Former major league baseball pitcher
who could've possibly been a legend if not for drugs
Gooden (DOB 11/16/1964; Tampa, Florida) burst onto the baseball scene in 1984 when as a rookie for the New York Mets, at the young age of 19, he established the rookie record for strikeouts in a season, with 276 (which also led the league). No one could've known then that he would never top 276 strikeouts in what was being billed as a potential Hall of Fame career. Gooden was 17-9, and won the National League Rookie of the Year award.
1985 was even better, as Gooden had one of the most dominating seasons in baseball history. Gooden led the majors in wins (24; with only 4 losses), strikeouts (268), and ERA (1.53), becoming the first player to lead the majors in those 3 categories since 1966 (Sandy Koufax). The 1.53 ERA was the lowest in the majors since 1968 (Bob Gibson). Gooden was named the NL Cy Young Award winner...at the age of 20. He would never win 20 games in a season again.
Gooden had developed a legion of fans and was the talk of New York. Whenever he pitched, fans in a part of the stadium that became known as the "K Corner" would hang up "K" placards to count his strikeouts. As a Yankees fan, growing up I was often jealous of the Mets for Gooden, and for the success he helped to bring them.
1986 wasn't as good as 1985 (17-6 win/loss, 2.84 ERA, 200 strikeouts), but his New York Mets won their first World Series since 1969, and Gooden was seemingly on top of the baseball world, appearing in his 3rd consecutive All Star Game. And the future was bright, as Gooden became the first player in history to have 200 strikeouts in his first three seasons in the league.
Then everything collapsed. Doc (Gooden earned the nickname of "Doctor K" or "Doc" for his mastery of strikeouts) tested positive for cocaine in 1987 and was put into rehabilitation. He returned and had a good season (15-7, 3.21 ERA), but he was never the same.
Over the next decade or so, Gooden battled with injuries and drugs, with some baseball in between. He won 18 games and was an All-Star (for the 4th and final time) in 1988...he was still only 23 years old.
Gooden had some decent seasons, including winning 19 games in 1990, but the demons continued to haunt him and he was finally caught again, and suspended for the second half of the 1994 season for drugs. In the offseason, he failed another drug test and was suspended for the whole 1995 season.
However, Gooden revived his career and the New York Yankees signed him in 1996 and on May 14 of that year, Gooden pitched his only no-hitter versus Seattle. It was a remarkable comeback from the depths of drugs.
Still, there was too much water under the bridge and Gooden could not regain the form of his youth. He bounced around between the majors and the minors from 1997-2000, and pitched for Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Houston, as well as a second tour with the Yankees.
Gooden wrote an autobiography in 1999 called "Heat", which detailed his career and problems in great detail, including a chilling tale of him holding a gun to his head, ready to end it all.
Dwight Gooden retired from major league baseball on March 30, 2001, with a career win/loss record of 194-112, and a 3.51 ERA. Gooden amassed 2293 strikeouts (38th all-time at time of his retirement) in 2800 2/3 innings....but it could've been so much more if it hadn't been for drugs.