So here is the story of how I met transplanted ex-Mets superstar pitcher Dwight "Doctor K" Gooden:
I give a ton of credit to my cousin who has been a Mets fan for over 30 years, despite growing up in Western, PA where most baseball fans would grow up rooting for the Pirates, or maybe even the Indians or something. But he stuck with the Mets through the lean times and even though he now lives in the Washington DC area, we try to meet up at least once a year for a Mets game. The first autograph I ever got was Dwight Gooden. I don't know how young I was, but it used to be that if you showed up early at Shea you could hang out at the field level and often times the players would come over to the railings and sign things. I was fortunate enough to get Dwight Gooden's autograph on a baseball, and then I asked for a second autograph for my cousin. Everyone in the crowd snickered, yeah sure for your cousin, but Doc obliged and I sent the artifact out to my cousin in PA.
So this weekend my very understanding wife and my son and I drove down to southern Maryland to meet up with my cousin and his wife and their two kids. Saturday night my cousin and I took the DC Metro into the game. My cousin's got this old shirt, I mean like 20 years old or something, that he wears to most Mets games. It's a grey Dwight Gooden T-Shirt with an illustration of Doc on it and METS written across the top. I wish I had a picture of this shirt, because no written description could do it justice. But anyway, like I said my cousin wears it to almost all Mets games he goes to, and says they almost never lose when he wears it. When we showed up at his house my wife asked where the Gooden shirt was.
So he's got the shirt on and we're walking around Nationals Park in between innings, and this dude at a memorabilia kiosk calls us over. He wants to know about the shirt my cousin's got on, and where he got it. It's an old shirt, my cousin says. The guy at the kiosk says he has been getting requests for T-shirts featuring Negro League stars, and the one my cousin has on is great because it says Mets on it! The guy was serious! So my cousin just says it's an old shirt that he's had for years. The guy says, "Well it fits you great - it's probably your best shirt!" We just walked away laughing and of course made jokes for the rest of the game about Negro League superstar Dwight Gooden, and remember that time he faced Satchel Paige and that kind of thing.
My cousin was very patient as I took about a thousand pictures of the ballpark. The great thing about the park is that it's got open views of the field from practically every level, so you can walk around and watch the game from every angle. Which is what we did once the game was out of hand. We started way up on top and circled around, and as you'll see when I post pictures, I have photos from about a dozen different of angles. So by the time the top of the ninth rolled around, we were at the lowest level, right at home plate. I'm taking shots from where I thought was a good view, when an usher invited me to go even closer. So I got separated from my cousin to walk down the ramp and take a few shots. I got some closer pictures of Castillo and Beltran as they batted and then since it was 2 outs in the ninth I figured I should get back up to my cousin before we got separated when the game ended. I turned around to walk up the ramp when a different usher calls back to me, "Hey! You know who's here? Dwight Gooden!" I guess he spotted my Mets hat, and knew Dwight Gooden from his post-Negro League days?
"Where?," I asked.
"Go that way and ask the usher - his name is Howard."
I found Howard, and asked him if Doc Gooden was sitting nearby, right as Beltran made the last out of the game. "He's right there - standing up right now to leave."
I asked the usher he would take our picture. The Nationals my not have many wins, but they lead the league in my favorte ushers. Dwight was with a young boy (his son?) but obliged for the photo anyway - he even smiled! I thanked Doc for the 1980's memories, and ran back to my cousin. "You are not going to believe this," as I showed him my camera.
My cousin laughed in astonishment. "I was just about to say that the luck in this shirt had run out!"
I think I owe my cousin and his shirt a few beers for the karma.