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the youngest All-Star player ever, and the youngest ever winner of the Cy Young Award
Dwight Eugene Gooden was born in Tampa, Florida, on November 16, 1964.
Gooden was drafted in the first round in 1982, the fifth player taken overall. He only played one season in the minors, but he made it count by leading the Class-A Carolina League in wins, strikeouts and ERA -- 300 strikeouts in 191 innings. This one season was enough to convince New York Mets manager Davey Johnson that Gooden was ready for the Majors.
New York Mets, 1984-1994
Gooden made his Major League debut on April 7, 1984, and racked up an impressive 19 wins for the season. He led the league in strikeouts (276), and also set the record for most strikeouts in three consecutive starts (43). The youngest All-Star selection in baseball history (19 years old at the time), Gooden struck out all three batters he faced in the All-Star Game. An easy choice for Rookie of the Year, he became the second Mets' player in a row to be so honored (Darryl Strawberry had been the choice in 1983).
In 1985, Gooden not only won the National League Triple Crown, but led the entire Major Leagues in wins (24), strikeouts (268) and ERA (1.53). He led the National League in complete games (16) and innings pitched (276 2/3). In addition, he became one of only twelve African-American pitchers to win 20 games, as well as the youngest-ever recipient of the Cy Young Award. There was even talk about Gooden's Hall of Fame prospects. And he wouldn't even turn 21 until after the 1985 season was over.
1985 would, unfortunately, prove to be Gooden's best year. In 1986, he compiled a 17-6 record, with 200 strikeouts. A Mets ace going into the playoffs, he lost a 1-0 duel in the opening game of the National League Championships, and got a no-decision in the fifth game after pitching 10 innings of 1-run ball. He started two World Series games, but didn't make it past the fifth inning in either. Despite Gooden's less-than-stellar outings, the Mets went on to win the championship.
Rumors of substance abuse had circulated around Gooden since the 1985 season, and those rumors were confirmed when Gooden tested positive for cocaine during Spring Training in 1987. He agreed to check himself into a rehab center to avoid being suspended and did not make his first start of the season until June 5. Despite missing a third of the season, he won 15 games for the Mets.
Gooden had an 18-9 record when the Mets went into the 1988 postseason. In the first game of the Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gooden allowed just four hits and recorded 10 strikeouts before leaving after the seventh inning, with the Mets trailing 2-0. In Game Four, he had a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning, but then gave up a game-tying home run to Mike Scioscia; the Dodgers went on to win the game in twelve innings.
A shoulder injury limited Gooden to just 17 starts in 1989, in which he compiled a 9-4 record. He rebounded in 1990, however, posting a 19-7 season with 223 strikeouts. Gooden's career declined significantly after another injury in 1991.
1992 was Gooden's first-ever losing season (10-13), and the first time he had lost more than 10 games in one season. He finished 1993 with a 12-15 record.
In 1994, Gooden had a 3-4 record with a 6.31 ERA when he tested positive for cocaine and was suspended for 60 days. He tested positive again while serving the suspension, and was subsequently suspended for the entire 1995 season.
New York Yankees, 1996-1997
Gooden signed with the New York Yankees as a free-agent in 1996. After a poor showing in April, he threw a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 14, saving his job. He ended the season with an 11-7 record.
Left off the 1996 postseason roster, Gooden only made one start for the Yankees in 1997, the fourth game of the American League Championships; he left during the sixth inning with a 2-1 lead, but the Yankee bullpen faltered in the eighth and Gooden was left with a no-decision.
Cleveland Indians, 1998-1999
Houston Astros, 2000
Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 2000
New York Yankees, 2000
Gooden returned to the Yankees part-way through the 2000 season. He only made five starts during the season, but one of those was a 4-2 win against the New York Mets. He made one relief appearance in each of the playoff's first two games, both times with the Yankees trailing. He did not pitch at all in the World Series against the Mets.
Retirement and Post-Baseball Career
Cut by the Yankees during Spring Training in 2001, Gooden decided it was time to retire. He subsequently took a job in the Yankees' front office.
Honors and Awards
National League Rookie of the Year, 1984
member of the National League All-Star Team, 1984-1986 and 1988
In 1999, Gooden released his autobiography, Heat: My Life On and Off the Diamond, in which he discussed his struggles with alcohol and cocaine abuse.
Gooden has had a variety of legal problems since leaving baseball, many of them involving alcohol and/or narcotics. A probation violation resulted in his being sent to prison on April 17, 2006.
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This page was last updated on September 19, 2017.