The Mets are continuing their efforts to honor the club’s history with the announcement that Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden will have their numbers retired in two separate ceremonies next season. The dates have not yet been announced with the organization planning to release them in the coming months.
This shows how far the club has come in recent years when it comes to celebrating the good parts and the complicated parts of its past. The Mets have had fraught relationships with popular alumni, but have worked to rebuild bridges and strengthen bonds in recent seasons.
“I’m thrilled that two iconic members of the 1986 championship club will have their numbers retired in 2024,” owner and CEO Steve Cohen said in a statement. “Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden each had an enormous impact on our franchise and it’s my honor to continue our commitment to celebrating our wonderful history.”
Strawberry, who wore No. 18, and Gooden, No. 16, will bring the total number of retired numbers to seven, joining their former teammate on the 1986 World Series squad Keith Hernandez (No. 17), in addition to Tom Seaver (No. 41), Mike Piazza (No. 31), Jerry Koosman (No. 36), Willie Mays (No. 24), Gil Hodges (No. 37), Casey Stengel (No. 37) and Jackie Robinson (No. 42, retired league-wide).
Strawberry remains the Mets’ all-time home run leader with 252, something Cohen pointed out in his statement. The former right fielder was a seven-time All-Star with the Mets and was once one of the most feared hitters in the sport. He led the NL in long balls in 1988 with 39 and helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series with one in Game 7 against the Boston Red Sox.
The Los Angeles native was drafted by the Amazins’ in 1980. He was a prolific hitter who still ranks second in RBIs (733) and walks (580), third in extra-base hits (469) and runs (662) and fourth in slugging (.520).
He made those numbers look easy, but in recent years the 61-year-old has been open about the pressures of playing in New York. Strawberry turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the pressures and his substance abuse problems were well-documented. He has continued to give back to the organization by helping young players learn how to navigate the same pressures he faced.
While always revered on the field, his honesty about the struggles of overcoming addiction has made Strawberry a popular figure off it as well.
“When I got the call from Steve, I welled up with tears of joy,” Strawberry said in a statement. “I started to reflect on my journey through the organization. I had some ups and downs, but in the end, I am proud of my time in New York. I owe so much to Mets fans — they are simply the best. It’s really amazing to me that No. 18 will be forever remembered. I would like to thank the Hall of Fame committee and especially Steve and Alex Cohen.”
Gooden’s starts were appointment viewing. Nicknamed “Doc” for the way he was able to dismantle opposing lineups with surgical precision, the right-hander was drafted fifth overall in 1982 and quickly became a star.
He was named the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year after setting the rookie record for strikeouts with 276. Gooden also became the youngest player to ever make the NL All-Star team at just 19. A year later, he led the league in wins (24), strikeouts (268) and ERA (1.53) en route to becoming the youngest-ever Cy Young Award winner.
Gooden also battled his own addiction issues and legal troubles. Having his number retired alongside Strawberry speaks to their stories of struggle and triumph.
“I was completely overwhelmed when I got the call,” Gooden said. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to the fans who supported me through the good times and bad times. I couldn’t have made it through without their encouragement. There is no greater honor a player can receive than having his number retired. It’s hard for me to express how honored and thankful I am to Steve and Alex [Cohen].
“This would make my mother and father extremely proud and I know they are looking down from heaven smiling.”
The two are forever linked in history as members of the 1986 team, so it makes sense to retire their numbers in the same season. The duo are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but they are members of the team’s own hall of fame.
They were controversial, yet iconic. Next season, they’ll be forever enshrined and remembered for all of the joy they brought to Mets fans throughout their careers in Queens.