Sunday, April 18, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Dwight Gooden was Tim Lincecum.
Twenty-six summers ago, Gooden exploded onto the Major League scene with the New York Mets, winning a Cy Young Award in his second professional season and consistently baffling hitters to the tune of two consecutive 200-strikeout seasons.
These days, Lincecum, the young Giants ace, has won back-to-back Cy Youngs with the same dominating presence on the mound, and he and Gooden are widely regarded as the best young pitchers of their time.
Saturday afternoon, Gooden sat behind a table at Field of Dreams inside The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and watched Lincecum topple the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He’s tough. He’s got that fastball like I did,” Gooden said, watching the right-hander on a nearby television. “And he’s got a good over-the-top curveball that you don’t see much anymore. But his change-up, I didn’t have that.”
“I like to watch great pitchers like that, especially nowadays when the game is more offensive, with the stadiums being bandboxes and all that. It’s good to see.”
Gooden was in town for a Saturday autograph session, where he interacted with fans, including a pair of surprised New Yorkers.
“I watched Doc growing up my whole life,” said Steve Polikoff, who had no idea Gooden was making the appearance.
“It was very cool to meet him, just one of those things that was an unexpected opportunity I just couldn’t pass up,” he said.
Gooden signed a baseball for Polikoff, a Yankees fan, who said the ball could help straighten out his son, a Red Sox fan.
“Somehow I had a couple of boys whose decisions are scattered,” Polikoff jokingly said. “And one that loves rooting against his dad.”
In his first trip to Las Vegas, Gooden was part of the New York Yankees 1996 World Series-winning ballclub that was invited by Don King to attend a Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield title fight.
“Vegas is cool,” said Gooden, who lives in New Jersey. “I’ve been here four or five times. I’d love to come out more, but I hate flying.”
Another surprised Yankees fan was Danny Santiago, a native New Yorker who talked with Gooden about watching him play in his early years after getting dropped off at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m a huge Yankees fan, so it was awesome to actually meet him,” Santiago said. “It just happened. I had no clue he was here, and now I’m glad I came.”
Gooden, often referred to as “Doc,” played on three World Series championship teams, most notably the 1986 “Miracle Mets,” who defeated the Boston Red Sox in a thrilling seven-game series.
“It was a lot of fun, that team,” Gooden said. “A lot of the guys we won with, we started together in the minor leagues. We had a lot of chemistry on and off the field, and it was just a great time.”
Playing on the East Coast nearly his entire career, Gooden relished the opportunity to meet with fans across the country.
“You meet fans here you never really got to talk to,” he said. “It’s nice to interact with them because when you’re playing, it’s really tough to spend the time.”