Wednesday September 12th 1984: On this night Dwight Gooden set the Rookie strike out record in what was one of his most dazzling performances of his career. Centerfieldmaz was one of 12,876 at Shea Stadium that night to witness, in person Doctor K at his best.
Davey Johnson's Mets (81-65) had had a spectacular year, the first winning season for the franchise since 1976. Among the highlights was Rookie phenom; Dwight Gooden. The Mets would finish second that year & were not mathematically out of the pennant race yet. But being seven games out with 16 left to play, pretty much eliminated, hence the small crowd. Personally, after being on hand for so many of Gooden's games that season, I had to be at this one.
Gooden went up against John Tudor & Chuck Tanner's sixth place Pitsburgh Pirates (63-83). In the 2nd inning, Gooden struck out two batters, then two more in the 3rd & then two more in the 4th inning. By now his fastball was rising, blowing right by the hitters. No one had a chance. The ball could be heard popping in catcher; Mike Fitzgerald's glove through out Shea Stadium.
The fans cheered every pitch & rose chanting everytime there was two strike outs. The K Korner in left field was putting up the K Cards with every Pirate that went down on a strike out. These were good times at Shea Stadiums, times that fans tried to relieve in years to come. But if you weren't there in Goodne's hey day you will never know how special it was to see him epitch & the electric energy he set off at Shea Stadium.
In the 4th inning, Keith Hernandez led off with a single. Hubbie Brooks then hit a two run HR, it was all Gooden & the Mets needed that night. Everyone just sat back & watched Dr. K go to work.
In the 6th inning, with the crowd on it's feet Gooden struck out John Tudor to tie Herb Score's rookie strike out record of 245 set in 1955. Then Marvell Wynne was blown away for the strike out record #246 on the season. It was Gooden's 11th K on the night. He would go on to strike out two in the 7th & three in the eight inning, totaling 16 strike outs on the night. He finished up with a five hit shut out walking no one. Th
The 16 strike outs would break Nolan Ryan's club record of 14 strike outs for a rookie set in 1968.
Gooden would strike out 16 more in his next outing taking a 2-1 loss to the Phillies. He would have five straight games og ten or more strike outs, and do it seven of eight times. On the season he would strike out out ten or more batters in a game 14 times, breaking Tom Seaver's record set in 1971. Also Goodens 16 Ks werethe most for a Mets pitcher in the last ten years.
After Gooden broke the record set by Herb Score, Score who was an Indian's broadcaster atthe time, appeared on the Diamond Vision saying: ''Congratulations. You're a fine looking young pitcher, and I wish you a great deal of success for many years to come.''
Quotes: Dwight Gooden-''Sometimes, you think about it, You think about it going home, or lying in bed before falling asleep. You think, 'Am I dreaming?' It's a great, great feeling.''
Darryl Strawberry: ''He's going to be one of the overpowering pitchers in the game. It's most unusual to see a 19-year-old come up here and set records. He should win rookie of the year hands up. I can't see anybody close to him. But I don't think he's going to get excited by any of this. He doesn't get excited about anything.''
Gooden went on to win the 1984 Rookie of the Year Aard, leading the NL in strike outs (276) going 17-9 with three shut outs, seven complete games & a 2.60 ERA (2nd in the NL).