Dwight Gooden Was Not Best Friends With Darryl Strawberry

June 1st, 2013

In your new book, “Doc: A Memoir,” you proclaim your sobriety. But in 1999, you said you were sober in another memoir, “Heat,” then wound up in jail years later after testing positive for cocaine use. Why should we believe you now?At that time, I wasn’t completely honest with myself. I was still drinking. I had seven years where I only drank, but eventually, I was doing coke and drinking. Alcohol is a direct link to the drugs.

You joined the Mets when you were 19 and became the youngest Cy Young Award winner, but addiction quickly got in the way of your potential. Do you think you should have waited to join the majors?I don’t regret making the team at 19. I just wish I handled it better. It was a lot of pressure. Most pitchers today, if you win and go six or seven innings, you’re very happy with that. If I won a game 3-0, and I had four strikeouts, the first question would be, “What happened, you only had four strikeouts?”

Matt Harvey, the Mets’ pitching phenom, is compared with you a lot. Do you agree with Bobby Valentine that he could be the best pitcher ever to wear a Mets uniform?It’s a possibility, but that’s saying a lot, because of the things Tom Seaver did, that I did. He has a lot of ability, and he’s not cocky. Even when he pitches seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, he wants to get better. Once he gets two or three years in, then you can say that.

Your father trained you from a very young age. How did he react when you started getting in trouble?I said, “I tested positive for cocaine, I gotta go to rehab.” He never said a word. He just dropped his head. I’d never seen that look on my dad’s face. I knew that I had just broken his heart.

You had a messy childhood. You write that your father took you on visits to his mistress, and your mother tried to shoot them both with a .38.She did get him in the shoulder and unloaded the whole gun, I guess, trying to get the woman. My mom was a lovely woman but a tough cookie.

In 1995, you and your former teammate Darryl Strawberry shared the cover of Sports Illustrated for an article called “The Dead End Kids,” about your drug use after the Mets’ 1986 season. Did you resent how the two of you were always grouped together?The media made it seem like we were closer than we really were. You had two young, very successful black players — he was Rookie of the Year ’83, I was ’84. But I was actually closer with Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson. In 2010, Darryl really crossed the line, calling my family and saying a lot of negative things about me, stuff that wasn’t true. I always considered him a friend. The things he was doing really do not fit the definition of a friend.

He was saying you were killing yourself with drugs, right? It’s not possible he was trying to save your life?If you’re trying to save someone’s life, you reach out and talk. I never said one negative thing about him publicly. This is the first time I’m really speaking out, because I think for me to move on, these are things that need to be said.

You went on “Celebrity Rehab” in 2011 to try to clean up. Did Lenny Dykstra really try to spring you from the show against your will?He brought two pretty big guys with him. It was weird; they had on black suits. I said: “No, no, Lenny. I need to be here; you gotta go or they’re gonna call the cops.” That was the last time I talked to Lenny.

You haven’t visited him in prison?No, I haven’t. I will be out in California this month, so I’ll try to see him.

The Hall of Fame should induct you out of sympathy now, considering that you spent a couple of weeks on “Celebrity Rehab” in a confined space with Michael Lohan.I totally agree with that. I mean, my goodness. I like Michael Lohan, but I don’t think he was there for the right reasons. Right on cue, when a camera is on, he can break down crying. When it’s off, the tears dry up.

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

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