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A time for celebration: Doc Gooden’s number retired by NY Mets

On Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, the New York Mets officially retired Dwight “Doc” Gooden’s No. 16. In his emotional acceptance speech, Gooden said that he begged the team to sign him again, if only for one day, so he could officially retire as a Met. “My health is good. My mental health is good. And today, I get to retire as a Met,” Gooden said to applause, “I want all you guys to know, you guys are a part of this.”

Gooden’s long-time teammate and friend Darryl Strawberry traveled to Citi Field from his home in Saint Louis for the event. It was quite a surprise as Strawberry suffered a heart attack last month. “I had to be here for Doc,” Strawberry told SNY.

“I wanted to stay to make things right with you guys. I didn’t want to leave on the note that I did,” Gooden told the fans, “Unfortunately, they thought it was best that we go separate ways. I was lucky enough to stay in New York, play with the New York Yankees for two years, ‘96 and ’97.”

“At his best,” Gooden’s nephew, Gary Sheffield, said, “he was the greatest pitcher that ever lived.” Seven of Gooden’s children were in attendance, plus many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Not to blow smoke,” Gooden said, “but I won just about every award a pitcher can win.”

The Mets selected Gooden out of his Tampa high school with the No. 5 pick in the 1982 draft. He debuted as a 19-year-old in 1984 and authored one of the greatest rookie seasons ever, throwing 218 innings with a 2.60 ERA and 276 strikeouts. His 11.4 K/9 came at a time when the MLB average was 5.4. Gooden won Rookie of the Year and was second in the Cy Young voting that year. The 1986 World Champion’s number will now hang in the rafters at Citi Field.

“I always wanted to come back here and let the fans know how much I appreciated them and what they meant to my career,” Gooden said.

No. 16 is the ninth retired number in Mets history, joining No. 14 (Gi Hodges), No. 17 (Keith Hernandez), No. 24 (Willie Mays), No. 31 (Mike Piazza) No. 36 (Jerry Koosman), No. 37 (Casey Stengel), No. 41 (Tom Seaver), and the universally retired No. 42 (Jackson Robinson). The Mets will retire Strawberry’s No. 18 on June 1st.

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