Former New York Mets star Dwight Gooden was pitching a different kind of game Tuesday night.
The former major-league pitcher played Santa Claus but was not handing out presents to children. The 1985 National League Cy Young Award winner, who was dressed up as St. Nick for the first time, instead posed with dancers at the Vivid Cabaret in New York City, a club The New York Times said “is politely described” as a gentlemen’s club.
“It’s Christmastime, and I got a lot of presents to buy,” said Gooden, who made more than $36 million during his 16-year career. “I got seven kids, four grandkids, with another on the way any minute now, and two ex-wives. So every dollar counts.”
While the amount Gooden was paid was not revealed, the Times, quoting an anonymous source, said the former right-handed pitcher was paid $500. Gooden is not the first former member of the New York Mets to play Santa at the club, the Times reported. Former teammate Len Dykstra -- who, like Gooden steered the Mets to a World Series title in 1986 -- donned a wig and a red suit to the club last year.
“Normally, guys pay to come here,” Gooden told the Times. “I’m getting paid to come here.”
Gooden, who lives in Piscataway, New Jersey, in a rented apartment, said his life is in order now, a statement in stark contrast to the substance abuse problems he had during his playing career. Those addictions also followed him after he retired from the game in 2000.
But Gooden makes appearances at memorabilia shows to sign autographs and has just begun selling a line of T-shirts, caps and sweatshirts that carry a silhouette of the pitcher’s high leg kick on his website, Goodenbrand.com.
“My life is pretty good right now,” Gooden told the Times.
Gooden, 53, said he is receiving pension money from the players’ union. For a player with 10 years of major-league service time who waits until he is 62, that amounts to $210,000 a year. Gooden took the pension early and is receiving a reduced amount, the Times reported.
“I’m taking it not so much for me but for my kids,” he said. “I mean, I’m 53 now and you never know. If anything happens to me, my kids get it. And I wouldn’t have collected it, then the ex-wives would get it.”