Dwight Gooden looked like the next coming of Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, and Satchel Paige rolled into one. Gooden, an electric pitcher from Tampa, Fla., dominated opposing hitters throughout the 1980s before substance abuse issues derailed his career.
Before Gooden was a four-time All-Star and Cy Young winner who also held a no-hitter to his name, “Doc” was nothing more than a top prospect for the New York Mets who needed to prove himself in the Major Leagues. Gooden earned that opportunity on April 7, 1984.
How did Dwight Gooden fare in his MLB debut, and was it a sign of things to come for his rookie season? Let’s take a look back in time.
Dwight Gooden had an excellent MLB debut
Dwight Gooden couldn’t hide how anxious he was to make his MLB debut. Gooden famously arrived so early to the Astrodome that he needed to jump a fence so he could enter the ballpark. Once the game arrived, Gooden did his best to avoid any nerves. Gooden struck out five Astros and allowed only one run across five innings. The Mets defeated Houston 3-2.
Dwight Gooden was inconsistent in his first two months. He allowed eight earned runs against the Astros a month later, then pitched a four-hit, 11-strikeout gem against the Dodgers five days later. Gooden went 13-6 with a 2.37 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 166 2/3 innings from June 1 on. Gooden won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and solidified his place in the Mets’ starting rotation for 1985.
Dwight Gooden is one of the greatest pitchers in Mets history
There is no disputing that Hall of Famer Tom Seaver is the greatest pitcher in New York Mets history. The numbers indicate Dwight Gooden is easily the Mets’ second-best pitcher. Gooden went 157-85 with a 3.10 ERA and 1,875 strikeouts in 305 games across 11 seasons for the Mets.
Using Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement system, Dwight Gooden’s 46.4 WAR is third behind only Seaver and third baseman David Wright.
There is a case to be made that current Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, a two-time Cy Young winner with a 2.62 ERA in six seasons, has already passed Dwight Gooden. deGrom is already worth 33.3 WAR and has been baseball’s best pitcher the last two years.
What else happened in baseball on April 7?
- Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams made his managerial debut on April 7, 1965. Although Williams’ Washington Senators lose 8-4 to the Yankees, the Senators finish Williams’ first season with 86 wins. Williams manages the Senators, who later become the Texas Rangers, for four years.
- Elsewhere in baseball on April 7, 1984, Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris spun a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. Morris struck out eight and walked six in his first career no-hitter. Detroit went 104-58 in 1984 and defeated the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
- Jack Morris again made baseball history on April 7, 1986. Boston Red Sox outfielder and leadoff hitter Dwight Evans hit the first pitch he saw from Morris over the fence for a home run. No other player in Major League history ever homered on the first pitch of the season. Detroit won 6-5.
- The Detroit Tigers were in the news yet again on April 7, 2012. First baseman Prince Fielder hit two home runs in a 10-0 rout of the Boston Red Sox and ends the day with 232 career homers through 1,000 games. Fielder’s father, Cecil, also had 232 home runs after 1,000 games. Meanwhile, Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel set an MLB record by appearing in a game for his 13th team.