Gooden book offers sobering perspective on downfall

It’s painful to read Dwight Gooden’s soul-baring confessional, “Doc: A Memoir” (New Harvest). Few athletes have experienced such a meteoric rise to fame and glory, only to come crashing down with a sickening thud.

The Tampa native had it all – a fastball that sizzled and a knee-buckling curveball that was so effective that it was nicknamed “Lord Charles” instead of the pedestrian “Uncle Charlie.” After starring at Hillsborough High School and a brief stint in the minors, Gooden joined the New York Mets as a 19-year-old, won Rookie of the Year honors in 1984 and followed it up by winning the National League Cy Young Award in 1985.

He was known as “Doc” when he pitched in Tampa’s Belmont Heights Little League; “Time to operate, Doc!” was a common cheer, since Gooden “performed like a surgeon.” By 1986, he was “Doctor K,” and Gooden and the hard-drinking, brawling Mets won 108 games, prevailed in a taut National League Championship Series and then rallied to win a World Series title in seven games against the Boston Red Sox.

He was the toast of New York, and fans and writers were punching his ticket to the Hall of Fame. But Gooden’s addiction already was in full force. As the Mets celebrated in the locker room after winning Game 7, Gooden placed two telephone calls.

“Two thoughts were crowding all the others out of my head: I gotta call my dealer. And I gotta call my dad,” Gooden writes.

After calling his father in Tampa, Gooden went on a cocaine binge, which caused him to miss the Mets’ victory parade the following day.

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