Craig: It is not every day we get a chance to talk to a guy who’s a Hall of Famer on a major-league baseball team — the New York Mets Hall of Fame — and one of the all-time New York Mets and New York Yankees — part of three world titles with them. And when I say that, most people have probably figured it out already, Dwight Gooden. Doc is in Sioux Falls today, and he joins us now on sports talk with Craig and John.
John: Welcome to town, Doc!
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: Hey, thanks for having me.
Craig: So, the natural question is, what is Dwight Gooden doing in Sioux Falls?
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: I’m actually here visiting a good friend of mine, Dr. Lou George. I’m here for surgery as well. He is a great, great, great friend — I should say family member now. But I had some problems — I had some infections — and I ended up meeting George at his birthday party, and we became good friends and found out the type of practice he does, which worked out good. I had a problem with my mouth. I was lucky that over 20-something years of tobacco use that it wasn’t cancer or anything like that; it was just an infection. I always had a problem going to the dentist; I had a big fear of doing that, and he made me feel comfortable. We talked about things we would do first, and it was the first time I ever came to the dentist without my mom. She would always bring me, but I felt comfortable with him. Even coming to his office, I just had this thing where, when I was young, I had a tooth ejected without them using Novocaine, and I just had this fear I never got over until I met Dr. Lou here and his team. I must say now I feel comfortable going to the dentist. My mom would have never thought in a million years she would hear her son say that. But they do a great job, and not only do they care about doing the business, they stay in contact with you to make sure you’re okay, and they care about you as a person first, which I thought was very unusual, but also, I loved that about them. It speaks volumes about their heart.
John: Doctor Lou George is with Siouxland Oral Surgery, and of course, Dr. George is a big-time Mets fan. How did you two, though, actually meet?
Craig: And when?
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: Yes, well, we met close to four years now. I was actually doing a thing in Iowa — Field of Dreams, the Kevin Costner movie. We were playing a charity softball game, and my agent — Dr. Lou’s wife contacted him about coming to his surprise birthday party. And so, I said, “Sure, I’ll do that.” To me, I love all my fans, and anything I can do for the fans, I like to do that. I came here, I met Dr. and his family. They were very nice people. I just felt like I fit right in. I mean, it was, like, meant to be.
John: Not knowing that eventually, you’d be having some dental work done.
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: I had no idea of that when I met him. It’s amazing how the good Lord works. We hit it off. I told him, I said, “I’ll be back; I’ll be back to visit.” He didn’t think I would. I said, ” Yeah, I’ll be back,” I didn’t know I was coming back for dental work. But, it worked out. I came back to visit him. Good friends, we just got to talking, and he was saying what type of work he does, and I was like, “Really?” and I was telling him about my thing, and we got some pictures and all that. He said he could do some work and gave me that bright smile again, and here I am.
Craig: He’s Dwight Gooden, 1985 Cy Young Award winner; World Champion with both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees. His doctor, Lou George, Siouxland Oral Surgery, is also with us. This is incredible because you’re from the New York Area, you grew up a Mets fan.
Dr. Louis George: Yeah.
Craig: And you met him just a few years ago, well after his career was over, and Doc’s story is so public, so well documented, the ups and the downs. But starting with being the youngest major league pitcher to appear in an All-Star game to start in an All-Star game and the ’86 title with the New York Mets, the ’85 Cy Young. I know you’re not a Yankees fan, but the comeback story was pretty cool as well in the late 1990s.
Dr. Louis George: Absolutely.
Craig: So, when you, somehow, were able to come in contact with him — explain meeting him and what it’s been like to be his friend.
Dr. Louis George: Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to kind of tell that little bit of my story. I actually grew up in Massachusetts, and when Doc came up and really started making a name for himself in 1984 was when I really came into my own with my baseball interests, and I decided, well, I was going to be a Mets fan. You know, my dad was a Yankees fan, so of course, I wasn’t having any bit of that, alright? So, you know, I was going to be a Mets fan, alright? So, you know, following him throughout his whole career, I mean — I told him when I met him I felt like I knew him already because my mom and I, huge Mets fans, and we were there through the ups and the downs and just watching him break all kinds of records. So then, you know, all these years later, when I’m honored enough to meet him at my birthday party, and — first of all, all my friends and family and all my patients know I like to talk. We get talking, I don’t shut up — but I didn’t say anything for the first ten minutes when he walked out of my birthday party. My wife totally had me. I stood there awestruck and then just followed him around probably like a 5-year-old for the first ten minutes like, I can’t believe he’s here. And then to have the opportunity to turn around and help him with something that he needed, for oral surgery and some other dental needs, it was a true honor, and I thank God for the blessing to be able to do it.
John: So, Doc, you’re thinking all the problems you’ve had, though, was because of tobacco. Chewing tobacco?
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: Yeah, chewing tobacco. I think that was a big part of it. I started chewing very young. Most guys start when they play professional baseball, but my mom, she’s a southern girl from Georgia, half Indian, and she’s chewed, and like any kid, you see your parents doing something, you want to try it. I tried it, and unfortunately, I liked it. So, I started chewing and dipping in school for a very long time, and I started having problems with my gums — gum bleeding and so on. I had tooth decay, bad tooth infections, and so it was time. I knew I needed some work done, but I was afraid of the dentist, and it’s amazing how things work out. How you just go visit a fan, at the time, to help him celebrate his birthday, and it turns out, not only did he become my oral surgeon to do my work, but we became good friends as well.
