I needed, he could supply. I knew enough not to get high the day or two before a pitching start. But once in a while after I pitched, I’d go out that night and party, drinking and using cocaine. I was sliding predictably out of control.”

“Luckily, my teammates did what they had to without me. They looked inside themselves. They pulled back from defeat again. They remembered what the Mets were made of. The moment everyone remembers is Mookie Wilson’s grounder through Bill Buckner’s legs in the bottom of the tenth in game six, forcing game seven. Everything that happened during that at bat, from Bob Stanley’s wild pitch that scored Kevin Mitchell to Mookie’s staying alive to hit that bouncing roller up the first base line, was magical. Shea Stadium erupted and shook so much, I bet they felt the rumble in Manhattan. Game seven was a heart-pounding, come-from-behind 8–5 win, but compared to that ball through Bill Buckner’s legs, the play was almost anticlimactic. Now it was time to celebrate. The champagne came out in the locker room. The party began. A parade was set for the morning. I wanted a sniff of cocaine.”

“I didn’t go home home like I had the past four years. I went wild celebrating. For two weeks, I hung out with friends, stayed late in clubs, bought drugs, and rented hotel rooms to do those drugs in with people I’d met at those clubs. Actually, it was more than two weeks. The whole off-season was one big blur—an aimless, messy, sometimes violent blur. Not all of it was my fault. Not everyone around me behaved well. But I was the one who put myself in that position, and I was a walking target for trouble.”

“Hi, I’m Ronald Reagan,” said the leader of the free world, one of the most recognizable men on earth. “Hi, I’m Ronald Reagan.” When he got to me, I told him: “Mr. President, you don’t have to do that. I know who you are.” He smiled and nodded and kept introducing himself. I don’t know what he was thinking, but he seemed like a nice man.”

“In all, the report said later, twenty-two Tampa police officers were on the scene. Nine dove into the ruckus. When I tried to stand, I was pushed backward. Gary rushed up and was quickly cuffed and arrested. I was pushing and shoving to get the cops off me. By that point, there were so many of them, they were punching each other. One cop saw me pushing and yelled, “He’s going for your piece!” That led to another flurry of punches as another cop pulled his pistol out and pointed it under my chin. “Say your prayers, motherfucker!” he shouted. I thought for sure I was going to die. I immediately stopped moving. One cop got my left arm behind my back. He twisted it so hard, I cried out in pain. “Good!” I heard one of them yell. “Break his fucking arm!” I guess he’d forgotten I was a rightie.”

“Doc Gooden,” one cop said, spitting out my name. “Local fuckin’ hero. I’ll never watch another Mets game again.” A middle-aged white couple out for an evening stroll happened on the scene. When they saw what was happening, they stopped and shouted at the cops. “Why are you guys doing that to him?” the woman raged. “What’s going on here?” My blood was all over my shirt, not to mention the cops and the grass. The couple pleaded with the officers to let go of me. “Get out of here, or you’re going to jail,” one of the cops responded. “Get lost!” The arm twisting soon gave way to something worse, a chokehold around my neck. The more I resisted, the less I could breathe. For a second, I felt like giving up. I thought, “Okay, well, this is how I’m going to die.” Then, I got the idea of pretending I’d passed out. Maybe then they’d leave me alone. I went completely limp. “He’s out!” I heard someone say. “He’s out! Get off him!” At that point, the cops seemed to panic. Other officers pulled the chokehold cop off me. I lay on the ground, perfectly still, hearing more sirens and cops barking orders. A couple of them picked me up, shackled me, and threw me in the back of a police car. As we started to move, I looked out the window. I discovered we were headed nowhere near the police station. Instead, we pulled into the empty parking lot at the Tampa Greyhound Track on Nebraska Avenue. “They’re going to kill me,” I thought. “This is the perfect spot to get rid of me.” I had never been more frightened in my life.”

“conduct, resisting arrest, and battery on a police officer—I never served a day on any of them. A few hours later, I was released on my own recognizance. When my parents came to pick me up, my mom took one look at me and started bawling. It had taken a little more than a month for me to go from World Champion to “black-male Gooden, violent perp,” beaten by the police in my own hometown. When we got home, news trucks were parked all over my neighborhood. It looked like draft day all over again. Only this time, the angle wasn’t “local boy makes good.” Family members started arriving right away, including some of my bad-ass cousins from my mother’s side who like to settle their grievances with gunplay. Quickly, they hatched a plan. “Let’s get these motherfuckers,” one of them said. The idea was that we would get our revenge by driving around Tampa at a high rate of speed. Then, when a cop pulled us over—any cop—bang! We were going to blast him.”

