What Dwight Gooden's Life In Prison Was Really Like

If Dwight Gooden were part of the music industry, he'd be considered a one-hit-wonder. The former Major League Baseball star was once touted for his impeccable talent on the field, having joined the Mets in 1984 as a pitcher. Per Sports Illustrated, the young Gooden delivered a record-high 268 strikeouts at the time, making him a shoo-in to receive the National League Rookie of the Year award.

In 1986, he helped the Mets secure the win at the World Series, and in 1996, he threw a legendary no-hitter. The former athlete seemed unstoppable, but Gooden's life changed forever in December 1986. He was arrested for fighting with authorities, per Bleacher Report. After the arrest, he tested positive for cocaine and was absent from the World Series parade. ESPN reported that he was too inebriated to function.

Gooden's descent started from there, and while he managed to play a few games sporadically, he never returned to his former glory. He started getting slapped with suspensions for chronic drug use, and years down the line, he decided to enter prison like his friend and fellow player Darryl Strawberry. For Gooden, this was an attempt to break free from addiction.

Dwight Gooden hated prison

Dwight Gooden retired in 2001. In the following decade, he had multiple run-ins with the law. The New York Times reported that he was charged with DUI in 2002, and in 2005, he got in trouble for physically harming his girlfriend. He made a confession that he was under the influence of cocaine, so his probation officer gave him two choices: prolong his probation or go to prison. Gooden chose incarceration.

While the former Yankee only served time for half a year, he admitted that it was an experience he would never dare repeat. "I'd rather get shot than come back here," he told The New York Post (via ESPN). "If I don't get the message this time, I never will." Gooden was sent to a facility in Lake Butler, Florida, where he had to spend ten days alone in his cell, cut off outside access. "That was torture. It was like you're an animal," he recalled. He was later transferred to the Gainesville Correctional Institute, which was reportedly akin to a military barrack. "It's been a humbling experience," he added. "It's like going from the top down to the bottom."

At the time, it really seemed like Gooden had reflected on his actions. "I look back at '86 and I remember when that season was over, that's when I first got started with cocaine," he said. "Now here we are 20 years later ... I'm in prison because of cocaine. It's a sad story, really."

Dwight Gooden today

Unfortunately, Dwight Gooden suffered a relapse multiple times since his short time in prison. His struggle with drug use reached a fever pitch in 2019 when he was arrested multiple times for DUI.

He admitted to the New York Post, "I'm very embarrassed. Very shameful," adding that he got "exactly what (he) deserved." Gooden agreed to get help again "to save my life." 

He said: "I'll be checking in tonight, whatever it takes. This time, I mean, at my age, I've been doing this for 30-something years. I never thought I'd see myself at 54 going back to treatment." During his probation hearing, he promised the judge that he would do everything it took to turn his life around. "I understand that my recovery has to come first. This has saved my life," he said (via App).

Gooden has learned to forgive himself for his past mistakes, but he still thinks about what could have been. "I've forgiven myself for the things I did because that's part of my recovery," Gooden confessed to MLB. "But I'm always going to wonder how things would have turned out for me in baseball if I'd addressed my problems earlier than I did." He added: "If I could change everything, I would go back in time and take better care of my problem when I first realized I had a problem. And that's totally on me, and something I'll deal with for the rest of my life."