Dwight Gooden refuted Darryl Strawberry’s concerns for his life Monday night, saying, “I do not use cocaine and have not for many years.”
Gooden released his statement to Newsday late Monday night, hours after Strawberry — for the third straight day — reiterated his fears that his former Mets and Yankees teammate had relapsed.
“I would also like to say here and now that Darryl’s allegations against me are totally false,” Gooden said in his statement.
Strawberry went public with his concerns last Thursday after Gooden failed to show at a WFAN appearance. Asked by a fan about Gooden’s absence, Strawberry said, “My fear — and I know addiction — and my fear is people that don’t change, they die.”
Gooden has yet to explain his failure to attend the event.
In a telephone interview Monday, Strawberry said his fears are born out of his longtime friendship with Gooden.
“Doc Gooden is a great guy,” Strawberry said. “I don’t care what he thinks about me, what he says about me. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m well. I want him to be well. I want him to experience the joy that I have in my life today.”
“I had always been supportive of Darryl, during his best and worst days,” he said. “I recall the times he was in prison, and I was there for him. I recall the times he struggled with his own addiction, and I was there for him then, too.
“I had never failed to be there for Darryl Strawberry.”
Whereas Strawberry believes he is acting in Gooden’s best interests by forcing him to face his demons, Gooden says Strawberry instead is bringing needless attention and embarrassment to a non-issue.
“There were plenty of times when Darryl was unable to attend events as well,” Gooden said. “No one, most of all me, made any big deal out of Darryl’s absence.”
Gooden said Strawberry “has always made our differences personal, going back to our Mets days. I had hoped we could keep these differences between us. But Darryl could not manage to do that. I am sorry for his inability to show more character and strength.”
Strawberry sees it differently.
He said he believed Gooden had a drug problem during the taping of their ESPN 30-for-30 documentary last year, but “I kept it quiet.” But Strawberry said he decided last week that he would no longer cover for his longtime former teammate.
“There’s no more Doc and Darryl,” Strawberry said. “People need to separate Doc from me. I’m at a different place in my life. It doesn’t make me better than him. But I’m in a whole different place in my life.”
Gooden and Strawberry have long been connected. They came up as stars for the Mets in the mid-1980s, and both were seen as future Hall of Famers. But both dealt with multiple off-the-field issues connected with drugs and alcohol before staging comebacks with the Yankees in the mid-to-late 1990s. Their rise and fall was featured in the ESPN documentary that aired this summer.
Strawberry says there is no similarity between their lives right now.
“Everyone is always trying to link Doc and Darryl,” Strawberry said. “No, Doc is in a bad situation in his life with addiction. I’ve been there. I’ve gotten out of it. He can get out of it, too, if he allows people to help him.”
But Gooden disagrees.
“While I was there for him,” he said, “he obviously was never there for me.”