Mets owner Steve Cohen said it when he first took control of the team in November 2020. He planned on honoring franchise history more than the previous regime. Cohen has stayed true to this promise multiple times. That will continue in 2024, as New York recently announced the jersey retirements for both Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.
This is an extraordinary honor for any athlete. But based on the story Gooden shared on The Show with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman this week, it must feel a little extra special.
The former right-handed hurler opened up his appearance with an unreal story. After his Mets tenure was officially complete following the 1995 season (which he sat out because of a suspension), he tried to re-sign with the club four different times simply because he wanted to end his career in Queens and do right by the fans.
He was rejected every single time by New York. The final refusal was the most ridiculous of all. Doc Gooden just wanted to sign a one-day contract to officially retire as a Met. Here’s how he told the story on the podcast:
I remember in ’95 when the Mets wanted to cut ties with me because of the suspension, and I was hurt because I wanted to make it right with the fans. I didn’t want to go out on my Met career with the way it ended.
I remember, I signed with the Yankees, which was great because I wanted to stay in New York, so Mr. Steinbrenner allowed me to do that. After the ’97 season, I called the Mets, and Steve Phillips was the general manager at the time, and not to throw stones at anybody, but I asked him, was there any chance of me coming back, was there any interest? He said, ‘Unfortunately, the roster is full, we wish you all the best.’
I signed with Cleveland from ’98-99. After the ’99 season, I called the Mets again and said, ‘Hey, look – I’d like to come back. Any openings or anything there?’ Once again, I was told, ‘We don’t have anything, nothing’s there.’
I signed with Houston at the end of spring training as a non-roster player. I pitched one game, got traded to Tampa, pitched eight games, and got released. I called the Mets again and I said, ‘I’d love to come back, I’ll go to Triple-A, I’ll do whatever you guys want. I just want to finish my career as a Met.’
I was told no again, signed back with the Yankees. Beat the Mets in the World Series. After the season was over, I was in spring training with the Yankees and hurt my knee – I tore my MCL actually. And I probably wasn’t going to make the Yankees anyway.
I called the Mets again – I’m not going to say any names of who I talked to – I said, ‘Look, can I sign a one-day contract to retire as a Met?’ I was actually turned down again.
This is a Common Wilpon L if I’ve ever seen one. We all know Doc had his issues off the field, and he’ll be the first one to talk about it/own up to it. But to reject Gooden’s request to sign a one-day contract and retire with the team that drafted him is a special kind of petty. It’s an unsurprising one, though.
That’s why getting his no. 16 retired next season likely feels even more special than it already was. He received some closure by getting inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010. But this? This is the kind of thing that’ll help Doc Gooden end things the way he wanted to 20-plus years ago.