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Disclaimer: I am a long time New York Mets fan who remembers, very clearly, watching Dwight Gooden pitch for the Mets beginning in the 1984 season. Like many long-suffering fans, I was anxious to see players like Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter lead the Mets to success as they developed strong teams the latter part of the decade, winning the World Series in 1986 and making the playoffs again in 1988. Dwight Gooden was a big reason for the Mets success, as he won the Rookie of the Year Award and Cy Young Award his first two years in the majors, and winning the "Triple Crown" for pitchers in 1985 as he led the league in wins, earned run average, and strikeouts.
Much has happened to Gooden since that championship year; the downward slide into alcohol and drug addiction, broken marriages, numerous arrests and run-ins with the police, and, most recently, induction into the Mets Hall of Fame and a stint on Dr. Drew's "Celebrity Rehab" television show.
In "Doc, A Memoir," Gooden, along with co-author Ellis Henican, detail the baseball star's life, from his somewhat wild upbringing in Tampa, Florida (as a five-year-old he witnessed his sister being shot by her husband), to being recognized as a pitching prodigy as a youngster, his entry into the major leagues at age 19, his successes on the field as well as numerous disappointments off of it.
Baseball fans familiar with Gooden's history will not be surprised by the content in this book. Gooden spares us none of the details and writes honestly about the pitfalls of dealing with fame, drinking, and drugs, and he is very clear that his dependencies cost him a shot at the baseball Hall of Fame. This is not really a baseball book (although baseball, which is a big part of his life, is the ongoing narrative) he does cover his time with the Mets and Yankees, as well as the brief stints he had with the Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Houston Astros.
I certainly enjoyed "Doc, A Memoir" and would recommend it, even if I was not a baseball fan or a fan of the New York Mets. The book is easy to read, and Gooden has a compelling story to tell. Throughout the book, I found myself constantly rooting for him to succeed, and certainly hope he is able to overcome his addictions and lead a normal life. The book also reminds us of what happens to many star athletes who are pushed into the limelight at such an early age, how our society coddles these athletes, and how easy it is for them to consistently choose the wrong path.