Nov 15, 2015

New York Mets Legendary Pitcher: Dwight Gooden (Part One) "Doctor K" (1984-1986)



 
Dwight Eugene Gooden was born November 16, 1964 in Tampa, Florida. He was a star athlete at Hillsboro high school in Tampa, & the scouts came looking for him. He was drafted in the first round of the 1982 draft by the New York Mets, the fifth player taken overall.

He spent just two seasons in the minors, first going 5-5 in the Rookie League & A ball in 1982. In 1983 he led the Carolina League in wins (19, going 19-4) ERA (2.50) & an incredible 300 strike outs in 191 innings pitched. He was named the Baseball Americas Minor League Player of the Year & his performance convinced manager Davey Johnson that he was ready for the majors.

Dwight Gooden made his MLB debut on April 7, 1984 in Houston i the Mets fourth game of the season against the Astros. Gooden was just nineteen years of age, in his debut he pitched five innings allowing one run on three hits earning his first career victory.

He lost his next outing, allowing six runs in three innings at Chicago against the Cubs. He began striking out alot of batters in his next two starts.

In his Shea Stadium debut he struck out seven Expos over five innings, but allowed four runs earning no decision. In his next start he went seven innnings striking out ten batters in Montreal, although he only allowed one run he earned another no decision. On May 11th he pitched his first complete game, it was a four hit shut out performance in Los Angeles striking out eleven Dodgers.

By this time the league was noticing the youngster with the blazing 98 mph. rising fastball & a curve ball so good it was dubbed "Lord Charles' by Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner.

On June 6th in Pittsburgh, Gooden pitched nine innings allowing just one run on two hits, but earned another no decision although the Mets won it in the top of the 13th when Wally Backman scored on a wild pitch.

In the beginning of July he won the Player of the Week award, when he earned a pair of victories, allowing just two runs & six hits over 16 innings of work. He struck out twelve Astros at Shea Stadium on July 7th & then eight Cincinnati Reds five days later. 

By the All Star break Doc was 8-5 with a 3.00 ERA & had already had six outings where he had struck out ten or more batters. He was the youngest pitcher ever to be named to an All Star team and he showed the American League as well as a national audience just how good he was. In the top of the 5th inning, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, he struck out the AL's Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon & Alvin Davis, exiting to a huge ovation.

Gooden soon became known as "Dr. K" and when he pitched at Shea Stadium, he was the number one gate attraction. As the Mets became contenders the crowds came back & when Gooden pitched, it was the hottest ticket in town.

There was always something magical in the air the night Gooden pitched. He was a rookie phenom sensation, the next best thing that had happened to the club since the days of Tom Terrific. Fans held up K cards in honor of each of his strikeouts, and a section in the Shea stands was labeled The K Korner.



From August to mid September he had a stretch where he went 7-0 winning, eight of his last nine starts. Dring that time he won another Player of the Week Award and September's Pitcher of the Month Award. In the final two months of the season Doctor K tossed three shut outs, five complete games ten or more batters in a game seven times, including five straight.

On September 7th in a divisional matchup with the first place Cubs, he may have thrown his best game of the season. In a classic game that I attended, Gooden struck out ten Cubs & allowed just one hit, which was a controversial play made by third baseman Ray Knight which very well could have been charged as an error. The Mets went on to win the game 10-0 & Gooden even got himself two hits.

A week later although the Mets had faded from the pennant race, Gooden took the hill at Shea Stadium once again on his way to a record setting evening. In another game I attended, myself & the Shea Faithful witnessed an incredible night of rising fastballs thrown by Gooden as he set a record for most strike outs by a Rookie breaking Bob Feller's mark. On the night the night, the Doctor struck out 16 Pittsburgh Pirates, throwing a five hit shutout.

Over three starts in September he also set the record for most strikeouts in three consecutive starts (43). In his 1984 season Gooden won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, following team mate Daryl Strawberry who had won the Award the previous year. He was the third Mets pitcher in club history to win the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967) and Jon Matlack (1972). 

He led the league in strikeouts (276), he led the Mets in wins (17) which were the most by a Met rookie pitcher since Jerry Koosman’s nineteen in 1968. Doc also led the club in ERA (2.60) which was second best in the NL. He also led the club in innings pitched (218) complete games (7) & shut outs (3).

Gooden soon became larger-than-life in New York City. Manhattan's Penn Station had an enormous picture of Gooden in mid-motion recording his season's strikeout totals as the year progressed. Also on the West Side there was a multi-story mural of Gooden painted on the side of a midtown building. He appeared on billboards, commercials and magazine articles, becoming the face of a winning franchise.

