MLBbro’s Mark Gray interviewed former MLB pitcher Marvin Freeman.
The 6-foot-6 pitcher spent over a decade in The Show — from 1986 to 1996 — pitching for four different teams. There aren’t many Marvin Freeman’s in the league anymore, but he has a wealth of pitching knowledge and works closely with MLB’s diversity programs, inspiring and instructing young athletes trying to achieve their baseball dreams. He is the perfect person to discuss the state of Black pitchers in MLB and the culture of baseball.
19-year old Mets phenom Dwight “Doc” Gooden made his MLB debut 37 years ago today.
The phenomenon that quickly captivated the baseball world and earned the name “Dr.K,” collected his first of 194 career wins in a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros.
This start almost didn’t happen as Gooden made the 3-mile walk from the hotel to the Astrodome ahead of his team, but couldn’t get in the stadium, as no one could vouch for his identity.
So Gooden climbed an 8-foot fence to get in and was seen by a security guard, who thought he was an intruder.
Nothing came of it as team trainer Steve Garland was already at the ballpark and eventually vouched for him. Gooden pointed to the situation as the perfect encapsulation of his nerves that night.
The Black Ace would go on to win NL Rookie of The Year with a 17-9 record, while posting a 2.60 ERA, with 278 strikeouts in 218 innings pitched.
Shea Stadium, to this day, has never recaptured the electricity that was commonplace any time Gooden would throw that heat or his infamous curveball know as “Lord Charles.”
The K-corner was steady popping back then.
So it’s safe to say nerves didn’t faze this “Black Knight” after all. In fact, he quickly became King of New York, and the next season he went 24-4 and won his first and only Cy Young award. Doc went 49 innings without giving up an earned run in one historic stretch in ‘85
There’s a growing generation of baseball fans who have no idea just how great Gooden was. To this day, we haven’t experienced another Black pitcher as dominant, awe-inspiring or transcending as Dr. K.
Justus Sheffield is the first MLB Bro starting pitcher to take the mound this season. Sheffield finally started putting his repertoire together and was stellar in the abbreviated 2020 season.
Sheffield looks to make this year a special one.
We have seen MLB bros have an impact with the bats and on the basepaths already this season, but Monday night we will get to see one of the best young arm talents in all of baseball; 24-year-old lefty Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield is a part of only two rotations in baseball to feature multiple black starters. He and Justin Dunn hold it down for the Seattle Mariners and the Mets who feature the charismatic Marcus Stroman and heat-toting Taijuan Walker.
In 2020, Sheffield’s official rookie season, he found his groove. He finished with a record of 4-3 and a 3.58 era on a young, talented Mariners team that featured a rookie of the year winner in centerfield and two gold glove defenders.
From August 9th- September 26th of 2020, Sheffield was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He posted a 4-1 record with a 2.42 era and 41 strikeouts with just 14 walks during that span.
He led all MLB rookies with 6 quality starts, was 3rd in innings pitched and 6th in strikeouts. Only fellow Mariner Kyle Lewis had a higher Wins Above Replacement rating for rookies in all of baseball.
Sheffield was one of the most talented pitchers coming out of high school in the 2014 class. He posted an 11-0 record with a 0.34 era and threw two no-hitters his senior season in high school on the way to being named Gatorade National Player of the Year.
A native of Tullahoma, Tennessee, Sheffield committed to powerhouse Vanderbilt University but ultimately chose to go straight to the big leagues after being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Indians.
In 2016 he was traded to the New York Yankees in a deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians. He made his major league debut on September 19th, 2018 in relief for the Yankees.
Just a short time later, in November of 2019, Sheffield was dealt again, this time to Seattle in a deal that brought the Yankees James Paxton.
Despite being traded twice before his 24th birthday, Sheffield has seemed to find a home in Seattle, where he earned a spot in the rotation. He debuted for Seattle in 2019 and struck out 37 batters in 36 innings.
Sheffield features a nasty sinker/slider combination, relying on forcing batters to make weak contact and his fielders to make plays — which when you have a defense like the Mariners do — is not a bad idea.
Pitching excellence runs in the Sheffield family as his brother Jordan, a former Vandy arm, made his season debut out of the pen a few days ago.
If you're wondering where Justus Sheffield is, he's likey watching his brother Jordan make his MLB debut against the Dodgers. The other Sheffield brother went 1-2-3 in his inning with two groundouts and a popout, retiring both Corey Seager and Mookie Betts. Congrats @Topsheff42pic.twitter.com/wHRUCmPFAN