Dwight Gooden received a belated gift from the nation's baseball writers on this date in 1985, as the BBWAA made the Mets' newly 21-year old ace its unanimous choice for winner of the NL Cy Young Award. For Doc, the plaque was a reward for a season in which he won the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown, leading all MLB hurlers in wins (24), ERA (1.53), and strikeouts (268). While Gooden's 1985 stats are impressive, they don't quite do justice to how dominating Dwight was during the early days of his career. Replacing the arbitrary end points of a season with the slightly less casual cut-off of 50 consecutive starts regardless of what year they happened in, from August 1984 to May 1986, Gooden came within a batter of pitching 405 innings and went in the process went 37-5 with a 1.40 ERA and 412 strikeouts. Wow.
- Steve Henderson, one of the players acquired in the Midnight Massacre trade of Tom Seaver, is 60. The outfielder made his MLB debut with the Mets the day after the deal and put together a fine rookie season, hitting .297/.372/.480 with an rWAR of 2.5 in just under 100 games. That stat line was good enough to place Henderson second in the 1977 Rookie of the Year balloting, just one point south of winner Andre Dawson. Unfortunately, '77 was Hendo's high water mark with the Mets. After three more average-ish seasons, the team shipped him to Chicago for fellow Midnight Massacre victim Dave Kingman.
- The pitcher that picked up the W in the Mets' first ever win, Jay Hook is 76 today. On April 23, 1962, Hook went the distance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing just five hits and a single run in a 9-1 thumping. Hook stuck with the team through the 1964 season, before leaving baseball to get a master's degree in thermodynamics. Said Casey Stengel of his rocket scientist's demeanor on the mound, "If only Hook could do what he knows."
- Cal Koonce would have been 72 today. A practitioner of the "sweatball", Koonce used his slop pitch to save 20 games for the Mets between 1967 and '70, seven of them coming in the fateful '69 season. Also of note that year, Koonce took the loss on Opening Day, helping the nascent Montreal Expos to win their first ever game.
- Gary Sheffield, 44, ended his long career by playing 100 games for the Mets in 2009. Dwight Gooden's nephew put together a solid age-40 season in Queens, cracking his 500th career homer at Citi Field in mid-April, and when forced into full time duty as injuries mounted, hit .276/.372/.451 until a bum knee forced him to the DL, too. In addition to becoming the 25th player to reach the 500 home run plateau during his Met tenure, Sheffield also became the third in MLB history to go deep before his 20th birthday and after his 40th, an honor he shares with Flushing favorite Rusty Staub.
- A product of Christ the King High School in Middle Village, Allen Watson is 42. Originally drafted out of the metropolitan area by the Cardinals in 1991, Watson returned seven years later to pitch for his hometown team. Used as a swingman, the righty made 14 appearances and four starts for the '99 Mets before getting traded mid-season to the Seattle Mariners.
- Right-handed reliever Matt Wise, 37, broke camp with the Mets in 2008. The only decision he was a party to in the orange and blue came on the second day of the season, when he allowed a walk-off homer to Robert Andino of the Florida Marlins, the first painful bullpen meltdown in a year that would be filled with them.
The Mets have shipped two outfielders out of town on this date. In 1994, the team packaged Opening Day right fielder Jeromy Burnitz with pitcher Joe Roa and sent the pair to the Cleveland Indians for Dave Mlicki, Jerry DiPoto, Paul Byrd, and Jesus Azuaje. Both Burnitz and Byrd would later make the 1999 All-Star Team, though neither would do so for the organizations they were traded to on this date.
On November 18, 2005, Omar Minaya made one of his bigger moves of a busy offseason, sending Mike Cameron to the San Diego Padres for Xavier Nady. It's possible that Omar did well to get a decent corner bat out of the deal, as Cameron's trade value at the time was low, coming off a year cut short by a gruesome concussion and having stated strongly and publicly that he preferred to not cede center field to Carlos Beltran. Still, Nady's enduring popularity among a certain subset of Mets fans aside, it's hard to rate this swap as a win. It seems likely that some team would have been willing to cobble together a package with more upside than what the Padres offered.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today, way back when in 1307, is the day that Swiss marksman William Tell reportedly shot an apple off his son's head with a well-placed crossbow bolt. Obviously, the Mets' Home Run Apple didn't exist at the time, but if it did, Tell's feat seems worthy enough to that it would merit raising it from out of its top hat home.