By Ed Botti
On the evening of September 2, 2020 the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the death of Tom Seaver. He was 75 years young.
Within seconds, the word spread to all walks of life and on all media platforms, especially in the New York Baseball world.
One of the greatest is now gone.
Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post
Certain players throughout history transcend the game. Tom Seaver was one of them.
It didn’t matter if you grew up a Yankee Fan, a Met Fan, an Indian Fan, or a Dodger fan. You revered Tom Seaver and the power and precision he had on a major league mound.
Every start he had during his prime years was must see TV.
I had the pleasure of seeing him pitch in person on more than one occasion, the last was as a White Sox in 1985, a shadow of his former self, but he still managed to win his 300th game at Yankee Stadium on Phil Rizzuto day.
Needless to say, he had a flare for the dramatic.
I was too young to remember his heroics of the late 1960’s, but the legend remained during my formidable years of the mid to late 1970’s.
He was that impactful. He was that good.
Seaver’s family informed the public in March of 2019 that he had been diagnosed with the terrible disease of dementia and thus had retired from public life.
During this period of his life he continued working at Seaver Vineyards, in the Calistoga region of Northern California.
Tom Seaver, appropriately known as “Tom Terrific” and “The Franchise” was the driving force that altered the history of a franchise and led The Miracle Mets from annual cellar dwellers (AKA “lovable losers”) to a captivating and unforgettable World Series title in 1969.
His dominance on the mound and leadership of the 1969 Mets prompted the late 1960’s counter culture to coin the phrase “Peace, Love and the Mets”.
He was a fierce competitor that would not accept mediocrity or losing, and his presence was felt immediately in Queens.
In addition to his nicknames, his signature look was the dirt stained right knee of his uniform while on the mound; signifying another night of perfect harmony between his pitching mechanics and lower body drive as his right arm wreaked havoc on major league hitters throughout the League.
Photo by NY Post via Baseball Almanac
For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him pitch or are simply too young to know about him, he was a five-time 20-game winner and the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year. His career record stands at 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts and 61 shutouts during a memorable career that spanned from 1967-1986.
Seaver was a 12-time All-Star who led the major leagues with a 25-7 record in 1969 and a 1.76 ERA in 1971. He won Cy Young Awards with The Mets in 1969, 1973, and 1975.
Just as impressive is the fact that he also threw 231 complete games.
He was the first Met to have his uniform number retired, 41.
To this day, when I see a number 41 on the field of play, regardless of the sport, I think of Tom Seaver.
In addition to being one of the faces and voices of the game, he became a recurrent presence on magazine covers, New York tabloids and even began calling postseason games on NBC and ABC, while still an active player.
He became one of the biggest and most famous athletes in biggest and most famous city in 1969.
Not exactly an easy thing to do, you see in 1969 Walt Frazier and the Knicks won the NBA Championship, and Joe Namath and the Jets won the Super bowl.
3 Championships in 1 year, led by three great Champions.
Seems like a lifetime ago, and now it actually is.
He was so great, that arguably the best hitter in Baseball during that time, Reggie Jackson once said “Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch”.
In 1992, Seaver was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was approved on 425 of 430 ballots, a then-record 98.84%.
Seaver’s career was highlighted by his years as a Met from 1967-77. In what is considered to this day as the worst trade in Mets history, M. Donald Grant, Chairman of the team, traded Seaver to Cincinnati in 1977 over a contract dispute.
The bad blood still boils in Queens.
Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post
When Shea Stadium, Seaver’s home field for many years, closed after the 2008 season, Seaver threw the last pitch. A ceremonious pitch to Mike Piazza. They slowly walked off the field together forever, leaving behind many incredible memories for their fans to process and cherish.
Widely considered one of his most memorable moments was the evening of July 9, 1969. On that evening he completely dominated the first 25 batters of the Chicago Cubs that he faced. A one out blooper single ended his bid for a perfect game. He then easily retired the next 2 batters for a 1 hit complete game shut out with 10 Strikeouts, and no walks.
Seaver was raised in Fresno, California. Upon graduation from high school he enrolled in the Marine Corps reserves. He then received a scholarship in 1965 to USC, and proceeded to go 10-2 with a 2.47 ERA in his only year at USC, striking out 100 batters in 100 innings.
An odd twist of fate landed Seaver with the Mets.
In January of 1966 he was drafted by the Braves and after agreeing to a contract Seaver suddenly found himself in an unusual situation. USC had already begun their new season when Seaver signed the contract; a violation of major league rules. As a result of the violation the contract had to be voided, it also left him ineligible to return to school.
Tom’s father, Charles Seaver, threatened to sue baseball and eventually Commissioner William (“Spike”) Eckert settled the matter by setting up a lottery in which any team willing to match the Braves’ original contract offer could participate for the rights to draft Seaver.
Only three teams, the Indians, Phillies and Mets, decided to participate. Commissioner Eckert literally picked the Mets out of a hat.
The rest as they say, is history.
Seaver spent only one year (1966) in the minor leagues, and earned a spot in the Mets rotation in 1967, going 16-13 and winning rookie of the year honors.
The following year the legend began to take form as he began to display the dominance and brilliance that would underscore his remarkable career for years to come. On April 22, 1970 he struck out 19 Padres, tying the record, but also struck out the last 10 batters in a row to finish the game, setting the record.
In the period of 1968-1976, he set the all-time record of nine consecutive 200 +-strikeout seasons.
In 1970 and 1971 Seaver led the NL in both ERA (2.81 and 1.76) and strikeouts (283 and 289). In 1973 he led the Mets to their second World Series, with a 19-10 record and league leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games, 251 strikeouts and 0.976 WHIP, winning his second Cy Young Award.
He won his third and final Cy Young in 1975, leading the NL in wins (22-9) and strikeouts (243).
His playing career included 5 1/2 years in Cincinnati, and stops in Chicago and Boston. But he will always be remembered as a Met.
After his playing career had ended he worked as an analyst in the WPIX Yankee broadcast booth from 1989-93 with Phil Rizzuto, and later did the same with the Mets from 1999-2005.
In 1998, he decided to become an entrepreneur and purchased 115 acres of land on the top of Diamond Mountain in Calistoga, California and founded a vineyard where he produced Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2008, his GTS (for George Thomas Seaver) Cabernet earned a 97 rating by Wine Spectator.
Seaver, passed away peaceably at his home in Calistoga, California from complications from Lyme disease, dementia and COVID-19.
He is survived by his wife Nancy and their two daughters Sarah and Annie and grandchildren.
He leaves behind many records, wins, strikeouts and most of all a legacy of greatness.
He was the greatest of all Mets and a symbol of strength and grace for an entire generation of Mets fans.
RIP George Thomas Seaver.