“And I was hurting those closest to me. I didn’t know when to stop. I was the guy from last night who was still wearing a party hat while the maid was vacuuming the living room rug. Everyone else had gone off to work, and I couldn’t make it off the couch.”

“No one who’s behaving himself is the subject of that many rumors or has that many mishaps.”

“Dusting Off AS THE METS OPENED THE 1987 season at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates, I was across the East River in Manhattan, pretending to get rehabbed. Smithers was an upscale facility with about one hundred beds. The people who worked there seemed dedicated and well-meaning. I’m sure if I’d been committed to my own recovery, the program could have helped me a lot. But I wasn’t, and it didn’t.”

“I attended two or three treatment sessions a day. Mostly, the group sessions convinced me that the other patients were far more screwed up than I was. Whatever they were describing, I didn’t think it had much to do with me.”

“I probably should have been thinking that all through the 1980s. I’m sure that would have lengthened my career. But Dr. K was all about the strikeouts.”

“Pitching had begun to hurt. The only thing that kept my mind off of my pain was our newborn daughter, Ashley, who arrived shortly after the 1991 season had started. Monica and I set up a room for her in our house on Long Island. I loved Dwight Junior. But he was living with his mother in Florida. For once in my life, I had something that brought me daily joy other than baseball. By mid-August, we were fifteen games out of first place. So after Shea games, I was thrilled to drive home and just be a dad.”

“Yes, I’d gotten high after the Series. No, not during the postseason play. That may not have seemed important to Darryl. It was very important to me. In the course of 342 pages, Darryl credited himself for most of the good things that happened on the team in the eight years he was a Met and blamed his teammates, the front office, racism, you name it—anything but Darryl—for the shortcomings. And to make the book even harder to swallow, he’d asked me to write the introduction, which I did before I ever read the book, saying a whole bunch of nice things about him.”

“I was sold. “Maybe I’ll try just one or two,” I said. I snorted a line. The disease reawakened instantly. I was right back where I was in 1986. It was like a carnival worker had just lowered the metal protective bar on the roller coaster car. I settled in and waved good-bye. I snorted another line. Then I had another gulp of vodka. It all felt good. My mind started reeling. All I was feeling was satisfied. “I’ve got some drinks,” I was thinking. “I’ve got some strippers. I’ve got some coke.” In other words, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was no longer worried about when the next drug test might be coming. “That’s so far away,” I thought. And the plans kept coming. “I’ll get someone else to take it for me.” “I’ll duck the guy.” “If it comes back dirty, I’ll claim, ‘Screwup at the..”

“I stayed out all night. I called a number I had never forgotten. I bought more coke. I did more coke. After seven years clean, I was back in business again. It was already dawn, and I was totally wasted when I drove back to my house in Roslyn, Long Island. I sobered up. I drove to Binghamton. I guessed correctly. No tester appeared. I pitched. I felt great. No one had any idea where I’d been. I just felt like I’d been lucky and had gotten away with something cool. No harm, no foul. There was just one problem: getting lucky proved to my addict’s mind that I could do it again.”

“I’m coming down to Atlanta,” he said. “We’re going to have to talk.” If the walls of my hotel room had fallen right then, I don’t think I would have felt any more shaken. Dr. Lans’s trip to Atlanta could only mean one thing. “We have a positive test, Dwight,” he explained softly when he arrived at the hotel. “That’s crazy,” I said instinctually. “I never used!” I was getting so predictable. “Crazy or not, we have to explain it,” Dr. Lans continued. “And deal with it. We’ve got to meet with the league in New York. We can go now or when this Atlanta series is over. Your call.” “Let’s wait,” I said. Of course I said that. If I left the team midseries, everyone would know something was up. Word would spread immediately. And a chance to delay? I always preferred to delay.”

“Listen,” he said, “you gotta get right for you. Whatever it takes. Forget about baseball. That’s not important right now. Work on beating these demons or there won’t be any baseball left.” He paused for a second and introduced a thought that must have just dawned on him. I could hear the worry in his voice. “There won’t be any you.”

