The Mets and Verizon are holding a kid’s clinic on August 4 at Citi Field. Here are the details:
Tag: dwight gooden
Author’s Note: We interrupt the Spilled Milk Series to focus on a story that many of the current fans may have either forgotten or don’t know about. It’s the story of how the Mets missed their chance to extend their great mid- to late-80s run. As a courtesy to our readers and to help protect your valuable keyboard, monitor, or smart phone, The Mets Today staff will notify you when the “spit take” part of this article arrives. Next week, we’ll look at other big deals from the post-1986 era that didn’t happen.
Two events signaled the end of the Mets 1984-1990 winning streak. One is obvious and occurred in the 9th inning of Game Four of the 1988 NLDS. To paraphrase Casey Stengel: you can look that one up. The other occurred about five months later and while somewhat less dramatic than the events of that terrible October evening, had an equally devastating impact on the team’s immediate and long-term future.
With 16 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor the day with former #16 Dwight Gooden. This was a fairly easy choice, though I did for a moment consider Lee Mazzilli, who made the number famous in Flushing in the 1970s and early 1980s. If you weren’t around back then, you might think it preposterous to consider “Maz” — but back then he was the closest thing the Mets had to a star (and matinee idol, believe it or not). Mazzilli was annually the Mets’ lone All-Star representative and usually the only guy in the lineup hitting over .250. Plus he had a great baseball name.
Funny, in high school (1984-88) I used to wear a gray #16 “Property of New York Mets Baseball Club” t-shirt under my football and baseball game jerseys for good luck. People used to think the #16 was for Gooden, but it was actually for Mazzilli — a too-large gift for my 11th birthday. The timing for when I finally grew into it was impeccable.
But I digress … this is about Duh-wight (as Ralph Kiner used to say), who electrified Shea Stadium with the lightning bolts that screamed from his right arm.
Like Darryl Strawberry, we knew Dwight was a superstar the moment he stepped on the field. It was hard to separate the two in our heads — if you thought of Dwight, you thought of Darryl, and vice-versa. Ironically, this is the way it went for most of each of their roller-coaster careers.
Dwight and Darryl were supposed to make the Mets a “dynasty” — something the Yankees were called in the late 70s — leading the team into the World Series every year for the next 10-15 years. Darryl was going to some day break both the single-season and career homerun records, and might even win the Triple Crown. Dwight was going to pitch the first no-hitter in Mets history — we were sure of it! — and win 300 games easily. In their early 20s, they were sure-fire Hall of Famers — barring injury or some other incredibly unfortunate mishap.
But we won’t go there; we know how things turned out. As with Darryl, no matter what turns “Doc” took off the road to greatness, I still vividly remember that greatness, and cherish it — however brief it was.
For three years — 1984-1986 — Dwight Gooden was the best pitcher in baseball, hands-down. He accomplished this status while being too young to drink (legally), which when you think about it, is all the more amazing. Starting from a violent, intimidating, high knee lift and hip coil, he threw a blazing, 96-98 MPH fastball that moved laterally and vertically; an overhand curveball with such tight spin and sudden drop it was deemed “Lord Charles” (curves were called “Uncle Charley” in the old days); a wicked slider that dashed furiously away from waving lumber; and just for fun, he’d toy with a change-up that he didn’t even need. Dwight was so dominant, it didn’t seem fair that batters had to face him — particularly at night, when his fastball seemed to speed up just a bit more, and his curve dropped a little harder.
That curve was something else. Nolan Ryan was the only other pitcher I ever saw with a curve like that, but he didn’t have the same control of it, and it didn’t drop as dramatically. Doc’s deuce would seem to start two feet over the batter’s head, then dart straight down into the strike zone at his buckling knees. With the image of the yellow hammer now firmly entrenched in the batter’s head, Dwight would follow up with a rising fastball that started toward the strike zone at a level near the batter’s belt buckle, and wind up at shoulder height — past the breeze of a too-slow bat.
What was nearly as unbelievable as Gooden’s talent was the fact he didn’t throw a no-no in a Mets uniform. With his dominating stuff, a no-hitter seemed inevitable every time he made a start. How anyone ever made contact remains a mystery to me.
What are your memories of #16? And are they of Gooden, Mazzilli, or someone else? Share in the comments.
The countdown thus far:
#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd
You were expecting Jeff McKnight, weren’t you?
I will admit, though, there was a nanosecond where I considered honoring Joel Youngblood for the 18th Day Until Pitchers And Catchers Report. But really, there was never a question, for so many reasons.
It goes back to being a Mets fan in the late 1970s to early 1980s — a dark, ugly time for the franchise (particularly after they traded The Franchise). The team was bad. The future looked bleak. The original owners sold the club to a book publisher and a real estate magnate, but it was hard to see how that was going to help. Despite the incessant commercials produced by the high-priced, well-intentioned ad agency, the “magic” most certainly was NOT back. The situation seemed hopeless — until June 1980, when
The 1990 Mets looked great on paper, headed by what looked like the best starting rotation seen in Flushing since the days of Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack.
It looked like this:
Doc was 100% healed from a shoulder injury that marred his 1989 and at 25 years old, and primed to regain dominance as the most feared righty in baseball. Viola was only 30, two years removed from a Cy Young Award, and considered the top lefthanded starting pitcher in MLB. Cone was coming off a so-so year (for him), but put up numbers similar to those that helped him go 20-3 in ’88. Both Darling and Fernandez were coming off of 14-win seasons, and seemed to be turning a corner — many thought ’90 would be the “breakout year” for each of the previously inconsistent pitchers. The rotation was so deep, Ojeda was banished to the bullpen, despite still having enough stuff to be a #3 or possibly #2 on another club.
On offense, the Mets had returning
20-year-old Jenrry Mejia was the youngest pitcher to toe the rubber as a New York Met since Dwight Gooden in 1984. Mejia’s blazing fastball, cool composure, and speck of cockiness impressed manager Jerry Manuel much the same way Gooden struck Davey Johnson 25 years before. Manuel, like Johnson, begged and pleaded to allow the front office to bring the flamethrower North at the close of spring training. Also like Johnson, Manuel got his wish.
Unlike Johnson, however, Manuel was
Dwight will be there signing baseballs and other memorabilia from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM.
Former Met Jim Leyritz will also be at Stan’s, but on Wednesday, April 14th, from 2:30 to 4:00 PM.
Oh, you forgot Leyritz was, technically, a Met? Kind of the same way Glenn Davis, Freddy Garcia, and Bret Boone were also “Mets”.
In addition, former Yankee and hair salon magnate Joe Pepitone will be at Stan’s this Saturday from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM. Pepitone was never a Met but he has lived one of the most interesting lives of any MLBer in modern history, and remains a wonderful, generous guy with great stories to tell (though not all are “family friendly”).
You can see all the signings coming up at Stan’s by visiting the MintPros site. Yeah, it’s a Yankee-heavy schedule, but they are all very congenial, fun, former players who come across as regular guys and yet have incredibly fascinating tales to tell.
This is where I entered the park, because the entrance at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was a madhouse. I like the black and white photos of Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, Rusty Staub, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, etc.
Above each entrance is a steel figurine (sculpting?) of a key moment in Mets history. As seen below, left field is marked by “the catch” that made Endy Chavez forever immortalized.
Next post: left field from the inside.