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EXCERPT | September 2, 1985

Calling Dr. K

Twenty-year-old Dwight Gooden got his 20th win

In his second season Gooden, who wouldn't turn 21 until November, was already the best pitcher in the game, throwing both the hardest curveball (80 mph) and fastball (96) in the majors. Craig Neff reported for SI.

Shea Stadium was a sea of cardboard K's: black ones, red ones, green ones, orange ones, some held aloft, others hung from upper-deck railings. There were cloth K's, too, and K's drawn on blank sheets of paper. Shea didn't have enough nooks and crannies for all the K's that greeted the appearance of Dwight (Dr. K) Gooden on a gala night last week.

Gooden had struck out 11 San Francisco Giants in the first five innings and was coasting on a 3--0 lead. In his next start, on Sunday, the Mets' 20-year-old ace would become the youngest 20-game winner in modern history, striking out four batters and allowing two earned runs before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning of a 9--3 victory over the Padres. It was his 14th win in a row and left him with a 1.78 ERA and 212 strikeouts, both best in the majors.

But such was the fans' hunger for strikeouts on this night that they actually booed Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez and leftfielder George Foster for catching two-strike foul pops in the seventh and eighth innings. Gooden fanned five more Giants to complete a seven-hit shutout. His 16 strikeouts established a 1985 major league high, and by putting his season's total over 200 he became only the second player in baseball history to reach that milestone in each of his first two major league seasons.

Gooden finished 24--4 and won the NL Cy Young Award. Beset by personal demons, he never regained his '85 form, retiring in 2000 with 194 wins.

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Photograph by JERRY WACHTER

LOADED GUN Few pitchers have ever been better than Gooden in '85, when he led the majors in wins (24), ERA (1.53) and strikeouts (268), and the NL in complete games (16) and innings (2762/3).

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