“Son,” he cut me off. “You’ve had a great career. If and when you get back to it, great. Think of your family first. Do this for them.” I think it was the first time I’d ever heard my dad shift his priorities away from baseball. As far back as Little League, he’d always said, “If you want to be a pro, you gotta put baseball ahead of everything else. It has to be number one in your life.” The sad part is that, for a long time, we’d both known what my top priority was. It wasn’t family, and it wasn’t baseball.

“For weeks, it was the 1986 off-season all over again. Only instead of sneaking into my parents’ house in the morning, hoping my mom was already at work, now I had more responsibilities. More baggage. Kids and a wife. I wasn’t a hotshot athlete spiraling out of control, too young and too dumb to understand what was happening. I was a dad and husband dragging everyone down.”

“Within a few days, Mets manager Dallas Green mentioned to the press that I wasn’t in his plans for the 1995 season anyway. Joe McIlvaine, the man who had drafted me, echoed that to the papers. It felt like a final kick in the teeth. Too bad I had no one else I could possibly blame.”

“Suicide Squeeze I TOOK THE BULLETS out of the gun. I pointed the weapon against my forehead. I held it there until Monica and the girls got home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The gun was a semiautomatic 9-millimeter Glock, more than enough to do the job if I’d had the balls to leave it loaded. But this was suicide theater, not a suicide attempt. “Dwight!” my wife screamed when she opened the bedroom door. “What’s wrong with you?” She was eight and a half months pregnant. “Mon—,” I pleaded. “Just leave. It’ll be much easier this way. For everyone.”

“I’d gotten a registered letter in the mail that morning. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he was very sorry, but I was being suspended for the entire 1995 season, 168 days on top of the 15 days I already had to make up for 1994. Even my coked-up brain could understand: this meant I would have no job, no salary, and nothing to do all day. I would be failing my father’s most basic test of manhood: Do what you want to. But make sure your family is taken care of.”

“Dwight Gooden needs to get his life in order,” Joe’s message read. “He has been offered the best assistance baseball and the New York Mets have to give for his problem and has not taken advantage of this guidance and help. All of us who love this man urge him to get the help he needs, put God into his life, and exhibit the same tenacity he showed on the mound, especially in the early years of his career, when a lead in the seventh inning meant a victory in the ninth. Dwight needs to demonstrate that same degree of competitiveness to defeat a far more insidious enemy that is sucking the life out of him both personally and professionally.” Wow. If that didn’t shake me, nothing would.”

“The announcement of the suspension had one good effect. It staggered me enough to keep me home for the final days of Monica’s pregnancy. I was there at four a.m. on November 10 when she let me know it was time. I put her in the car and raced—not over the W. Howard Frankland Bridge to the clubs and the dealers of Tampa but to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she gave birth to our son, Devin. That kept me home and sober for one more week. Then I decided I had to share the news with friends in Tampa. A drink or two turned into a day or two and a long coke bender. Another hotel room. Another line. Another lie.”

“I know a guy down there,” he explained. “Ray Negron. Worked for the Yankees for a long time.” “The Yankees?” For the first time since the birth of Devin, something made me smile. If by some miracle I didn’t retire and I ever played again, I loved the idea of finishing my career in New York. “Yeah,” Bob continued. Then he quickly reeled me back in. “But with the players on strike and you being suspended, nothing’s happening there. You gotta just talk to Ray. He wants to meet with you. He’s got a lot of connections sending American ballplayers to Japan.” The conversation continued, but after “Japan” I heard nothing else. I called Ray Negron and set up a meeting. When he was seventeen, Ray was caught writing graffiti on a wall at Yankee Stadium. George Steinbrenner screeched up in a car and busted Ray, spray-paint can in hand. But instead of turning him over to the cops and forgetting about him, George offered Ray a job as a Yankees batboy and a chance to turn his life around. Growing up in the Bronx, Ray had been around some tough people. He definitely had that street-smart way of carrying himself. But he’d gone from vandal to sports executive to well-connected middleman, and now he lived in St. Pete. “So you think I can get a deal in Japan?” I asked him. “Sure,” Ray said. “But come on, man.” He looked into my droopy eyes. “You’ve got to pull yourself together first. You can’t just rely on your name.” “I’m willing to do the work,” I said.”