John: What’s keeping you busy today?
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: Today, I do a lot of work with the kids. I still work with the Mets. I work with the minor league pitchers. If they have, like, a top prospect that’s struggling, say in eight ball AA, I’ll go there, spend my time with him, see what’s going on. I’ll do a lot of public appearance stuff. I do public speaking’s with teens with addiction problems. I like going places and telling my story to high schools, colleges — it’s great therapy for myself. I have a little son in Maryland, a 12-year-old who plays all sports. I try and be involved with him and my daughter because, with my older kids, I missed a lot of these cool activities and missed a lot of their games because I was playing baseball as well. So, with my two little kids, I try to be there for them as much as I can. And also, I was taught as a kid, trying to put a smile on a stranger’s face, if you understand what I’m saying. All that means is try to be there for anybody. We’re all brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a homeless person. I try to treat everyone the same and just try and strengthen my relationship with the good Lord.
Craig: He’s Dwight “Doc” Gooden, 1985 Cy Young Award winner, 1986 World Champion with the New York Mets, and went on to become a no-hitting pitcher for the New York Yankees in ’96 — World Champion with them as well. Sports Talk with Craig and John here on 98.1 FM, 1230 AM sports radio in Sioux Falls, and of course, Dwight Gooden is here to get a little more oral surgery work from Dr. Lou George of Siouxland Oral Surgery. That’s why he is here today, and again, your life has been well chronicled, and you’d mentioned the addiction, but how long has it been since you’ve been sober this time around? And how challenging has that been, obviously, throughout your whole life?
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: It’s challenging. I don’t take no day for granted. I have five years clean and sober by the grace of God. The most important day is today, and you just try to take it a day at a time, sometimes a minute at a time. And with my problem, my addition, I had to be aware of things when things were going bad — I had to be very aware. And also, when things were going good, I had to be aware. Because when things are going good, with my track record, I tend to let my guard down. I cut back on my meetings, I cut back on contact with my sponsor, cut back on my support group. Unfortunately, over 20-something years of trying to do it myself, I figured it out. I think I have it somewhat together now, but I still don’t take it for granted because I know one false move, one false thought, sharing that with somebody, I could be in trouble and right back to where I was. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I’m not getting any younger, and I just try to take it a day at a time, and by me telling my story to kids and helping them, that’s also therapy for myself.
Craig: I mean, I can’t imagine — the ’80s, in New York. I mean, New York City, in the ’80s, but also, you’re 19. You’re one of the youngest, best talents that’s ever come across. All kinds of people, including women, who throw themselves at you at that age, for about two or three years, and I mean, you’re like a rocket ship to the moon. Give us a glimpse, even though it’s been done before, into that kind of life and how it can both, obviously, euphoric but all kinds of speed bumps.
Dwight “Doc” Gooden: Lot of speed bumps. You know, things happen for a reason. Unfortunately, I had some bad falls. I tried to learn from those falls, and unfortunately along the way, you hurt people. You know, I hurt my kids, I hurt my family, but they forgave me. The good Lord forgave me, but I always had a hard time forgiving myself. I was very fortunate about two weeks ago where the city gave me, well the mayor gave me, the key to the city. As you guys know, I missed the parade in ’86. That left a big scar, a big void in my heart. I was able to re-do that, relive that moment with some good friends — Dr. Lou and his family was there to take part in that. So that was a big lift off me, a big burden. So, I feel like now my baseball career that I had I can put closure to that because that was a big part that I missed. And then, as you mentioned with addiction, that’s an everyday process. You never heal from it; you just take your medication. It’s almost like if a patient has cancer, he gets his chemo. My chemo is going to meetings, being away from people, places, and things, surrounding myself with a good support group, like Lou — he’s a great friend. We talk all the time, and he keeps things in perspective, and just try to keep everything simple. But also, when I have bad days, being able to tell on myself lets everybody know how I’m really feeling inside.
Craig: And Dr. Lou, you’ve known him for a few years now. Dr. Lou George from Siouxland Oral Surgery, he’s the reason why Dwight “Doc” Gooden is here in town and chatting with us here on Sports Talk with Craig and John, 98.1FM / 1230 AM, Sports Radio KWSN. You hear these things of people who have gone through rehab and have committed to being better people, but there’s relapses, and sometimes you wonder, especially if they’re extremely public figures that get interviewed a lot like this, like Dwight, if it’s genuine. Give us a glimpse into what it’s like to be Doc Gooden’s friend and how genuine it is.
Dr. Louis George: It still blows me away. Like I said, growing up knowing this individual as this monumental sports hero and then getting the chance to meet him as an individual person and become friends, and I’m honored to call him part of my family now. His whole family are just fantastic people. It really is kind of one of those chances in a lifetime that come true, and my Siouxland business partner, Dr. Denis Miller, and I are both huge baseball fans, but we really enjoy the individual aspect and getting to meet someone like Doc Gooden and hear his story and then turn around and help him has just been truly humbling. Like I said, it’s an honor to call him part of our family.