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On This Date in Sports June 28, 1994: The Doctor is Out

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden is suspended 60 days for testing positive for using cocaine. The one-time star was just a shadow of what he once was with a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 6.31. Gooden symbolized the Mets of the 80s bursting on the scene and dominating but failing to reach his full potential. It was his second drug penalty, ending his 11-year career with the Mets.

After seven seasons of losing, the New York Mets had a resurgence in 1984, posting just their second 90-win season in franchise history as they battled the Chicago Cubs for the National League East. At the heart of the Mets rise was a 19-year-old phenom from Tampa. Dwight Gooden born November 16, 1984, was the fifth overall pick in the 1982 MLB Draft. When he came up he had electric stuff, setting the rookie strikeout record with 276. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1984, Gooden nicknamed Dr. K, had one of the best seasons ever, with a 24-4 record and an ERA of 1.53 with 268 strikeouts to become the youngest winner of the Cy Young in baseball history.

The Mets finally broke through and won the World Series in 1986, but behind the scenes there began to appear cracks as Dwight Gooden struggled at times, going 17-6 with a 2.68 ERA as he had 200 strikeouts. In two World Series starts, Gooden was awful, losing Game 2 and Game 5, while posting an ERA of 8.00.

As the Mets celebrated the World Championship with a ticker tape parade a day after Game 7, Dwight Gooden was absent, having woke up late in a cocaine stupor. Just before the start of the 1987 season, Gooden checked in to drug rehab and missed the first two months of the season. Upon returning, Doc Gooden was once again the Mets ace, posting a record of 15-7 with a 3.21 ERA. Gooden had a solid season in 1988 as the Mets won the East again, and pitched well in the NLCS but gave up a game-tying home run to Mike Scioscia in Game 4 while trying to finish the game and give the Mets a 3-1 series lead in the ninth inning.

In 1989, Dwight Gooden made history, become the youngest pitcher to reach 100 wins, as he appeared to be on the expressway to Cooperstown. However, arm problems began to appear as he missed most of the second half of the season. He would bounce back to win 19 games in 1990 but again dealt with a shoulder problem in 1991. When he came back in 1992, the electric movement was gone, as Gooden suffered through a losing season as the Mets had a disappointing 90-loss season.

Through the struggles in the later years, Dwight Gooden remained the face of the Mets as he was the opening day starter in 1993 and 1994. By 1994 he was the last member of the 1986 Mets still active on the team, as they were coming off a 103-loss season. Despite giving up three home runs to Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, Gooden earned a win on opening day, again was having arm trouble as he missed all of May and held a record of 4-7 with an ERA of 6.31 following a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 24th.

After failing the drug test, Dwight Gooden was given a 60-Day suspension that was last the remainder of the 1994 season as a strike wiped out the last two months and postseason. While preparing to return, Gooden failed another test as was suspended for the entire 1995 season, ending his Mets career. In 11-seasons in Flushing, Doc Gooden posted a record of 157-85 with a 3.10 ERA. Also gone was the Nike sponsored mural near Times Square that had stood since his rookie season.

Dwight Gooden would get another chance and played with the New York Yankees in 1996, throwing a no-hitter on May 14th. However, he was just a shell of his former self and spent most of the second half of the season on the shelf. Gooden would bounce around the final five years returning to the Yankees for his final game in 2000, as he finished his career at 194-112 with an ERA of 3.51.