The Mets lost to the Marlins tonight, 4-1, but will be returning home to phace the Phillies this weekend in a series that, frankly, doesn’t mean that much (to the Mets). They’ve more or less sewn up the NL East…just as they had 20 years ago, in the 1986 championship season that has sadly supplanted Mr. Met and his amazing TV commercials as the centerpiece of this year’s Mets marketing campaign. In the Bergen Record, Bob Klapisch writes of his correspondence with Dwight Gooden, who will not be making the Mets’ celebratory reunion game on August 19. B-Klap’s old writing partner and mid-’80s Mets super-ace is currently serving a seven month jail sentence and trying to get clean (again) in Florida.
“If there’d been a higher league in 1985, Doc would’ve been called up in May,” (Ron) Darling said. “You know how you see in the Little League World Series, some kid who’s 6-0 and looks like he’s already shaving? Too good to be playing against everyone else? That was Doc that year, he embarrassed hitters. He was one of the faces of the Mets, he and Darryl and Keith and Kid rejuvenated the franchise from the early Eighties.”
Don’t think Gooden is unaware of the world passing him by. He has limited phone privileges in prison, but he’s had visitors in Gainesville, including the New York Post, which sent a reporter to see him in May. Gooden told the paper how slowly the days pass and what a mistake it had been for him to choose his seven-month sentence instead of reinstatement of his probation.
Gooden apparently knew he could no longer trust himself in the outside world. One more slip-up and he was facing a five-year term, said the judge, so Doc decided seven months was manageable, considering that he would he entering the prison’s drug rehab program. Irony of ironies, this was the same facility that housed Darryl Strawberry in 2002.
I wrote to Gooden in June, asking for an interview. Two weeks later, a letter appeared in my mailbox. It was Doc’s handwriting, but instead of the flowing, charismatic autograph from his heyday, his name was neatly printed like a grade schooler’s in the return address line. Dwight had a nickname, but it wasn’t Doc. It was his prisoner number, T4 7272A2 118, right next to the postmark which was stamped: “Mailed from a State Correctional Institution.”
Gooden wrote in long-hand. on old-school, three-hole notebook paper. He didn’t hide his misery.
“The treatment part of [jail] is nasty and it’s like a torture chamber,” Gooden wrote, later adding, “This place has changed a lot since Straw was here.”