6 August 2014
One of the grislier legends
on our site involves former New York
Mets baseball player Kevin Mitchell, who, in the midst of an alcohol-fueled rage, reportedly punctuated a drunken argument with his girlfriend by decapitating her cat with a knife. For various reasons (which we'll detail below) the status of this claim is identified on our site as "Legend," meaning that at this point we cannot definitively determine whether or not the described incident actually took place.
In a 5 August 2014 Huffpost Live interview
Mitchell's former teammate, Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry, was asked about this legend and responded by affirming that "Kevin Mitchell did do that." This admission prompted the Huffington Post
and a number of other media sites to proclaim that Strawberry had "confirmed one of baseball's most disturbing urban legends," and that in turn prompted a number of readers to insist that we upgrade the status of our article on the subject to "True."
To that latter point we say, "Whoa, not so fast ..."
Chalking this legend up as a true tale is quite a leap of faith, because all the information behind it stems from a single source: another of Mitchell's teammates, former Mets pitcher Dwight ("Doc") Gooden, who related the story in his 1999 memoir Heat
. Compounding the problematic
issue that this is a single-source tale is the fact that Gooden's memoirs were co-written (by Bob Klapisch), and there's no telling how much of what was published in that book actually came from Gooden and how much was the product of his co-author's
writings. Moreover, of the three people other than Gooden who were present when the cat-killing incident supposedly took place (i.e., Mitchell, Mitchell's girlfriend, and Gooden's friend Meade Chassky), one of them (Mitchell) has repeatedly and hotly denied that any such thing happened, and the other two (as far as we know) have never publicly said anything about it. So all we have to go by here is a single unconfirmed report, and that issued from someone who may have been motivated to dish some dirt on a former teammate to the point of stretching the truth, and who, when confronted by that teammate, denied having spread the story in the first place.
"But wait," you say, "didn't Darryl Strawberry just provide the confirmation you maintain is lacking?"
The big problem here is that Darryl Strawberry couldn't have any first-hand knowledge of the subject, as he didn't witness the alleged cat-killing incident — Gooden didn't say Strawberry was present at the scene, and Strawberry has never claimed that he was. Strawberry was, at best, repeating something he picked up from someone else, and his response to an interviewer's question reflected that distance and was therefore less than convincing: He said that the tale was "a pretty good story," that "I think [it's] pretty accurate," and "I guess [Mitchell] figured that the girlfriend was acting a little crazy ..." —
all of which suggested that, like most everyone else, Strawberry merely heard a second- or third-hand repetition of the tale and assumed it was true because it seemed like the kind of thing Kevin Mitchell was capable of doing. He wasn't there, he didn't claim to have talked to those directly involved (i.e., Mitchell or Gooden) about the subject, and he offered no explanation for how he supposedly knows "Kevin Mitchell did do that." All in all, Strawberry's "confirmation" leaves us no less skeptical of the story than we were in the first place.