“Our backgrounds couldn’t have been much more different. But listening to Ron, I could tell we had a lot in common. We had both left home at an early age and got a taste for high-pressure adrenaline—his M16, my fastball. Then we both moved quickly to drugs. When Ron got done speaking and the meeting broke up, Ray introduced us. “That was some speech,” I said, holding out my hand. “Who are you?” Ron said gruffly. “I’m Dwight Gooden, sir.” “He plays baseball,” Ray said with a smile. “He was a pitcher for the Mets, in your old stomping grounds.” Ron shrugged. “I don’t know shit about baseball.” “That’s cool,” I said. “And I don’t give a shit about baseball.” He furrowed his brow and looked at me. “What are you doing here?” “I gotta get clean,” I said. “Gotta? Or wanna? Two different things.”

“When I was growing up, I guess you’d call our family religious. But my parents weren’t too strict about the formalities. Mom went to church while Dad got his spiritual sustenance from NBC’s Game of the Week. Now getting baptized suddenly seemed important to me. I wanted to feel like I belonged to a church. Up to then, I’d only belonged on teams. A few Sundays later at the end of the service, the pastor said, “If anyone would like to turn their life over to God…” When I left the pew and walked toward the altar, the whole congregation stood and cheered. I’d been cheered in ballparks for various achievements. I’d been cheered at baseball card shows and sports award dinners. I’d never been cheered simply because I was human and recognized my connection to God.”

“If you want to be great,” he told me, more times than I could possibly count, “everything else comes after baseball.” So what did that mean? Should I stay and pitch against Seattle and have my dad die before I got home? Should I fly down to Tampa immediately? What was my father telling me? I thought about that for just a few seconds, then the answer was perfectly clear to me. “Take the baseball and pitch,” my father would say. I couldn’t perform the surgery that would save his life. What I could do was honor him in the only way I knew how to, playing the game he had taught me, living the dream I had learned from him. “I think I’m staying,” I called and told Monica. “What in the hell are you talking about?” she gasped. “Your mother is beside herself. Your family needs you.” “I know it sounds crazy,” I told her. “But Dad wants me here. Even if he only sees one inning on television. He’ll know why I’m on the mound.” We hung up the phone, agreeing to disagree.

“The people were on their feet. They wanted me to stay in. Jay Buhner came up, and I threw a wild pitch. The runners advanced to second and third. Now I was one mistake from blowing the no-hitter and the game. I took Buhner to a count of 2–2 before he went down swinging. Two outs. The Mariners’ first baseman Paul Sorrento came up. At two balls and a strike, I threw him a curve that hung a little too long. Five times out of ten, that’s a home run for a halfway decent hitter. I got lucky. Sorrento was too far underneath it and popped the ball up to Derek Jeter at short. Derek had to step back into the outfield, waving everyone else away. The ball hung up in the nighttime sky for what seemed like forever. Then I heard a small pop when it landed in Derek’s firm glove. That was three. I’d thrown my first no-hitter. In my wildest dreams, I’d never dare imagine this. It was beyond sweet. My teammates hoisted me up on their shoulders, a major-league first for me. They knew what this one meant to me. All of us together were celebrating the long and difficult journey I had so recently come off. We were celebrating the father who for me had launched it all.”

“phone. “He’s kind of out of it,” she said. “We had the game on the TV, though.” “Did he see me?” I hoped to God the answer was yes. Mom didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” she said. “He was in and out of consciousness for most of the game. But when you got the final out and they carried you off the field, he knew what was happening. He could hardly speak but he said, ‘Our boy did it. A no-hitter, oh my God.’ And he cried.” I was on the first flight the next morning.”

“One of the biggest things to come out of my time with the Indians was what happened one night in Detroit. Over the years, I had kept in touch with a guy from childhood who’d grown up to be a flight attendant. Randy and I traveled in different circles, but when we happened to be in the same city, sometimes he’d come out to a game. At dinner after we played the Tigers, he introduced me to another flight attendant, a feisty and beautiful woman named Monique Moore. She was attentive. She liked to laugh. She seemed to hang on every word I said. I wasn’t looking for a new relationship. Monica and I were having our problems, but we were still married. My cycle of use and relapse, use and relapse, had left her exhausted. Monique and I didn’t jump into anything immediately. But we did agree to stay in touch.”

