New York Mets great Doc Gooden laments, reflects on his former pitching coach in the Big Apple, the late Mel Stottlemyre.
Not once, but twice Dwight “Doc” Gooden experienced the tutelage of pitching guru Mel Stottlemyre in New York City.
By the time Gooden burst onto the scene in 1984, the late, great Stottlemyre was in the New York Mets dugout. The teacher-student duo produced an excellent rookie season followed by one of the greatest pitching performances in New York baseball history.
Gooden finished 1985 with a 24-4 record to go along with a sparkling 1.53 ERA, 0.965 WHIP, and 268 strikeouts in 176.2 innings pitched, leading to Gooden’s lone Cy Young award.
“The best thing about Mel was that he was a straight shooter,” Gooden told The Post at Mets Fantasy Camp.
“When I first came up,’’ Gooden, 54, said, “he would talk to my dad a lot, and he told me, ‘Your dad knows a lot about pitching.’ He respected that, and Mel took the time to find little things to make my fastball better.
“After every game I pitched, I would call my dad before I would talk to reporters and go over the game. My dad had one of those big satellite dishes like a spaceship, and he and Mel would be saying the same stuff to me about pitching.’’
More than just a pitching coach, Stottlemyre represented a role model and baseball-like father figure.
“I remember he said to me, ‘You’re only 19. If you ever get homesick, you can always come to talk to me,’ ” Gooden said. “He understood. He had kids my age. It was like having a second father. Mel was always there for me, even when I messed up.
“In ’87, when I came out of rehab, I felt so bad because I felt like I let Mel down. I felt horrible,” Gooden said. “But he said he would not judge me. He said, ‘That happened and how are we going to get through today?’ I never would have had the career I had without Mel.”
Of course, the duo hooked up again in the Bronx inn 1996. After nine seasons with the former New York Yankees pitcher, there he was, Gooden, ready to roll again for his Queens mentor.
Gooden’s two-year stint with the Yankees resulted in a World Championship and, of course, his only career no-hitter.
“He told me to forget about my days with the Mets,” Gooden said. “He said, ‘Nobody can pitch the same way for 11 years. We have to go with what you have now until whatever magic you had comes back.’ That was tough. I had to make the transition to becoming a complete pitcher.”
In that ninth inning against Seattle, the Yankees were leading 2-0.
“I was gassed,” Gooden said. “I walked two guys, and Mel came to the mound and said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘Mel, it doesn’t matter. I’m not coming out.’
“He said, ‘All right, it’s your game,’ and he walked off. My last pitch to Paul Sorrento was on a tee, but he popped it up.”
Although Gooden didn’t pitch for the Yanks during the unforgettable ’96 October, the final out recorded by Derek Jeter on that May day against the Seattle Mariners symbolized much more than a random, dominant afternoon.
It turned out to be the final showcase of the Doc Gooden-Mel Stottlemyre marriage.