Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doc: a Memoir by Dwight Gooden

Long-time baseball fans (especially Cubs fans) remember Dwight "Doc" Gooden vividly.  The "19-year-old rookie phenom" (as we all called him) came up in 1984 and was shelled by the Cubs in his first appearance against them.  He vowed never to let the Cubs do that to him again and dominated them for the next two years.  We also remember that his career self destructed after the 1986 World Series championship.  Doc: a Memoir gives us the whole sordid story. (It is actually a follow-up to his 1999 memoir Heat, which recounts his early episodes of tragedy and triumph, culminating with a great 1996 season with the Yankees.) It begins with the World Series victory parade the morning after--a parade Gooden missed because he was hung over from his own cocaine and vodka-fueled all-night celebration.  That episode sets the tone of the book.  The reader cringes at the disasters unfolding on the page but, much like a car crash, simply can't avert his eyes and stop turning the pages.  Although Gooden has loving and supportive parents (his dad taught him everything Dwight knows about baseball) he basically had a dysfunctional extended family.  When he was five years old he witnessed the near shooting death  of his older sister by her husband in their own home, and that trauma was certainly a factor in his dug and alcohol abuse years later.  Dwight has been in and out of rehab, has been arrested several times, and even spent a year in jail.  None of that motivated him to stay clean.  He recounts an episode where a Gospel song moved his heart and caused him to accept the invitation to appear on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2011.  He took the show seriously and credits the doctors and counselors for keeping him clean.  As of this writing, however, TMZ reports that his estranged wife (the couple is in divorce proceedings) obtained a restraining order against him in March.  As a result, Dwight moved out of their house, and in August the rest of the family was evicted for not paying the rent.  Baseball fans hope Dwight can stay clean, but his family turmoil will certainly make that a challenge.

One final note:  Dwight spends a fair amount of time talking about his relationship with teammate and 1983 Rookie Phenom Darryl Strawberry, who wrote his own memoir in 2009 (Straw: Finding My Own Way).  Basically both players went down the same path, even though Staw has been a vocal critic of Doc over the years.  Doc is disappointed over this turn of events, especially since fans continue to link both players together.


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