I was starting to think George was the only person in the whole Yankees organization who believed I had anything at all in the tank. But when I stepped onto the familiar mound at Shea, it was like I had suddenly come home. Something about my cleats in that dirt, it just felt natural. My breaking ball clicked in. Batters came up, and they were actually having trouble hitting me. I gave up two cheap runs, but I’d held the Mets in check. My pitches were legitimately big-league. After the fifth inning, when I came off the mound, Joe asked me: “You have another inning or two left, Doc?” I didn’t give him the answer I’d given him during the no-hitter. I didn’t need to. “Nah,” I said. “That’s enough.” It really was. The Yanks won 4–2. The fans from both New York teams could hardly believe how strong I looked out there so late in my troubled career. I know I could hardly believe it. I’m still not sure what got into me. I’m just glad it did. “I really can’t explain it,” Mike Piazza said later in the Mets locker room. One of the best hitting catchers in baseball, Mike went 0–3 against me that day. “He just threw strikes. That’s the bottom line.”

“I stuck around for the rest of the season. I pitched out of the bullpen and had a couple of playoff appearances en route to the Yankees winning the World Series over the Mets. But picking up that July win against the Mets—that was one of my last, best moments playing baseball. Too bad I couldn’t just gently fade away.”

“Can you help?” Ron asked. “We’re really worried about him.” “I have my retirement dinner tonight,” I said, wondering how long this would take. But my family could start the celebration without me. “Yeah, sure. Anything for Straw.” “Ray will pick you up,” Ron said. Ray and I drove all over St. Petersburg. We scoured dicey neighborhoods in Tampa. We swung by the projects, where I asked old drug buddies: “You seen Strawberry anywhere?” After a couple of hours, I called my mom and apologized. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I’m fine,” I said. “Ray is with me.” “Just be careful,” she said. “We can do the dinner another night. What you’re doing is the right thing.” Ashley wasn’t as understanding. Just ten years old, she wasn’t happy I had to miss her game. This wasn’t the first time I’d disappointed her. She played outfield and shortstop, and I’d missed a lot of games. Being retired now and closer to home, I thought I’d finally have the chance to be there more often for her and for all of my kids. I knew I was ready to try. But here we were, on the same night we were celebrating my retirement, and I was already off to a questionable start. For five or six hours of family time, Ray and I drove around looking for Darryl. We never found him.”

“The next day, Betty and Harold came over and tried to convince me to go. Betty called my daughter Ariel. She got on the phone. She was hysterical. She wanted me to go. Somewhere inside, I knew she was right. I knew all of them were. It took my daughter to cut through my stubbornness and remind me how much I was going to lose. “I love you guys,” I finally told her. “Everything’s okay. I’m going to rehab.” I could hear Betty and Harold cheering in the kitchen. I could hear Ariel crying on the phone. Ron Dock agreed to drive me immediately to a treatment center in West Palm Beach. When we stopped for gas, Ron took the keys out of the ignition and put them in his pocket. “What did you do that for?” I asked him. “Why do you think?” he said, laughing.”

“As a result, I was sentenced to ten days in the Hillsborough County Jail—with some unexpected company. As I was being processed, one of the corrections officers mentioned something to me. “We have your son,” he said. “Dwight Gooden Junior.” He was being held in another wing of the jail on a probation violation stemming from a crack cocaine sale to an undercover cop. In jail with my own son? It was devastating for both of us. Dwight Junior was nineteen years old. He was a little shorter than I was at his age and at least as thin, maybe 150 pounds. With a name like “Dwight Gooden Junior,” I worried that he would be a target—for other inmates and for the guards. It had happened before at school, forcing him to transfer from Kings High to Hillsborough when the taunts about his troubled baseball dad turned into threats. But that was kids’ stuff, and this was jail. So I was concerned.”

“The judge looked stunned. “Did you hear me correctly?” he asked. He repeated the options. “Yes,” I replied confidently. “I’ll take the year and a day.” “A year and a day it is,” the judge said. “Custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.” I turned around and looked at my mother. She was sitting perfectly upright, like she was always. But it was like the life was passing out of her, she looked so old. Right in front of my eyes, she seemed to age ten years. If there was a bottom for me outside the graveyard, that was the bottom right there.”

