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As Mets retire his No. 16, Dwight Gooden tells fans he wanted to `make things right with you guys’

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 14th, 2024 3:31pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Dwight Gooden still knows how to work a crowd.

Honored by the New York Mets with the retirement of his No. 16 on Sunday, the four-time All-Star recounted how his career in Queens was cut short by drugs and alcohol, forcing him to sign across town ahead of the 1996 season.

“I wanted to stay to make things right with you guys. I didn’t want to leave on the note that I did,” Gooden told the fans, “Unfortunately, they thought it was best that we go separate ways. I was lucky enough to stay in New York, play with the New York Yankees for two years, ‘96 and ’97.”

The Citi Field crowd booed the mention of the Mets’ crosstown rival, and Gooden shook his head while putting his left hand over his heart.

“I’m always a Met. I’m not saying nothing. I’m always a Met. I’m always a Met,” he said, prompting cheers.

His number was unveiled high above the left-field side, joining 14 (Gil Hodges, 1973), 17 (Keith Hernandez, 2022), 24 (Willie Mays, 2022), 31 (Mike Piazza, 2016), 36 (Jerry Koosman, 2021), 37 (Casey Stengel, 1965) and 41 (Tom Seaver, 1988).

Darryl Strawberry’s No. 18 is to be retired on June 1. Gooden was moved by the presence of the 62-year-old Strawberry, who had a heart attack on March 11.

“It’ll always be Darryl and Doc or Doc and Darryl,” Gooden said. “I was very happy to see him. It just brought joy to me that he took the opportunity to make it here today and enjoy this day with me.”

The ceremony began with rapper Chuck D., whose actual name is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, narrating a montage that ended with Gooden watching and nodding in an empty Citi Field. Gooden entered through a “K Korner” outside the home dugout, a nod to how fans at Shea Stadium hung Ks for each strikeout.

Gooden was presented with a framed jersey and a bronzed pitching rubber listing his Mets accomplishments. After taking a lap around Citi Field, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his grandson Kaden.

Gooden told fans how he kept trying to return to the Mets but was rebuffed after the 1997, 1999 and 2000 seasons.

“The moral of the story is everything’s about timing,” Gooden said as a light rain fell during his three-minute speech. ““Now, today, the time is right. My health is good, my mental health is good and today I get to retire as a Met. And I want all you guys to know, you guys are part of this. Thank you so much.”

Gooden, 59, played for the Mets from 1984-94, winning the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year and the 1985 NL Cy Young Award. He went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA and 2,293 strikeouts in 16 seasons, including 157-85 with a 3.10 ERA with 1,875 strikeouts for the Mets.

He helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series title but his career was interrupted by substance abuse. He was suspended from June 1994 through the 1995 season, then signed with the Yankees.

“Everything was compared to what I did in ’85 because I set the bar so high,” Gooden said during a morning news conference.

He had hoped to see his number retired by understood why the Mets held off.

“The things I did on the field, I’ve always had a chance,” Gooden said. “But unfortunately, the struggles I had off the field, I thought it diminished that, it probably wouldn’t happen.”

Gooden spent seven months in prison in 2006 and was arrested several times for DUI but has been clean since 2019. He regularly speaks at New York-area schools about avoiding drugs and alcohol and is also a staple at autograph shows.

A dozen of Gooden’s former teammates attended the ceremony along with Sandy Carter, widow of the Hall of Fame catcher.

“Just being here today, to be able to speak to you guys and share the history all through his life — that’s the most important thing to our family,” said Gooden’s nephew, former big league slugger Gary Sheffield. “Baseball is secondary, always. We just want to make sure he is OK.”


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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The Associated Press