In 1985, Gooden he followed up with one of the best seasons any pitcher ever had. He won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the league with 24 wins, 268 strikeouts and 1.53 ERA. He also led the NL in complete games (16) & innings pitched (276). He also threw eight shutouts (second in the NL) & became the youngest player at age twenty to win a Cy Young Award.
He was second with a 8.7 strike out per nine inning ratio.

On Opening Day he surrendered four runs against the St. Louis Cardinals earning no decision as Gary Carter hit a walk off HR against Neil Allen in his Mets debut. Gooden came back to beat the Cincinnati Reds with a four hit shutout, ten strikeout performance in his next start. On May 10th he beat Philadelphia with a three hitter, striking out 13 Phillies at Shea Stadium, besting his record to 5-1.

He closed out May in San Francisco striking out 14 Giants in a six hit performance, earning win number seven. From that point on Gooden would not earn another loss for the next three months until the end of August. He would go an incredible 14-0 with four no decisions mixed in during that stretch, striking out 137 batters while walking just 37. He would throw ten complete games and pitch less than eight innings just twice in eighteen starts.

On June 19th he pitched a five hit shutout against the Cubs at home & on July 14th, threw a five hit shutout in Houston. On July 30th he struck out ten Expos with another five hit shutout & on August 20th struck out a season high 16 batters in a home game against San Francisco earning his 20th victory of the year. His ERA was on the lower end of one all summer long, as no one was better than Doc at this point, as he was having one of the best stretches ever by a Met pitcher.

The Giants finally beat him in San Francisco ending his streak, but it was the only loss he would take from the end of May, as he finished the year at 17-1. In September he won the Pitcher of the Month Award, going 4-0 with five complete games, striking out 10 or more batters three times.

On September 22nd, in yet another game I attended, he hit his first career HR, it was a big three hit four RBI day for Gooden who was always a good hitting pitcher. That day he beat the Pirates for win #22 on the season. During the 1985 season he struck out ten or more batters eleven times.

At the plate Doc would hit one HR with nine RBIs while batting .226 for the year. He would hit seven HRs in Mets career & drive in 65 runs, with a seasonal career high of nine RBIs five times (1985-1988-1990-1992-1993). In eleven Mets seasons he batted .197 with 144 hits 8 HRs 15 doubles 5 triples & 14 walks for a .12 on base %.

In the 1986 Mets Championship season, He began beating the Pirates on Opening Day in Pittsburgh, throwing a complete game victory. Four starts later he beat the rival St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, tossing a five hit shutout. He found himself at 5-0 by the start of May after tossing a two hit shutout against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium on May 6th. He kept his ERA under two until June 7th & by the All Star break he was 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA leading the NL in strike outs.

He was the NL's starting pitcher at the Houston Astrodome but gave up three runs & took the loss in the 3-2 AL victory. In August he was 3-0 although he did make six starts, highlighted by two four hitters (allowing one run each time) & a ten K performance in Philadelphia. He was 4-2 in September & was the winning pitcher at Shea Stadium on September 17th when the Mets won the Eastern Divisional title.

On the historic evening myself & a sellout crowd saw Doc pitch a six hit, eight strike out 4- victory. And when Chico Walker grounded out to second base for the final out, it was bedlam as the fans stormed the field & tore it apart.

On the year Gooden went 17-6 (fifth most wins in the NL) with the league's second best winning % (857%) & second most complete games (12).

For the third straight year he struck out 200 batters, although his 200 K's were fifth in the league many people were disappointed due the drop off. He pitched 250 innings (fifth in the league)with a 2.84 ERA (fifth best in the NL) & two shut outs (5th in the NL).

 

Post Season: Gooden was still the Mets ace & star pitcher going into the postseason. Looking back he is not given enough credit for his NLCS performances, two games 17 innings pitched, two earned runs, with a 1.06 ERA, nine strike outs, sixteen hits & five walks.

In Game #1 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros he lost a 1-0 pitchers duel to Mike Scott at the Astrodome. Gooden pitched seven innings struck out five batters while scattering seven hits.

He then returned to the mound in Shea Stadium for Game # 5 in a classic pitching duel with Nolan Ryan. It was a classic for the ages, one of the best pitching duels I ever witnessed live, as once again I was in attendance. Gooden pitched 10 innings of one run ball, striking out four batters scattering nine hits and walking only two. Ryan matched Gooden along the way pitching nine innings, but The Mets went on to win the game in extra innings with Gary Carters walk off base hit.

In the World Series against Boston, he didn’t get past the 5th inning in either of his two starts. In Game #2 at Shea Stadium he allowed six runs on eight hits (no decision) as the Mets fell down two games to none.

In Game #5 at Fenway Park he took the loss to Bruce Hurst allowing four runs nine hits in four innings of work. Overall he gave up eight earned runs (8.00 ERA) in nine innings of work .

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