There was a doctor in the house at the Ridgewood Savings Bank of Sheepshead Bay on October 5 when former pitching ace Dwight Gooden, aka Doc, made an appearance for an autograph session that supported the efforts of Bay Improvement Group (BIG), a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving Sheepshead Bay, especially after Superstorm Sandy.
Both Mets and Yankees fans, who seldom agree on anything, shared their excitement at catching a glimpse of the former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher.
Gooden’s book, Doc: A Memoir, was released on June 3. The reviews have been as impressive as the sales. Months later, it’s still in the top 10 baseball books on Amazon’s chart.
“This is my third book. But I say this is really my first book,” said Gooden before he started signing for his dedicated fans. “Everything came from the heart. I shared dark moments. Good moments. It’s not really a baseball book. But it has baseball in it because baseball is my life. “
In his memoir, Gooden candidly admits mistakes that derailed his career for years, including substance abuse. His story of the difficult but successful road to recovery holds a purpose that may even be bigger than himself. “One of the main reasons for me doing the book was not only to help myself but to help others who may be going through similar difficult times that I went through and may be helping them as well. It was great therapy,” he said.
Nancy Feldstein, longtime Gooden fan and dressed in Yankees pinstripes, was more than enthusiastic to meet the four time all-star pitcher. “I love Mariano of course, but Doc Gooden is my favorite. I would cancel all plans I had just to see him pitch. And of course, my favorite day was May 14th, 1996,” recalled Feldstein. That date was the first and only time Gooden pitched a no hitter in his major league career, as a member of the New York Yankees. “I didn’t leave my spot in the room. I wouldn’t even go to the bathroom,” said the superstitious fan.
Although Gooden won two championship rings as a Yankee and pitched for three other MLB ball clubs, most remember him for his outstanding body of work as a New York Met. During his rookie season as a Met in 1984, Gooden became the youngest player to make an All Star team. His following season was his masterpiece. He won 24 games, struck out 268 hitters, posted an ERA of 1.53 and became the youngest pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award.
In 2010, the Mets organization called Gooden to inform him that he would be inducted to the Mets Hall of Fame, which currently consists of 27 members. “The Mets are like family to me so it’s great to be a part of it,” admitted Gooden. “It basically put closure on my baseball career. You come into the league you’re just thinking ‘I just want to have fun.’ I was living my dream. Then you start having success and you hear talk that you should be in Hall of Fame and Cooperstown. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. So once the Mets told me that I was going to the Mets Hall of Fame, it said to me that it was a job well done and they accepted the job that I did for them.”
Members of BIG were in attendance and were thrilled with the turnout. Copies of Doc were sold for $20 and included a personalized autograph; 100 percent of the sales went to the organization, to help mend the damage caused by the superstorm. A check of $1,240 was presented to BIG once the session concluded.
“We lost everything,” said President of BIG Steven Barrison. “We’re starting over. It’s great that this bank is the setting. We are very happy.”
Joseph Curcio, vice president and director of marketing for Ridgewood Savings Bank, was also gleaming. “This is our fifth anniversary here and we have grown. We are committed to serving the community.”