NEW YORK – Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry have always been linked, for their key roles in leading the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series title and their colorful exploits off the field that made them lightning rods in baseball.
It figured that Doc and Straw would enter the Mets' Hall of Fame together.
They joined their former manager Davey Johnson and longtime GM Frank Cashen, the architect of the Mets' second championship team, in the class of 2010 during a ceremony Sunday at Citi Field before New York played their series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The club's Hall of Fame was founded in 1981, but only three people have been inducted in the past eight years, in part because of Gooden and Strawberry.
Many fans and executives didn't think anybody else deserved the honor ahead of the two anchors of the 1986 title team, but their well-documented problems with substance abuse and the law over nearly three decades left officials to conclude it wasn't the appropriate time.
Their names were finally announced with the rest of the class in January.
"This is really, really amazing, and it feels so good to be home," Gooden told the crowd. "There was no better feeling than when I took the mound, there were two strikes on the batter, and all you guys were standing and clapping for the third strike."
Gooden was voted the NL rookie of the year in 1984 and became the youngest pitcher to win the Cy Young Award the following year, when he led the league in wins (24), ERA (1.53) and strikeouts (268). He still ranks second in franchise history with 157 victories.
Gooden walked out to a massive ovation from a crowd that came out early for the Hall of Fame ceremony, then stood behind his folding chair just behind second base to watch a montage of his highlights play on the massive center field video screen.
He was joined moments later by Strawberry, who walked in from — where else? — right field.
Strawberry was the NL rookie of the year in 1983 and voted to seven All-Star games, and is still the franchise leader in home runs with 252, RBIs with 733 and runs scored with 662.
"I think '86 was the greatest year of my life, to be able to play in the World Series and win the World Series," said Strawberry, who is still a regular at Mets games. "There is no question in my mind this is where it all started for me."
The job of keeping those two in line fell to Johnson, who holds the franchise record with 595 wins from 1984-90. He later managed the Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, but said those years in New York still resonate with him.
"To come and manage in New York, I tell you, it was a challenge and it was some of the greatest years of my life," he said. "I think back to '86 and what a great year it was, and a lesson we learned from that year, no matter what happens, you always have a chance."
Make no mistake, Johnson still knows how to play to the New York crowd.
"It was a great thrill and honor to come to New York and manage in front of the most intelligent fans in all the world," he said with a smirk. "All I had to do was listen to the radio and I knew exactly what to do."
There was a special "Hall of Fame" design painted on the infield grass, and the four new members had their images plastered to the wall in center field. Hats honoring them were given out to the first 25,000 fans, and many current Mets watched the ceremony from the dugout.
Among the other members of the Hall of Fame who joined the new inductees on the field were Keith Hernandez, Mookie Wilson and Gary Carter — all part of the '86 team that Cashen built and still regarded as one of the most dynamic teams of the 1980s.
"You can see all the help I got," Cashen said.