I had to admit that I did not see this coming this soon. No Mets fan did.
There has been a groundswell of New York Mets fans wanting Dwight Gooden’s No. 16 and Darryl Strawberry’s No. 18 to be retired at Citi Field for a long time that goes back to 10 to 15 years.
That day will finally arrive next season, as the Mets announced their numbers will be retired on Thursday.
It’s pointless to wonder about the motive of Mets owner Steve Cohen for doing this or debate whether or not those two should even have their jersey retired despite only a brief time with the franchise.
This should be a celebration of life for those two for what they have endured in their lives. This hasn’t been easy for both of them. Strawberry and Gooden’s careers were derailed by drugs, alcohol and fame. They managed to have a long career in Major League Baseball, but they never could replicate their greatness from their Mets days in the 80s. Despite all that, those two have been clean for a long time, and they have lived a great life for the most part.
We should be celebrating them for fighting drug addiction and alcohol addiction, which isn’t easy. They should know since they went through relapses in the 90s. When I remember them, I will definitely remember them for staying strong and living a good life after baseball. It could have been a lot worse. Those two should serve as an inspiration for anyone who goes through drug or alcohol problems. Even in a relapse, it doesn’t mean it has to be a lost cause.
So in that regard, it’s great to see Strawberry and Gooden get their day with the fans who grew up watching them and leading their team to a championship in 1986. This franchise doesn’t win a championship without the both of them.
Both brought swagger and talent that the team lacked for a long time. They were franchise players that elevated the Mets. They made Mets games an event, especially when Gooden was starting every fifth day. They were why the Mets supplanted the Yankees as the baseball team in the tri-state area in the 80s. You bet they were so influential to this franchise.
It’s why fans liked them and why they wanted the Mets to retire the numbers, even if it was only for a brief time. That’s the value of winning a championship. The memories are longer and fonder.
But as much as it means so much for the fans, it certainly means more for Strawberry and Gooden. They had to wonder if they would ever live to see to this day. 20 years ago, it wouldn’t even be a conversation. Time changes everything, and for both of them, they have managed to do something good for themselves such as helping others in rehab.
At 61 years old, Strawberry is much more reflective about his playing days. He talked about how much he enjoyed playing for the Mets and working in the city. He loved the fans. He may have taken it for granted as a Met, but when he played for the Yankees, he made sure he enjoyed every moment of playing in New York.
At 58 years old, Gooden is grateful the Mets honor him. He knows the team didn’t have to do that. He enjoyed being a Met during his heyday. He enjoyed the adulation that came with pitching every home game. For him to get his moment with the Mets fans one more time, it’s something he was hoping to get.
Strawberry and Gooden have been a presence at Mets home games for years now. They have always been welcome to be around the players in need when it comes to guidance and support.
To have their jerseys retired is the ultimate honor. This is something they won’t be taking for granted. They will cherish this forever when they get their day next year.
One can only imagine the emotions those two will go through when their days. This isn’t just going to be your typical jersey retire number, not after all the downs they went through to go with the ups of their lives.
This might as well be this is their life next season.
Good for them, and good for the fans to celebrate them again.
You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Friday
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