Different Floors of the House

Saturday, February 13, 2010

All I want for my birthday...it's not much, really.

Dwight Gooden.


I mean, what the Mets were, they were because of Dwight. What they will be, will be because of Dwight...or the standard of excellence he held high. My wife insists on Mr. Darling. Yeah, he's cute and all, was a great 'ass'et for the Mets in the 80's...but his nick aint Dr. K.

I'm thinking of starting thechurchofdoctorK.com, because I know there are closet Doc fans out there. Guys and gals who saw the man throw that hammer down, that lunging cannonesque fastball, that sweeping, parabolic 12 to hell curveball that made veterans like Wade Boggs and Dale Murphy's knees wrinkle. You never saw anything like this. Ever. I've seen them all. Doc was the greatest pitcher that ever played the game...even if that greatness was a mere flash-spark in the continuum that should have been a legacy.

Still, man, we miss those days.

When I was a kid, about 14 I guess, I used to cut the daily boxscore updates out of the newspaper and post them in a scrapbook. If the Mets won, I'd post the little blurb AP story on the page next to the standings. Every day I would update the book, add pictures whenever the local paper had them. Pictures of Dwight, Darryl, HoJo, Sid...all the guys. I submit to you it was the most totally awesome scrapbook of all time.

Not a lot of people know Doc's story, the "tragedy" that became Gooden's legacy. Certainly there have been poorly circulated stories about the events that took place starting in 1987, assumptions of the effects of instant riches on a poor black kid from south central L.A. The drugs, the altercations with police. The...disappointment. Mel Stottlemyre, in his book, Pride and Pinstripes, outlined a little bit of the problems with Dwight and the flawed friendship between the Doc and Darryl Strawberry. But it's not enough. Dwight himself has said very little about those days...very little that made anything easier to understand. But then, we were young, we just wanted our hero to be...heroic. Token assessments have since been made. Some apologies. We understand it a little better now, I suppose. So why does it still hurt?

I don't know, I'm not a psychiatrist, I only play one on the internet. But I do know that Doc, after suffering through his mistakes, miscues, and hard luck, pitched a no-hitter in 1996. And although that wouldn't prove to be the icing of success and for-once-and-for-all domination of Dwight's personal hardships, it was a beacon of light against the wall of fog which is Doctor K's persona. Turbulent waters can be overcome, right Doc? But the 'great shroud of the sea rolls on as it rolled five thousand years ago.' Right, Doc? I have to get past all these childish things, right Doc?

It's not easy, I can tell you.

I have a protective placard on my desk. It's a baseball card holder. Holds four cards. They're all Dwight. Two rookie cards, the the Fleer '01 fireballer card, the Member's choice card from Stadium Club. Under my desk there is the "Amazing Mets" Sports Illustrated--the one with the word 'Mets' crossed out and replaced by the word 'Mess'. Yeah, yuck yuck. I suppose my desk is my own little churchofdoctorK.com. But, sometimes its a chapel of pain. Today I'm thirty-eight years old and, I'm ashamed to admit, I still find myself staring at those glossy pictures of Doc in sorrow. Or maybe it's anger. Or maybe I'm just mad that it still makes me mad.

That's why I want Doc for my birthday this year. The Dwight Gooden who was the flamethrowin' hope of tomorrow. The Doctor K everyone feared and all admired. That's why you won't find any mugshots or post-incarceration interviews in this entry today. Because today, I let it all go. I'm taking the old Doc back, the Doc that inspired me to play a game I was admittedly never very good at. The Doc that taught me all the nuances of baseball and evoked my participation in the sport as a spectator, player and fan. Above all, I'm taking back the Doc that inspired me to rise above oppressions you don't get to know about and escape a fate worse than death--a life without the game.

So, this is my birthday present to myself.

Thanks Doc. You're still the man.

No comments: