ESPN documentary ‘Doc and Darryl,’ a look back at the former Mets stars
Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden will forever be linked. They will always be Mets — despite their time with other teams, including the Yankees — and their lives will always be retold as the cautionary tales of dreams done in by demons. They are the superstars whose Hall of Fame careers were sunk by addiction.
Directors and executive producers Michael Bonfiglio and lifelong Mets fan Judd Apatow (“Girls,” “Trainwreck,” “Anchorman”) brought the two together at a Queens diner in the summer of 2015. Gooden greets Strawberry, points at the piece of pie on the table and notes that his former teammate still likes his sweets. It is the start of an interesting and, at times, insightful conversation between two old teammates, if not close friends, who have parallel histories.
There are only bits and pieces of that time in the diner, however. This ESPN “30 for 30” documentary follows the pattern of past films in the acclaimed series. Most of the more-than-hour-long documentary is footage and interviews from the past and more recent interviews with each of them individually, along with former teammates, sportswriters, announcers, addiction specialists and famous Mets fans.
It does have a couple of memorable exchanges from the diner table, such as when Gooden tells Strawberry how much he appreciated how Strawberry helped him when the pitcher got to the team and, later, when Gooden tries to confront Strawberry about Strawberry outing Gooden’s cocaine use. The former outfielder and addict-turned-minister’s reaction to both is not only revealing but quickly ends the conversations — at least that viewers see.
Mostly, though, the film is a tale of troubled but talented teens thrown into situations they couldn’t handle.
For Strawberry, the media attention when he was a senior in high school left him wondering why they were making such a big deal out of him and wishing the attention would disappear. He just wanted to use the baseball field as an escape, he said, from the hurt he felt from growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father.
Things only got worse when he was drafted by the Mets and went to his first professional team in Tennessee.
“I used to call my mom every night, ‘Mom I don’t know if I can do this,’Ÿ” he said.
He said he was forced to “swallow” racial epithets at the ballpark as he dealt with the pressure of being the top pick, and “I just started getting high every day.”
Gooden was pushed by his dad in different ways.
“Baseball was my dad’s dream,” he says. “It became my dream.”
Strawberry and Gooden became teammates when the latter joined the Mets in 1984. Strawberry says he “had to laugh” when he first met the 19-year-old pitcher.
“I was hammered,” Gooden interrupts from across the diner table.
Strawberry laughs and describes how Gooden’s head was on the bar. For those watching who know what came next, the laughter might be a little cringe-inducing.
“Doc and Darryl” is the story of addiction, treatment and being given another chance — over and over again.
In this 30th anniversary year of the 1986 Mets championship, this “30 for 30” obviously has a lot of reminiscing about the team that made the two famous on and off the field. Strawberry called the group “a bunch of drunks, a bunch of womanizers, a bunch of liars.”
Manager Davey Johnson defends the team that obviously holds a special place in his career.
“It was a family, it was fun,” he said. “When we hit the field, nobody played harder than us.”
Nobody partied harder either, as the team quickly became as known for their postgame carousing as their on-field success.
“I can only tell you we had fun,” said former Mets first baseman and current broadcaster Keith Hernandez.
Or as Mets superfan Jon Stewart puts it, “Caligula is in the corner, like, ‘Whoa, guys, settle down.’Ÿ”
Gooden and Strawberry were in the middle of it all. They were the core of what Mets fans saw as a dynasty in the making and instead became “Doc and Darryl,” a documentary about some great moments on the field and tragic decisions off it.