“All that said, no one was more surprised or more pleased than I was to get Jeff’s call. My eyes welled up with tears even before I had hung up the phone. We’d had such a wild ride together, the Mets and me. Now the team that I had started with, the team I cared most about, wanted me in their Hall of Fame. I was just so honored. In 2006, I’d been invited, along with the entire ’86 championship team, to the twentieth-year reunion of the 1986 Mets at Shea Stadium. The media had been making a big deal about how Darryl and I and the rest of the guys were finally being forgiven for the partying that some people thought cost the Mets a four- or five-year dynasty. Unfortunately, “the still-partying Doc,” as one of the stories described me, couldn’t be there for the anniversary celebration. I was four months into my one-year prison term. But two years later, another invitation had come. The Mets asked me to the closing of Shea Stadium, the Shea Goodbye, in September 2008. That was the first time I’d actually appeared at the stadium in eight years—the only exception being for the 2000 World Series when I’d been wearing a Yankees uniform. For the Shea Goodbye, the team didn’t even announce in advance that I was coming. Until I got there, team officials weren’t convinced I was actually showing up. I could hear the relief in their voices when I arrived: “Oh, good. You’re here.” I certainly didn’t know how the fans would receive me that day, but I went. And the ovation I got was overwhelming. I smile just thinking about it.”

“The truth is I never threatened her. I wasn’t using drugs in the house. I wasn’t acting out violently. Mostly, I was just morose. I stayed inside, up in my bedroom or down in the basement, cut off from my own family and from the outside world, depressed, withdrawn, and miserable.”

“If team officials ever got cold feet about putting me in the Hall of Fame, no one ever said anything to me. To my great relief and appreciation, they didn’t seem rattled at all.”

“The Mets put on quite a show. We had a charity luncheon on Saturday with fans in one of the new Citi Field club suites. People brought 1980s Mets memorabilia for Darryl, Davey, Frank, and me to autograph. Lots of reporters came, including many of the beat writers who had covered that World Series team. They seemed to feel as much emotion as we did. I was happy to pose for pictures in a Mets cap. “I beat myself up over so many things,” I said. “I didn’t live up to expectations but nobody had higher expectations for me than me, and I let myself down a lot. But the fans never gave up on me.”

“They knew about my promise as a pitcher and how imperfectly I’d lived up to it. They could imagine some of the deep, dark holes I had fallen into. No one at Citi Field needed to be reminded. The stadium was new, but the fans were not. Then I heard Howie’s voice again, and I approached the podium. I swear it was 1984 again, and Davey had just told me that I’d made the team. “The youngest pitcher in All-Star history,” Howie’s baritone boomed, “and ranks among the franchise leaders in nearly every pitching category including one hundred and fifty-seven victories, twenty-three shutouts, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five strikeouts. The Mets ace, we call him ‘the Doctor,’ Dr. K, pitcher Dwight Eugene Gooden.” I might have been the Prodigal Met returning at last to his family. But the cheers were so loud and so lasting, I knew without a doubt that I was home. “Thank you,” I said, looking across this gorgeous new stadium, trying to pick out the faces of my mom, my nephew Gary, and all my kids. “This is really amazing. It feels so good to be home.”

“Yeah,” I said. “He was on a drug charge also, and that was very tough for me to accept and forgive myself for. I had dreamed about wanting to continue my career long enough where, if he’d made it one day, we could hopefully play together.” That would have been amazing, and Dr. Drew seemed moved by the thought. “Oh, wow,” he said. “On the same team,” I added. “Not ever thinking we’d be wearing the same orange jumpsuits.” Here’s the real secret of Celebrity Rehab. It isn’t that each season’s cast members are willing to throw their personal business all over TV. It isn’t even that millions of Americans like to watch a soap opera featuring a bunch of semifamous alcoholics and drug addicts. The real secret of Celebrity Rehab is that there is actual treatment going on, and some of it can be brutally intense. Don’t be fooled by the cameras and the conflicts and Dr. Drew’s high-fashion glasses. Despite the showbiz environment and need for ratings every week, Celebrity Rehab can actually change lives. I know. It definitely changed mine.”

“Dr. Drew and his team kept asking me about my relationships with my family, my kids especially. They seemed to believe those relationships were key to helping me live a healthier life. If I was going to get better, my family would be a big part of the reason why.”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. That’s just another way of hiding. Haven’t you hidden long enough?” Dr. Drew was impressive. He is an educated man and a well-trained expert. But he hasn’t been through addiction the way that Bob has. Bob 100 percent knew his stuff. He was all about the treatment, not the showbiz. One day, the three of us were discussing my childhood and my family, trying to get at the roots of why I had always felt so sad and vulnerable and insecure. “When you were a child, do you remember any particular trauma that you witnessed or went through?” Dr. Drew asked. “Nothing major,” I said instinctively. I thought for a second. “I’ve seen a couple of my friends get cut,” I said. “I’ve seen a couple of my friends get beat up real bad. I’ve seen dead bodies in the projects and stuff like that. Is that what you mean?”

Learning Motivation

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Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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