Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden's jersery was retired at Citi Field on Sunday. NewsdayTV's Jamie Stuart reports. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez

Technically, it was a day to make it official that no Met ever will wear No. 16 again. But to the guest of honor, it was something more than that.

“I look at it not necessarily as a retirement,” Dwight Gooden said before Sunday’s ceremony in advance of the Mets hosting the Royals at Citi Field.

“I look at it more as a celebration.”

That celebration was about more than his 16-year major-league career, his 194 victories and his championships with both New York franchises.

“It’s a celebration of my career as well as my life off the field,” Gooden said.

That was a reference to the off-field problems, including a history of drug abuse, that sidetracked what likely would have been an even greater legacy.

But on this day, Gooden, 59, opted to look at his positive present rather than his complicated past.

Before the number retirement ceremony, Gooden said that while he regrets things such as missing the Mets’ 1986 championship parade, “I just think about where I’m at today, healthy mentally and physically.”

He also listed some of his baseball achievements and said, “I have nothing to be ashamed of about my career . . . I’m very proud of my accomplishments.”

As Gooden spoke to reporters, and later when he was on the field, he was supported by numerous former teammates, including Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Mike Torrez, Tim Teufel, Rafael Santana, Jesse Orosco, Roger McDowell, Lee Mazzilli, Barry Lyons, Howard Johnson, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.

Sandy Carter represented her late husband, Gary.

Strawberry, who suffered a heart attack last month, got the biggest cheer during introductions.

Gooden also was joined by his children and many extended family members. (He is a great-grandfather, by the way.)

After a video tribute, light rain began to fall and the wind kicked up on what otherwise was a warm, sunny day.

But the ceremony went on. The Mets presented Gooden a framed jersey and a bronzed pitching rubber.

When Gooden referenced his two stints with the Yankees, fans booed, but each time he reassured them, saying, “I’m always a Met.”

He recounted his several attempts to rejoin the Mets after his initial departure in 1994, then said Sunday’s event finally represented the right timing.

“My health is good,” he said. “My mental health is good. And today, I get to retire as a Met. And I want all you guys to know, you guys are part of this.”

The 2024 Mets watched from the dugout. When they took the field after what would be a 46-minute delay, Gooden threw out the ceremonial first pitch — a strike — to his 11-year-old grandson, Caden.

Francisco Lindor said before the Mets’ 2-1 win, “I’m sure people might have some tears . . . It’s going to bring out a lot of memories to people that came and watched him, probably people that came and watched him with their parents.”

Gooden, too, shed some tears remembering his late parents, Dan and Ella Mae, on his big day.

The only time he choked up when speaking to reporters or during the ceremony itself was when he recalled his parents watching in the stands in Houston as he made his first major-league appearance, 40 years and one week earlier.

“It was my dad’s dream at first that became my dream,” Gooden said. “Just to see the joy, more so on my dad’s face, meant everything to me.”

Gooden’s nephew, former slugger Gary Sheffield, said, “To me, this is more for my granddad because of the things he instilled in us at a young age . . . He spoke it into existence. He knew this day would come for Doc.”

Sheffield said of Gooden, “At his best, he was the greatest pitcher who ever lived.”

Gooden said that when Mets owner Steve Cohen first called him last year proposing the number retirement, he thought it was a prank by a former teammate.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something that I never thought would possibly happen.”

Gooden thanked fans and teammates for sticking with him through it all.

“When [fans] show you support that way, that’s where the real connection comes in, and that’s what means a lot to me,” he said.

Said Wilson: “We were there through the good and the bad, because we love him that much, and we love each other that much.”


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