This Date in Mets History: November 20 - Seaver and Gooden Earn Top Rookie Honors 17 Seasons Apart

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After starting on the same road, Tom was detoured and Doc took a wrong turn.

George Thomas Seaver and Dwight Eugene Gooden were named Rookies of the Year on this date in in 1967 and 1984, respectively. Coincidentally, the two hard-throwing right-handers, who celebrate their birthdays on consecutive days (Gooden Nov. 16 and Seaver Nov. 17) and have six letters in each of their three names, both went on to become Cy Young Award winners and each helped pitch their team to a world championship in their third season.

They also both stopped pitching for the Mets in June of their 11th season, but for very different reasons. Seaver was cruising toward his fifth 20-win season when he was traded during the infamous “Midnight Massacre,” a victim of President M. Donald Grant and his “plantation mentality” (Seaver’s words) with an assist from sycophantic sportswriter Dick Young. Gooden, off to a horrible start in 1994 (3-4 6.31 ERA), tested positive for cocaine use and was suspended for 60 days, during which time he testing positive again, making him ineligible to play for the entire 1995 season. The Mets granted him free agency, to put it politely, in October of ‘94.

"The beast that is always hungry, wanting more coke and laughing at my attempts to get clean and sober." –Dwight Gooden

Seaver returned to the fold in 1983 and, were it not for a grave miscalculation (or shrewd maneuver, if the conspiracy theorists are to be believed), he might have been Gooden’s teammate the following year. Some believe Seaver’s presence would have undermined Davey Johnson’s argument for putting the 19-year-old phenom in the ’84 rotation, but more than likely Gooden would have been promoted to the big leagues by midseason anyway. One wonders what effect, if any, having Tom Terrific as a mentor might have had on Gooden’s ultimate path or if the young phenom might have benefited by having a more discipline-oriented manager like Gil Hodges. We only know what did, or rather didn’t, happen: There is no Dwight Gooden plaque hanging with Tom Seaver’s in Cooperstown.

"No one had more impact on my career than Gil Hodges. Playing for him was a learning experience, and he was a tower of strength." –Tom Seaver

P.S. There’s one more thing the two right-handers have in common that haunted Mets fans for years: Both pitched no-hitters after leaving the Amazins, Seaver with the Reds and Gooden with the (shudder!) Yankees.

Birthdays

Happy 61st birthday to pitcher Jackson Todd. A second-round Mets draft pick in 1973, Todd looked like a sure thing to join the Seaver-Koosman-Matlack pantheon until October 1974 when he underwent extensive surgery to remove malignant cancerous growths in his abdomen. Given less than a one-in-four chance of survival, he beat the odds, returned to AA ball late the following season, pitched brilliantly for AAA Tidewater in ’76 and made his big league debut for the Mets on May 5, 1977. Todd’s career numbers with New York and Toronto may not be remarkable, but the plucky right-hander’s story certainly is.

Kevin Lomon, who turns 41 today, was the least impressive of the eight rookie pitchers the Mets auditioned in 1995. The Rule 5 draft pick was returned to the Braves after allowing 24 base runners and seven runs in 9.1 innings. You might says Lomon was a lemon.

On the other hand, Lino Urdaneta, 33 today, pitched infinitely better for the Mets than for his former team, the Tigers. He entered the first of his two games for New York with an ERA of infinity; three pitches and a groundout later it was down to 162.00. He would finish with a career ERA of 63.00, but a comparatively stellar 9.00 as a Met.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

Vice President Joe Biden turns 70 years old today. Biden, who proudly owns a 1967 Corvette C2, is linked to two 1967 Mets pitchers by his place of birth and college education. Lefty Joe Grzenda hails from the VP’s hometown of Scranton, PA, and right-hander Billy Connors preceded him as an alumnus of Syracuse University.

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