Dwight Gooden too high for parade

Updated: October 20, 2011, 7:58 AM ET
ESPNNewYork.com

While his 1986 New York Mets teammates basked in the glory of millions during a ticker-tape parade to celebrate their World Series title, Dwight Gooden sat in a drug dealer's apartment, too high and paranoid to join them.

Talking about his career and life, Gooden told ESPN's E:60 that's how his celebration of the World Series went after the star right-hander became hooked on cocaine during that season.

"After that game was over, we're celebrating and everything at the ballpark, in the clubhouse, and me and some of the guys went back out on the pitcher's mound and we had the big bottles of champagne. Then once everybody said we're going to this club in Long Island to hang out for a while, it was like, 'OK.' ...

"Well, my ride to the club I called a guy who I got drugs from, had him meet me there, was drinking, started using drugs. Then when the party started winding down, for myself a lot of times I get to a certain point of using drugs, the paranoia sticks in. So I end up leaving the party with the team, going to these projects, of all places in Long Island. Hang out there.

Gooden And the clocks, I mean the rooms are spinning. I said OK I'll leave in another hour. Then the next thing you know the parades on and I'm watching the parade on TV.

-- Former pitcher Dwight Gooden

"Then you know what time you have to be at the ballpark to go into the city for the parade, but I'm thinking, 'OK, I got time.' And the clocks, I mean the rooms are spinning. I said, 'OK, I'll leave in another hour.' Then the next thing you know the parade's on and I'm watching the parade on TV."

Gooden, who told everyone he had just overslept, wasn't too high at the time, though, to realize that he was making a big mistake.

"Here I am in the projects in a drug dealer's apartment with guys I don't even know, with drugs in the house, watching it," he said. "It's a horrible feeling."

Gooden was the National League's Rookie of the Year in 1984 after going 17-9 with a league-high 276 strikeouts. He led the league the next season in wins (24-4), ERA (1.53) and strikeouts (268) and won the Cy Young Award.

In 1986, he helped lead the Mets to a seven-game victory over Boston for the World Series title, but he said that's when his life began to change.

"I started hanging out more into the city," he said. "Everybody loves you. Kinda got attracted to it where I started liking it, then it went from events to nightclubs and hanging out, with sometimes hanging with the wrong people that thought they had your best interest. When I look back at it, the trouble kinda started right there."

One night while partying, someone offered him cocaine. Though he had told himself he'd never try the drug, he did.

"And it was love at first sight, unfortunately," he said.

He started working the drug into his pitching routine.

"I think it started affecting my performance," he said. "The day I pitched, I would drink either 'cause I was celebrating or I lost and couldn't sleep. The cocaine started. I didn't do it two days before I would pitch, but once I went home in the offseason, totally out of control."

That offseason, Gooden tested positive for cocaine and went into rehab, a cycle that would repeat through the years.

Only 21 years old in 1986, Gooden also didn't know that he would never pitch as well as he did in 1985. He still put up solid numbers, winning 19 games in 1990, but he also had a 3.83 ERA that season. The pitcher who most said was going to be a sure Hall of Famer was a sub-.500 pitcher by 1992.

He missed all of 1995 due to a drug suspension but resurfaced with the Yankees in 1996. He recaptured the glory briefly, throwing a no-hitter in May against the Mariners. But even that moment was shadowed by tragedy. His father had undergone heart surgery and died without leaving the hospital.

"But the doctors told me he did watch the game," Gooden said. "When I made the last out he had the one tear in his eye ... So, he never made it home, but the last game he got to see me pitch was ... So that game will always be special. But that's the greatest moment that I had in baseball because of that."

Gooden was part of two Yankees title teams, retiring after the 2000 championship win over the Mets. But his troubles did not end. He was arrested several times and is currently on probation for a 2010 traffic incident in which he was cited for having his then 5-year-old son in the backseat without a seatbelt. He agreed to a plea deal to enter a treatment program to avoid prison.

Gooden told E:60 that he has been clean for seven months, since appearing on "Celebrity Rehab."

He said the show forced him to "do a lot of soul-searching. Find out what actually leads to the drinking and drugging when you don't want to do it."

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