Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
“There’s a real me without the uniform.”
In 1983, Darryl Strawberry won the Rookie of the Year for the amazing season he had with the New York Mets. In 1984, Dwight “Doc” Gooden joined the same team and won the same award after a ridiculous year that included 17 wins and over 275 strikeouts. The next year, Gooden won the Cy Young and the team won the World Series in 1986. These weren’t average baseball players. They were icons. They were demigods. They were prepared to redefine the sport, dominating for a decade or more on their way to the Hall of Fame. They were also addicts, two men who fought battles against drug and alcohol addiction in a city and an era that downright encouraged it. Co-directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio united the pair again in a Queens diner for their episode of ESPN’s excellent sports documentary series “30 for 30” called “Doc & Darryl,” airing this Thursday, 8pm CST. The two reminisce a bit, but more is revealed in one-on-one interviews with the men that focus on the real people inside the uniforms more than the fame they earned on the baseball diamond.
Darryl Strawberry came from an incredibly dark background in Los Angeles, where his father abused him on a regular basis and even threatened his family with a shotgun. He had what he calls “scars” coming into the league, when he was the #1 pick for the New York Mets. He also had one of the most beautiful and seemingly effortless swings that the sport has ever seen. But he brought the lessons of an alcoholic father to New York in the mid-‘80s, a city defined by excess. To handle the pressure of being the #1 pick, Strawberry started getting high every day. And he’d go out partying every night, even claiming he once hit two home runs with a blinding hangover. And then he discovered cocaine.
Joining Strawberry on this crazy train was the similarly preternaturally gifted Doc Gooden, a man who also had a background of addiction and pressure. His father wasn’t abusive, but he was an alcoholic, and Gooden speaks even today of the pressure in not letting down his own man when he started playing ball. Gooden had an arm like a whip, able to pinpoint a fastball in a way that seemed literally unfair. I speak from experience here, becoming a huge baseball fan in the early to mid-‘80s. I was a huge Doc Gooden fan. Like some of the interview subjects in “Doc & Darryl” (including superfan Jon Stewart, manager Davey Johnson, Tom Verducci, and co-Met Keith Hernandez) say, Gooden felt like a “once in a lifetime” pitcher. And then he discovered cocaine.