PLAINS TOWNSHIP — Dwight Gooden, better known as Doc, delivered the keynote address at Wilkes University’s Pennsylvania Pain and Addiction Summit. He detailed his struggles with both drug and alcohol addiction and his fight on the way to his eventual recovery.
“On average, there are 13 overdoses deaths every single day in our state,” Wilkes University President Dr. Patrick Leahy said while introducing Gooden. “It is important for us to hear stories like Dwight Gooden’s.”
With addiction, Gooden said the hardest part of freeing himself was the fact that he felt he was not hurting anyone.
“It was important for me to ‘remove that mask’ and come out of denial,” Gooden said. “Today, I’m not in denial about my story.”
While Gooden said he is certainly not proud of everything he has done, he’s proud of his efforts to straighten himself out.
“It’s an epidemic in our community,” Leahy said. “It can happen to the best of individuals. It’s a great lesson. These are stories that need to be heard so we can understand how widespread this problem is.”
Wilkes-Barre City Administrator Ted Wampole was on hand to deliver a proclamation from Mayor Tony George.
The proclamation declared April 20, 2018 “Dwight Gooden Day” in the City of Wilkes-Barre.
“I’ve given many proclamations to politicians, but this is my favorite one,” Wampole said, being a New York Mets fan himself.
Prior to Gooden’s keynote, it was announced that a group of Wilkes Pharmacy students had presented a donation of $425 to the Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department. The donation will be allocated to purchasing more naloxone (narcan) for first responders to use.
Naloxone is a opioid overdose reversal medication. When administered, the drug has the ability to restore normal respiration status to a person who has stopped breathing due to an overdose.
Gooden pitched 16 seasons in the Major Leagues, 11 of them for the New York Mets. In 1984, he recorded a 17-9 record, a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts, leading to him winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
In 1985, he went on to win 24 games and would win the National League Cy Young Award. He also finished fifth in MVP voting. He would then help the Mets win a World Series title in 1986.
After his World Series victory in 1986, Gooden started facing problems with drug and alcohol use. In December of the same year, Gooden was arrested for fighting with police in his hometown of Tampa, and came back to Mets training camp testing positive for cocaine. Instead of taking a suspension, he decided to attend rehab from April until June.
“I am a Met of heart, but I enjoyed my time with the Yankees,” Gooden said of his playing career.
In each year from 1992-94, Gooden recorded a losing record, and in 1995 he was suspended for the entirety of the season for testing positive to a drug test while already serving a prior suspension.
“Bud Selig turned out to be the best thing to happen to me in my life by suspending me for a year,” Gooden said.
He would stay in New York, going a subway trip away from Queens, where the Mets play, to the Bronx, to play for the Yankees. In his first season on the Yankees in 1996, he would come up with another career achievement, throwing a no-hitter in May of that season. Gooden would then add another World Series title to his resume, as he helped the Yankees win their first World Series since 1978.
After retirement, Gooden would continue to struggle with addiction, which resulted in several incidents leading to his arrest. In 2006, Gooden violated the terms of his probation, as he showed up high on cocaine to a meeting with his probation officer. He would be incarcerated for seven months, choosing prison over extended probation, hoping that incarceration would help him learn his lesson and get over the temptations of addiction.
About four years after being released from prison, in 2010, Gooden was arrested for driving under the influence of an undisclosed substance, and endangering the welfare of a child that was in the vehicle with him. He pled guilty to child endangerment and received five more years of probation.
Gooden entered a recovery program in the late 2000s and he wrote a book in 2013, titled “Doc”, which depicts his struggle with addiction and his road to recovery as one of the premier pitchers in the history of the game. In the book, Gooden goes through the ups and downs of his Major League career and his personal life.
The Beacon’s Alex Kielar contributed to this report.