Darryl Strawberry decided to call out his friend and former teammate Dwight Gooden by publicly announcing that the legendary fireballer battles a serious cocaine problem to not risk waiting until something more drastic transpires.
In short, the 1983 MLB Rookie of the Year and eight-time All-Star said, “I have to try something before he’s dead.”
Strawberry sensed something amiss with the 51-year-old ex-hurler when he failed to show at a FanFest meet and greet on Saturday with his 1996 Bronx Bombers teammates. The two played key roles in winning World Series championships for the Mets in 1986 and the Yankees ten years later.
“My fear is that — and I know addiction — my fear is people that don’t change, they die,” said Strawberry, who battled alcohol and drug addiction of his own. The 54-year-old former Met straightened out his life since his release from prison for probation violations in 2003. Strawberry and his third wife Tracy are active members of their church community and together founded the Darryl Strawberry Foundation to raise funds for autism research.
Strawberry told the New York Daily News that Gooden is a “complete junkie-addict.” He explained, “I’ve been trying behind the scenes to talk to him and get him to go for help, but he won’t listen. He thinks he can manipulate and BS his way through everything. His son called me to beg me to help his dad before he dies.
“The condition Doc is in, it’s bad, it’s horrible. It’s like cocaine poison. I feel like I’ve got to get it out there because nobody else is doing anything to help him, and it might be the only way to stop him.”
To help publicize his buddy’s situation, Strawberry put Daily News reporter John Harper in touch with three people that know Gooden intimately, including a woman named Janice Roots who lived with Doc for four years before his cocaine addiction forced her to move out in February.
“It breaks my heart because Dwight is a loving, compassionate man who took care of me when I had health problems,” Roots said by phone on Sunday. “But then he morphed into a cocaine monster.”
One of the others who spoke with Harper, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he was in Gooden’s apartment in Jersey City on Thursday, the night Doc was scheduled to appear with Strawberry for a WFAN event. He claims that Gooden locked himself in the bedroom of his apartment and wouldn’t come out to appear at the gathering. “At one point I’m banging on the door,” the person said, “and he finally came barreling out of the room, but only to yell at me to stop banging on the door before I broke it. Then he went back in his room and wouldn’t come out.”
In May, Harper interviewed Gooden, who was candid about his struggle to stay sober. He admitted that “the temptation is always there, and that staying out of strip clubs, which would lead to drug use, was his biggest weakness.”
Strawberry thinks Gooden’s situation reached a desperate stage because Gooden won’t let him or anybody else help. “By us coming forward like this, he’ll realize that he’s been exposed and it will challenge him to get help,” he opined. “The worst thing we can do for him is stay silent. That was a common thread in some of these other celebrity deaths, like Prince and Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. Silence can kill people.”