Sunday, October 31, 2010
#87) TOM SEAVER
The New York Mets were the winners of a special draft for the services of Tom Seaver on April 3, 1966. He had originally been drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 1965. Tom chose not to sign, but continue attending the University of Southern California. The Atlanta Braves signed the talented right-hander in January of 1966, but the contract was voided by the Commissioner's Office. It seems that the USC baseball team had played two exhibition games, and as such the NCAA deemed him ineligible to return to college ball. So after Seaver's father threatened a lawsuit Major League Baseball conducted a lottery of all the teams willing to match the Braves contract. The Mets won and began the greatest moment of their history.
"Tom Terrific" made his New York Mets debut on April 13, 1967 at Shea Stadium. He was the starting pitcher facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, but did not record the win in the Mets 3-2 victory. Seaver did strike out eight batters in his 5.1 innings however. It was just the beginning of a tremendous first season including 16 wins, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA. All of which earned him the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year honors. Making him the first Mets player to win that award.
In the following nine seasons, Seaver would strikeout over 200 batters each year. Winning 20 games or more in four of those. The most special being the magical 1969 season in New York. Tom led the previously hapless Mets into the postseason with a 25-7 record and 2.21 ERA. He was given the 1969 Cy Young Award for his efforts. Once in the post-season he provided the leadership on the mound and in the clubhouse to bring the Miracle Mets a World Championship. "When I came to the Mets," Seaver said, "there was an aura of defeatism on the team; a feeling of let's get it over with. I could not accept that. Being brought up in California, I was unaware of the legend of Marvelous Marv Throneberry. That loveable loser stuff was not funny to me. I noticed that the team seemed to play better when I pitched but, dammit, that wasn't right and I said so. I probably got a few people mad, but I went around and told the guys that if they did that for me and not for somebody else it was wrong. People pay money to see professional baseball played well and they put their emotions into it, too."
His 1971 season of 20 wins, 289 strikeouts, and amazing 1.76 ERA was surprisingly not a Cy Young winner. Tom would win the award, given to the league's best pitcher, again in 1973 (when he had 18 complete games) and 1975. Seaver was selected to six Major League All-Star teams and pitched in a second World Series for the Mets in 1973.
On June 15, 1977, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman in the darkest moment of Mets history. The Reds would return him to New York in a trade on December 16, 1982, but the next season was his final one in a Mets uniform.
Seaver was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame in 1988, and enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. Becoming the first player to enter as a New York Met.
When asked in 2008 about his memories of Shea Stadium, Seaver said, "There are too many for us to count. I had 10-plus spectacular years there that were filled with joy and then a sorrow at the end when ownership and I had some contract issues."
"Number one is the 1969 World Championship. The highlight of any young player's career is winning the Championship. Just like you saw the Phillies running on the field, celebrating, I experienced that. For the first time it is disbelief. That's the thing that happens. It's the same thing that happens as going in the Hall of Fame. But I don't miss the stadium at all. The stadium was not a wonderful piece of architecture. People ask me about that, They thought I was rather coldhearted about that. I said no, the memories are on the field. The people you played with etc. were really the memories, and the fans so appreciative of what you did for a living."
The man who became known as "The Franchise" was given the distinction of throwing the final pitch in the history of Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008. Tom threw it to Mike Piazza during the "Shea Goodbye" ceremony that day.
His latest endeavor has become the introduction of his own wine label, GTS. The former pitcher has created his own vineyard in the Napa Valley city of Calistoga, California. "I'm like a rookie in the clubhouse," said Tom. "You gotta earn your stripes."
Tom Seaver signed his card in the set from my good friend, Jessie at the "Teammates in the Kitchen" event at Citi Field on September 22, 2010.