When Dwight Gooden took the mound at the Astrodome 29 years ago today, he was less than two years removed from wearing the red and black uniforms of Tampa's Hillsborough High School Terriers. In the intervening months, Gooden rocketed through the Mets minor league system, donning jerseys for the Kingsport, Little Falls, and Lynchburg Mets before winding up in a road grey New York knit for his first major league start on April 7, 1984.
At 19 years, four months, and 23 days of age, Gooden became the second-youngest pitcher to ever start a game for the Mets, missing out on breaking Jerry Hinsley's team record by a mere 15 weeks. That extra experience showed, though. While Hinsley allowed four runs on five hits and failed to get out of the third in his start, Gooden was very good in his. Doc made short work of the Astros, striking out five in five innings, two of which came back-to-back in the third as Gooden escaped a first and third with nobody out jam unscathed.
Offensively, the Mets backed Gooden with three runs, two more than he'd wind up allowing and one more than he'd need to earn his first big league win. Darryl Strawberry went deep in the second and Mookie Wilson brought home two with a double into the cavernous recesses of the Astrodome outfield. Mets swingman Dick Tidrow, who at age 37 was nearly 20 years Gooden's senior, gave one back in an inning of work, but Doug Sisk and Jesse Orosco closed things out with three frames of scoreless relief. Final score: Mets 3, Astros 2 with the W going to young Dr. K, the first of 157 he'd rack up with the club.
- Bullpen coach Ricky Bones turns 44. A veteran of eleven MLB seasons as a pitcher, Bones had his best years with the Milwaukee Brewers. He and future Met Jose Valentin came to Beer City by way of San Diego, as the Padres traded the pair (plus outfielder Matt Mieske) to the Brewers for fellow future Met Gary Sheffield in 1992.
- Joe Hicks, an outfielder who hit five home runs for the Mets in 1963, is 80. Three of the five round trippers came in a stretch of three consecutive games, the middle one being an 11th inning walk-off shot into the Polo Grounds stands against the Giants' Don Larsen. A native of Ivy, Virginia (pop. 905), Hicks is the town's second most famous former resident, coming in a close second behind Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
- Finally, happy 33rd birthday to Vinny Rottino. Brought up from Triple-A Buffalo in May last year when Chris Schwinden got demoted, Rottino had 39 plate appearances before getting the axe himself. The Indians claimed him on waivers in June and made space for him by designating the aforementioned (and peripatetic) Schwinden for assignment.
Game of Note
As Gary Cohen points out from time to time, the Mets won a World Series before they won on Opening Day. That oh-for-eight schneid ended on April 7, 1970 at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, though it took two innings of bonus baseball to make it happen. Tom Seaver got the start for New York and allowed three runs in eight innings. Steve Blass of the Pirates did the same across ten. Finally facing a new hurler in the eleventh, the Mets offense came to life. Mike Jorgensen led off with a single, while Ron Swoboda followed by reaching on an error. A sac bunt from Wayne Garrett moved both runners over and Pirates' manager Danny Murtaugh opted to keep the double play intact by intentionally walking Jerry Grote. That decision backfired when former Buc Donn Clendenon laced a liner to center to bring home two. Tug McGraw made that lead stand up in the bottom half of the frame and the Mets started the season 1-0 for the first time ever.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1922, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leased government-owned petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming to Harry F. Sinclair of the Mammoth Oil company for a ridiculously low cost. Roughly 80 years later, the Mets paid a relatively high price, $2.1 million to be exact, to mine Wyoming's amateur baseball resources for 2011 first round draftee Brandon Nimmo.