updated 12/23/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/23/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST
Gracious and unfailingly polite off the field, Gooden avoids public appearances and interviews whenever he can. Talking to reporters after a game, he is careful to address only the pertinent aspects of his pitching performance and to avoid even a suggestion of controversy. Such calculated blandness is just Dwight's way of playing it safe. He is aware of his youth and vulnerability and prefers to talk about what he knows.
Gooden recently became engaged to Carlene Pearson, 20, his high school sweetheart, but in the off-season still lives at home in Tampa, Fla. with his father, Dan, a former semipro coach, and his mother, Ella. "My father helped me become a ballplayer and take the good with the bad," says Dwight. "My mom helped with my attitude by talking to me about how people are watching you all the time and how stupid you look when you let your temper go. We're a real close family, and that's helped me a lot." The youngest of six children, Gooden last year used his modest rookie's salary of $40,000 to buy his parents their four-bedroom home. This year, making nearly $500,000, he finally persuaded his mother, a nursing-home aide, to retire. His next contract should bring him at least $1 million a year, and it is obvious he will know what to do with it. "One of the nicest satisfactions you can have," he says, "is to be able to give something back to your parents when they've given so much to you."