Johan's feat brings Gooden back to glory days

Johan's feat brings Gooden back to glory days

NEW YORK -- On Friday night, Dwight Gooden, his son and his wife were flipping between the Mets game and Game 3 of the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals. Once starter Johan Santana reached the seventh inning without allowing a hit to the Cardinals, Gooden glued his attention to one channel. He watched, smiled and celebrated as the organization, with which he pitched 11 seasons, ended its 50-year drought without a no-hitter.

"Once it got to the seventh inning, forget the Heat game -- I was totally locked in the game," Gooden said. "Not to have one for 50 years, you really can't fantasize that, and what it meant when Santana did it last night. Once he got that close, you just had to figure that this had to be it. It's only fitting for it to happen in the 50th anniversary of the Mets."

Gooden started his career with the organization and was a part of the Mets' 1986 World Series team. He came close to tossing the franchise's first no-hitter on Sept. 7, 1984, but Keith Moreland's hit kept the shadow hanging over the organization. On Saturday, Gooden was anything but bitter. He was congratulatory and excited for Santana, the Mets and their fans.

"When something happens like what took place last night with Santana, you get the opportunity to reminisce on the glory days that we had there," Gooden said. "Hopefully the way the Mets are playing now, that'll continue."

Gooden empathized with Santana's difficult road back from invasive shoulder surgery. Santana missed the entire 2011 season and has been strictly monitored since returning to action. Gooden missed almost the entirety of the 1994 and '95 seasons with drug-related issues and never returned to his dominant form. He said he imagines Santana is probably exhausted and mentally drained from reflecting on the journey to his first no-hitter.

"With all the emotions of everything he went through last year and even the year before, with the surgery and the rehabilitation that he goes through and the hard work that he put in just to get back on the field again, to go through all that and still be the same pitcher once the injury is over," Gooden said. "I'm sure today he's reminiscent of everything that he went through the last couple of years."

While the 8,019 regular season games without a no-hitter left doubt it'd ever happen in the mind of some Mets fans, Gooden never lost faith. Second all-time in franchise wins to Tom Seaver, the only other Mets pitcher to take a no-hit bid into the ninth inning, Gooden is still a loyal fan. Although he lives on the west coast, he still watches as many Mets games as he can.

"Even though I played for other organizations, which I'm thankful for, I'm a Met by far," Gooden said. "Now that I'm not playing anymore, I get to enjoy it even more as a fan. It was fun for me. It was fun to watch. Today, I'm still full of joy that it happened."

Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.