Dwight Gooden stood behind a podium before Mets fans at City Hall on Friday recounting how his battle with addiction caused him to miss the 1986 World Series victory parade down the Canyon of Heroes. He choked up for a moment, then collected himself. As he finished his remarks, he was enveloped in a warm embrace by Darryl Strawberry.
The public fracture between the beloved stars of that team is over. It crested last August when Gooden failed to show for an appearance they scheduled and Strawberry went public with fears Gooden had relapsed. Even in March, Gooden said at Mets camp that the two were no longer friends.
But they renewed their close bond in a meeting at Delmonico’s restaurant in Manhattan about a month ago. It was brokered by common friend Amy Heart, the host of the “Sports with a Heart’’ podcast, and was filmed for a forthcoming documentary.
The film also will include footage from the public ceremony on Friday, when Gooden received a key to the city from Mayor Bill de Blasio in a moment designed to make up for the one he missed back in 1986. Other ’86 Mets — Strawberry, Jesse Orosco, Bobby Ojeda and Barry Lyons — attended.
“Things happen and, unfortunately with me and him, everything is publicized,” Gooden said Friday. “A lot of times we said things we really didn’t mean — it went on for a while. We’ve always had something like a love-hate relationship you have with your own brothers. But the thing with your brothers in your own house: Nobody knows but you and your brother and maybe your parents. Unfortunately, with me and him, everybody knows.
“It’s good we talked. At the time I was being childish about it because I could have gone to him and told him, ‘My fault.’ He told me he probably should have come to me. We should have handled it differently, but unfortunately we let our emotions got the best of us.
“For what he said, he felt he had a right to say that, and I respect that. But we settled that and it just helps our relationship get stronger and grow from that point.”
Heart explained that it wasn’t easy to get Gooden to the sit-down.
“It was a very difficult thing for Doc,” she said. “He felt betrayed and he felt lost and I saw this from the months after all of this happened. And Darryl felt that. Darryl really wanted to talk to him face-to-face. They wouldn’t talk on the phone and finally I said, ‘You know what, you guys? If I can bring you together in a real setting in a real place and you can talk this out, will you do it?’ They said ‘absolutely’ because deep down inside, they truly do care for each other.”
Gooden went on a drug and alcohol binge the night before the ’86 victory parade and ended up watching it on television in a Long Island housing project. He was genuinely touched by Friday’s ceremony.
“You have a big hole, no matter how much you’ve accomplished, when you miss something major, something as a kid you dreamed of,” Gooden said. “When you miss something of that magnitude with a team and a city, especially because of addiction — and my addiction had me in a place where I was watching it on TV — it kept me sick for a long time. I was able to learn how to cope with it, but I never got over it. There was always an emptiness there. And now that void has been filled.”
Gooden said of Strawberry, “We’ve always been close and, deep down, I know he will always love me and I have always loved him.
“At times we didn’t see eye-to-eye and maybe times in the future we might not see eye-to-eye, but we know how to handle that now,” he said. “It’s a good thing because so many people want to see Doc and Darryl.”