Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gooden Got No-Hitter, Lift Just When He Needed It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gooden Got No-Hitter, Lift Just When He Needed It

Article excerpt

Major leaguers don't carry each other off the field. That kind of stuff is reserved for Hollywood and high school, far too un-cool for these millionaires.

Yet there was Dwight Gooden, riding on the shoulders of the New York Yankees last week in a genuine outpouring of emotion and good feeling in a place where that commodity has been in short supply for a long time.

For one night, there was no talk of the deteriorating neighborhood around Yankee Stadium, about how George Steinbrenner was going to pack up and move the team.

This night belonged to Gooden, who had to be going through a roller coaster of emotions as he stood on the mound in the ninth inning, reaching for a pitcher's peak, a no-hitter. On the night before his father was to undergo open heart surgery, Gooden sent the ultimate get-well wish.

This was not any old no-hitter. This one was special because of Gooden, who once owned New York and then was dismissed, cast aside when he got caught in the web of injury and drugs. Gooden understood the significance of the moment.

"To be through what I've been through, and now this," he said. "I can't describe it."

In his glory days with the New York Mets, there were a couple of near-misses, no-hit bids that were broken up in the late innings. In those days, he was an overpowering pitcher and brought with him the possibility of a no-hitter everytime he walked to the mound.

That was then. This is now.

Drugs complicated by rotator cuff surgery had turned Gooden into the ultimate reclamation project, left on baseball's trash pile, beyond recycling, it seemed. His failed drug rehabilitations led to a year's suspension from the game. He had to knock on doors to get a chance again this spring and after only the Yankees would give him one, it looked like he had failed that, too.

Three weeks ago, he was on waivers, his comeback buried under an 11.48 earned-run average. He seemed lost on the mound, a man groping in a place where he once dominated.

Layers of rust had accumulated during his rehab year away from the game. The comeback statistics were alarming. He had allowed 17 runs, all of them earned, on 20 hits in 13 1-3 innings. …

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