Gooden says he'd rather be shot than jailed again

Updated: May 31, 2006, 5:26 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Dwight Gooden hopes his time in jail will help end his two-decade battle with drugs and alcohol, saying he'd "rather get shot than come back here," the New York Post reported Wednesday.

The former Cy Young Award winner is serving a year and a day in a Florida prison for violating his probation by using cocaine.

"You keep asking yourself, 'What went wrong? What went wrong?' " he told the Post in his first interview from prison.

Gooden, 41, is looking forward to the day he is released, which could come as early as November. He also insists he will stay clean and sober this time.

"I can't come back here," he said. "I'd rather get shot than come back here. ... If I don't get the message this time, I never will."

Gooden was serving three years of probation for speeding from police during a drunken driving traffic stop last year when he failed a drug test and acknowledged to a probation officer that he used cocaine. He chose a prison sentence over reinstatement of his probation, which would have meant the prospect of five years behind bars if he violated it again.

He was sent to the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Fla., on April 17 and spent 10 days in a one-man cell. Gooden wasn't permitted to go outside or talk to his family.

"I still haven't recovered from that," Gooden told the newspaper. "That was torture. It was like you're an animal. It was horrible."

He was transferred to the Gainesville Correctional Institute on April 27, where he spends his time in a dormitory that resembles an Army barrack, and is in the drug and alcohol treatment program.

"It's been a humbling experience," Gooden said. "It's like going from the top down to the bottom. This is the bottom of the bottom right here."

Especially heartbreaking for Gooden is the fact he's in prison while his former teammates celebrate the 20th anniversary of the New York Mets' World Series title.

"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, the team is celebrating that year and I'm in prison because of cocaine. It's a sad story, really."

Gooden was the 1984 Rookie of the Year, and he was the 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner while with the Mets. He went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA before retiring in 2001. He also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In 1994, while with the Mets, Gooden was suspended for 60 days for testing positive for cocaine. He tested positive for cocaine again while on suspension and was sidelined for the 1995 season.

"It's been the hardest thing I've ever went through," he said. "I can't say some days are better than others. Some hours are better than others."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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