Forever Amazin': Mets set dates for Doc, Straw's uni retirement ceremonies

January 17th, 2024

NEW YORK -- For most of their baseball lives, and have been linked together, and this year is no different. After 2024, no player in the Mets organization will wear uniform Nos. 16 and 18, as they will be retired at Citi Field in honor of Gooden and Strawberry, respectively.

Gooden’s ceremony will take place on April 14, when the Mets play the Royals, while Strawberry’s day in the sun will come on June 1, before New York faces Arizona. They will be the ninth and 10th players -- Willie Mays, Keith Hernandez, Jerry Koosman, Mike Piazza, Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel are the others -- to have their numbers retired at Citi Field.

Gooden and Strawberry brought electricity and winning baseball to Shea Stadium in the 1980s -- Gooden with his electric arm and Strawberry with his sweet swing from the left side of the plate. They helped the Mets reach the mountaintop in 1986, when they beat the Red Sox in seven.

Gooden’s best seasons were 1984 and 1985. In 1984 he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award after setting a Major League rookie record with 276 strikeouts. The following year he became the youngest pitcher to win Cy Young honors; he also captured the Triple Crown of pitching, leading the Majors in wins (24), strikeouts (268) and ERA (1.53). He ranks second in franchise history in wins (157) and strikeouts (1,875) and third in innings (2,169 2/3), complete games (67), starts (303) and quality starts (209).

Strawberry came to the Big Apple with a lot of hype. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 Draft, he was labeled the “Black Ted Williams.” Strawberry would spend eight years with the Mets, helping them win two division titles, one pennant and one World Series title, and finishing his career with seven All-Star nods. He remains the franchise leader with 252 career home runs. Strawberry left the Mets after the 1990 season, signing with the Dodgers as a free agent.

Gooden and Strawberry are grateful to be honored by the team that gave them their start in the big leagues.

“It’s the highest honor you can get from a team,” Gooden said. “I know for myself … even when I was with the Yankees, I always considered myself a Met. I always wanted to retire as a Met. … I can’t thank [owners] Steve and Alex [Cohen] and the board enough to give me this great honor I can share with my teammates, the fans and my family. I’m looking forward to this day. It’s the greatest honor I can achieve in baseball.”

Said Strawberry: “We had an opportunity to be young players and come up through the farm system, develop and become the type of players that we were … in the city that is very tough to play in. I’m so glad that we had an opportunity to play in New York City in the National League at Shea Stadium. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. … To be able to have this honor ... your number is going to be retired and that’s forever, it’s bigger than going into the [Baseball] Hall of Fame.”

Strawberry credits his success to the coaches and managers -- from Jim Frey to Bill Robinson -- who helped him along the way.

“I had people who had a great impact on me and helped me get to that next level,” Strawberry said. “Jim Frey helped me get started during my rookie season and reminded me what it was going to take to be a great Major League player. But Bill Robinson took me to the next level as an offensive player and a player to dominate the ballgame.”

Gooden was 19 when he made his Major League debut in 1984 but he pitched like a 10-year veteran. It helped that people like Strawberry, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and then-public relations director Jay Horwitz were there to show him the ropes.

“I kind of fed off of Darryl. He talked to me a lot about expectations, telling me about the media as well as Jay,” Gooden said. “On the field I had Mel Stottlemyre, who was a great guy, obviously a great pitching coach, but he became a great friend of mine. A lot of times on the road, he would come to my room, make sure I was OK and make sure I was home safely.”

Gooden and Strawberry were thrilled to win the World Series together, but they said their best moment in a Mets uniform occurred on Sept. 17, 1986, when the Mets beat the Cubs, 4-2, to win their first division title since 1973. Gooden pitched a shutout and the fans poured onto the field to celebrate with their heroes.

“The way the fans poured on that field, I went straight into the bullpen exit. That’s what I always dreamed of,” Strawberry said. "I’ve done a lot of things from a personal standpoint, but that moment was like the biggest in my baseball career because I always watched it on television and saw other teams [go through it]. … To be able to clinch that division at home and have the fans come on the field … It’s one of the most incredible moments. I still get chills when I think about it. It’s all in my head, when the fans just rushed the field. They tore the field up.”

Though Gooden and Strawberry each had problems with drugs and alcohol, they fought to recover. Maybe Horwitz phrased it best: They rebounded from adversity to become solid citizens. Strawberry is a traveling minister, while Gooden often visits middle and high schools to talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use.

“They are doing great work now. That is probably their best legacy,” Horwitz said.