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RAILRIDERS: Gooden Recalls Emotions Of No-hitter 20 Years Later

July 8, 2016 GMT

MOOSIC — It was a Tuesday in May more than 20 years ago and Dwight Gooden wasn’t even supposed to be at Yankee Stadium. Gooden had planned to be in Tampa, Florida with his father Dan, who had been on a kidney dialysis machine for more than a decade and would be undergoing open-heart surgery the next day. That morning, though, Gooden thought about what his father wanted him to do. So he called Yankees manager Joe Torre and told him he would pitch that night. The rest, as they say, is history. On May 14, 1996, Gooden fired the ninth no-hitter in Yankees history, leading them to a 2-0 victory over a Seattle Mariners team that boasted future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez. On Thursday, the 51-year-old Gooden was at PNC Field as part of the Legends Series and recalled the emotions of that night. “Amazing,” he said. “The first three innings of the game, I’m just thinking about my dad and honestly in the sixth inning when I was looking at the scoreboard and I see no runs, no hits, no errors. That’s when it really started to hit me. It turns out it was the last game my dad saw me pitch.” Gooden, who won two of his three World Series rings with the Yankees, flew to Tampa the next day as his father underwent the surgery. Dan Gooden died the following January at the age of 69. On Saturday, Gooden will be attending the funeral of his mother Ella Mae, but that didn’t stop him from making the trip to Northeast Pennsylvania even though it meant moving his appearance up one day. The way he looks at it, events like this give him an opportunity to interact with fans in a way he couldn’t as a player. “A lot of times as a player when you meet the fans at the field, everything’s so quick like signing a ball,” the four-time all-star said. “But doing this now, you take your time, you can talk with the kids about the game. I’d like to see more athletes spend more time with the fans.” Gooden, a Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and two-time strikeout leader with the New York Mets, remembered feeling fatigued late in the game of his no-hitter. After all, he finished with six walks and threw 134 pitches. He led off the ninth by walking Rodriguez before getting Griffey, Jr.., to ground out and then walking Martinez, prompting pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre to pay a mound visit. “There was no way I was coming out with a no-hitter,” Gooden said. “Mel came out to the mound and said, ‘How we doing?’ I said, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m not coming out.’ ” Gooden responded by striking out Jay Buhner and getting Paul Sorrento to pop out to shortstop Derek Jeter for the final out, setting off a wild celebration in which he was carried off the field by his teammates. Gooden won his other World Series with the Mets in 1986 with one of his teammates being slugger Darryl Strawberry. While they had so much talent and promise on the field, their careers were derailed by significant substance-abuse struggles, including cocaine and alcohol, arrests and jail time. Prior to the start of the game Thursday, fans were treated to a clip of the new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary titled, “Doc & Darryl,” which premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on ESPN. “It was tough,” Gooden said of filming the documentary. “We had a lot of memories. They really showed a lot of the bad stuff, which is fine because I did it. But they didn’t really show nothing with what I’m doing now. (But) overall, I support it.” Contact the writer: shennigan@timesshamrock.com @RailRidersTT on Twitter