They were rare talents, and they knew it. In 1985 only his second season in the majors Dwight Gooden posted one of the best pitching campaigns in history, amassing 24 wins, a minuscule 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. His 23-year-old teammate Darryl Strawberry jacked 29 home runs and was touted as a future Hall of Famer. (Asked several years ago how he stacked up against a new Mets phenom, Strawberry replied, “Are you kidding me? I was awesome.”) The following season, the duo led the Mets to what the Shea faithful hoped would be the first of many world championships.
Yet both saw their careers derailed by drugs. Gooden opened the 1987 season in a substance-abuse center and was banned from the league during the 1995 season after twice testing positive for cocaine. Strawberry’s career did not fare much better; it was pockmarked by crack and cocaine usage, prostitute solicitation and domestic violence.