The first Mets game I remember was in 1984, when I was nine years old. The majority of my family liked the Yankees. So, in an effort to be different, I picked the Mets, and I immediately took to Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden, who were young, exciting, a bit brash and powerful.
Last week, the Mets announced that Strawberry, Gooden, Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson have been inducted in to the team’s Hall of Fame.
I was able to meet up with Strawberry and Gooden at SNY’s studios, to talk about the Hall of Fame, role models in sports, and being my idols growing up watching baseball in the 80s.
To see the full seven-minute interview, click play here; otherwise, scroll down for written transcript:
Matthew Cerrone: I grew up a huge Mets fan, seeing you guys here together, in these jackets, is a thrill to be quite honest, as you’re really the reason I fell in love with baseball. At the same time, your careers kind of took a turn at the end, a lot of fans were disappointed, like myself, who kind of felt let down in a weird way. But, it’s awkward, because you were young men, professional ballplayers trying to find your way. How do you feel about role models in sports, now, looking back on your careers and how things went?
Dwight Gooden: Well, for me, role models start at home… Athletes, we’re human as well, we’re gonna make mistakes. Me and Darryl both were thrown in a similar situation at a young age, lots of expectations, and I felt for the most part we handled it very well. Obviously, we had some downfalls off the field, but we got our life together and things are going well and you can only learn from your mistakes and share that with kids and hope they don’t make the same mistake.
Darryl Strawberry: People always say, ‘Athletes are role models,’ but I don’t really think that’s the case. I think what we do is, we’ve been given a gift, to play sports and excel, and to try and do as well as we can. It’s like Doc said, role models are made at home, through parents, brothers, sisters, and in yourself… We handled the situation as well as we could have, as young men. I was 21, of course, and Doc was 19, expectations were high and the sky was the limit for us… You know what it is, I just think you’re naive when you’re that young. And you think you can do whatever you want to do however you want to do it. I think we all think that way when growing up. Our situation just happened to be playing big-league baseball, and being in a major spotlight. I think every kid will go through something, you see kids in college, at 21, and the different things that they go through, but it’s just we were doing it as professionals, getting paid and we were excelling on the field. But, there are lessons to be learned, no question about it. There were lessons for me to learn, and I learned them the hard way. Do I wish that up on anybody? No. I wish they can learn it the easier way.
Matthew Cerrone: I know you don’t think you were role models, but you are. It’s a weird conundrum. Because, on one hand, you don’t want to be a role model, but, like it or not, you are. I mean, I’m running around as a kid with a Doc and Darryl t-shirt on, looking up to you guys… my father bought it for me. So, that’s the reality. What do you tell your own kids, as they watch sports?
Dwight Gooden: I have young guys, my oldest son is 23, I also have a five year old, and my other two boys are in to sports now, they’re 13 and 15… So, with them, you just tell them, ‘Learn from my mistakes,’ and I share with them the choices I made. My biggest problem was trying to please others, trying to fit in, trying to be liked, and, when I would go home, and go back to Tampa, I wanted those guys to know I was the same guy, and I put myself in danger just trying to fit in. So, basically, I just try to share with them the experiences I went through and help them make better choices… and for them to have someone to talk to, even if it’s not me, someone they’re comfortable with, someone they can share things with, because that was another downfall I had. I could never share what was going on with me, I just bottled it up inside, because at a young age there was a lot expected of me, especially from my family, where, basically, I was the care taker, because, I figured, if I have a problem I can’t go to them, how are they gonna look at me? So, a lot of stuff I let build up inside, which with my kids, I try to teach them the opposite.
Matthew Cerrone: And yet, here we are, all these years later, and this is great, as Mets fans love you, you’re gonna be in the Mets Hall of Fame, and that’s great. How does that feel, to sort of come full circle and be back in the family… to hear the fans cheer again, that much be exciting?
Darryl Strawberry: Well, yeah, it’s definitely exciting for both of us. I mean, you think about our careers… You look at the fans, and you think of all the support and concern that Mets fans have had for us over the years for me and Doc because they believed in us and they saw what we did as players, and then they believed in us as a person too, but I think they just wanted to see us get our lives together and we were able to do that. To be able to be sitting here, to be able to say we’re being inducted in to the Mets Hall of Fame that’s an honor…
Dwight Gooden: It’s a great honor… not only to be inducted, but to be inducted with Darryl… I think we made eachother better. I know on days when I was pitching, if he hit a home run I wanted to go out and strike out the side… It was a great thing, and we were always there for eachother, whether we needed to talk on the plane or if he’d get on me for something for not doing what I was supposed to do. For all the things that took place, for it to come full circle and to be in the Mets Hall of Fame is just an honor and privilege…
Matthew Cerrone: Well, I can tell you, as a fan, I’m thrilled you’re gonna be in their Hall of Fame, but I’m even happier that you’re both doing well and that you’re back in the family again, and that’s great.