Dwight Gooden insisted Tuesday that he’s drug-free, despite the outcry of support sparked by Darryl Strawberry’s repeated public statements of concern for his life. The former Mets and Yankees pitcher, whose career was dogged by repeated drug problems, told Newsday he hasn’t used cocaine since March 11, 2012.
“That’s still the date,” Gooden said.
Speaking after an autograph session at Roosevelt Field Mall, Gooden said he’s touched by everyone who has reached out since Strawberry first suggested last week that Gooden was in the midst of a relapse.
On Tuesday, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon spoke with Gooden by telephone, and the Yankees said they “reached out through others to offer any services or assistance necessary.” But while Gooden understands he lost the benefit of doubt a long time ago, he insisted there’s no need for everyone to worry about him. “I don’t need rehab,” he said, “or anything like that.”
Wearing a black dress coat, a dark T-shirt with a silhouette of him pitching under the word “Gooden,” and dark blue jeans, Gooden said he took a physical about three weeks ago that came back as well as possible for someone who is 51 years old and done a lot of drugs.
“Every time I take a physical, to be honest with you, I’m the most nervous guy waiting for the test results,” Gooden said. “I’m worried about my liver, my kidneys, worried that something is not going to be right because of my use of drugs over the years. But everything is good. Not perfect. But as perfect as can be for my age.”
Gooden also expressed bemusement that people like Strawberry have suggested his skinny frame is a sign that he’s using drugs again. As evidence, the 6-3 Gooden said the heaviest he’s ever been was 265 pounds in 2011, a time when he said he was using cocaine as much as ever before. He said he was living in a hotel room on Route 17 in New Jersey struggling to go more than a day drug-free.
“Now I’m 210,” he said. “I could gain more weight. I know that. But what’s the difference?”
Gooden blamed the weight loss on stress over his mother’s deteriorating health — she died last month — and embarrassment over how he looked in a Yankees uniform at Old-Timers’ Day when he was at his heaviest five years ago.
There’s a photo that made the rounds online several years ago that shows Gooden in pinstripes with his gut hanging over his belt. Gooden said he was so bothered by his appearance that he kept a copy of the picture on his smartphone and looked at it daily to remind himself not to eat too much.
“I would like to gain some weight, but that’s going to come,” he said. “I’m not worried about that.” Then Gooden smiled. “Now skinny’s in.”
Strawberry first raised concerns about Gooden after he failed to appear at a WFAN event Thursday night, and Strawberry has continued to voice his opinion daily in interviews with different media outlets. Gooden released a statement Monday night criticizing Strawberry for an “inability to show more character and strength.”
On Tuesday, Gooden was ready to move on from Strawberry, saying what bothered him most was having to explain the “false accusations” to his youngest son, who is 11 and just starting to understand that his father once was a major-league pitcher.
After signing autographs for approximately 100 fans, Gooden said his immediate plans are to continue his schedule of appearances, work on a clothing line with one of his sons and keep talking about his drug-filled past, which he says helps keep him clean.
His message to fans?
“My health is well.”