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Blind people come to the park just to hear him pitch.
  -- Reggie Jackson

Tom Seaver, the greatest New York Met ever and one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived, died this week from what's being reported as complications arising from Lewy Body dementia and Covid-19.

The dementia had been reported previously and Seaver had withdrawn from public life. Tom Verducci wrote a very moving story last year about a reunion between Seaver and several of his teammates from the 1969 Miracle Mets. They were fortunate enough to catch Seaver on a good day, on a day when he could remember the times they'd had together and some of the amazing things he had done on the mound.

The Mets were lucky to get him. He had been drafted out of USC by Atlanta but the Braves had signed him to a contract while the USC season was in progress. It turned out that this was against the rules even though Seaver hadn't actually played in a game. Spike Eckert voided the deal with the Braves and gave the other teams a chance to match their offer. Three of them did: the Indians, the Phillies and the Mets. The three names went into a hat, and the Mets were the lucky winner.

What followed was rather like the beginning of Dave Stieb's career. The team was putrid, but the pitcher was brilliant. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1967, going 16-13 2.76 for a team that lost 101 games. He was even better in 1968, going 16-12 2.20 for the 73-89 team that finished in 9th place. They'd added another hotshot rookie pitcher that year, a LH named Jerry Koosman.

The Mets made their great leap forward the following season and by the middle of August 1969 they actually found themselves in the giddy heights of third place in the NL East with a 62-51 record. They were a full 10 games in back of the first place Cubs, but the Mets had never come close to having a winning record before. This alone was astonishing. The Mets? In third place? But they were just getting started. To the shock and surprise of the entire baseball world, they went 38-11 over the final six weeks to leave the Cubs choking on their dust. During that stretch, Seaver himself went 9-0, 1.24 in his 10 starts. They swept the Braves in the NLCS and dismissed the Orioles in five games to win the championship.

That year, 1969, was the first season of Seaver's five year peak when he was about as good as any pitcher has ever been (103-51, 2.35, ERA+ 154, at least 260 IP each seasons.) In his fourth start of 1970, against San Diego on a Wednesday afternoon, he allowed a second inning homer and a fifth inning single. In the sixth inning, Cito Gaston flied out to RF for the second out of the ininng. Cito, it would turn out, would be the last Padre to put a ball in play that day. Seaver fanned Al Ferrara, for his 10th K of the day to end the inning. He fanned Colbert, Campbell, and Morales in the seventh; Barton, Webster, and Murrell in the eighth; Kelly, Gaston and Ferrara to close it out in the ninth. The 19Ks tied the MLB record, and has since been passed just twice; the 10 consecutive Ks have never been matched, before or since, in the long history of the game.

He wasn't quite as awesome afterwards, but he stayed very, very good and for a very long time. The Mets ran him out of town, of course. He was their player representative in the early 1970s, as the battle for free agency was heating up. Donald Grant, the Mets owner, had what can best be described as a plantation mentality about the players who worked for him. (He was offended that Seaver actually joined the same country club.) New York Post columnist Dick Young was very much in Grant's corner (his son-in-law worked in the front office) and waged a two year campaign on Grant's behalf that denounced Seaver, and all the players who might be like him, as greedy swine who didn't know how lucky they had it. Seaver finally demanded a trade and was dispatched to Cincinnati, just as the Big Red Machine was beginning to crumble. After a few seasons there, he finally had a bad year at age 37, and the Reds obligingly traded him back to the Mets so he could finish his career in front of the fans who knew and loved him best. The Mets managed to screw that up, too. They left him exposed in the free agent compensation pool and the White Sox snapped him up.

Which is how he came to pitch in Toronto, at last. It was May 1984 and I was in the house. I was pretty excited. Tom Terrific! And he was just great. It was extremely weird to see him in White Sox colours - but otherwise, he looked just like Tom Seaver. In the third inning, Damaso Garcia singled, stole second, and scored on a Dave Collins single. And that was all the scoring either team would manage on the day. Seaver pitched a complete game six-hitter, fanned four and walked no one and took a 1-0 loss to Jim Gott and a trio of relievers. Seaver would make another two starts in Toronto before he was done: Jimmy Key beat him in 1985 and Dave Stieb beat him in 1986, in what would turn out to be his last appearance on a major league mound, in September of 1986. He was with the Red Sox by then, still pitching effectively (a losing W-L record notwithstanding) but his knees were shot and he wasn't on the post-season roster when the Red Sox and the Mets met in one of the more memorable World Series ever played.

He was very much a power pitcher, with the ultimate drop and drive delivery - his right knee made such solid contact with the mound at the end of his delivery that he took to wearing a pad on it. He was the thinking man's pitcher, a man who understood his own mechanics, who understood what he was trying to do on the mound, who was still able to pitch effectively past age 40 when the blazing fastball of his youth was a distant memory. He was at once the most admired, most respected man in the room among his teammates - and he was also something of the class clown. Everyone who knew him remembers his giggle.

Oh, he was special. It's hard to believe he's gone.
Tom Seaver (1944-2020) | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
krose - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 01:06 AM EDT (#389848) #
Thanks Magpie. A fitting tribute to one of the greatest pitchers of our time or any time.
Chuck - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 08:03 AM EDT (#389850) #
Several years ago, many of us dug up the boxscores from our first experience at a MLB game. This was mine, from 49 years ago. Seaver not only threw a CG to beat the Expos and their ace, but hit the game-winning HR to do so.
Chuck - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 08:24 AM EDT (#389851) #
I should add that the game I saw would see three of those Mets join the Expos in the subsequent year in a swap for their local hero, Le Grand Orange (Rusty Staub). Both Staub and Singleton would go on to have terrific careers. Mike Jorgensen would have an age-25 season that would have slotted in nicely on Mike Hargrove's CV. Tim Foli would go on to answer the question "how long can a man's career run performing at replacement level?"

Back to Seaver. He was a mega-star of my youth with a distinct pitching style. Nice remembrance, Magpie. Life is just flashing by.

rpriske - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 09:23 AM EDT (#389854) #
I know it is the timing of it and my age, but it was a little jarring to constantly see Seaver referred to as a Met.

I mean, I KNOW that is correct, but to me he was always a Red.

And he was one of the best.
AWeb - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#389856) #
Weirdly I first think of him with Chicago, thanks to those o-pee-chee stickers books I had in the mid 80s. I was always fascinated by the guys with huge career totals, so I always think of him with Carleton and Ryan and Byleven. I didn't appreciate at the time that Seaver was the best of that group. I hope he had a few good days near the end.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 10:37 AM EDT (#389859) #
Tom Seaver.  He, like Yaz, was an icon of my youth.  Like almost all great pitchers, he had the mix of cojones and wiles necessary to do battle. 

My favourite Seaver story.  Willie McCovey (like most of the great NL left-handed hitters of the time) did very well against Seaver and Seaver did his best to pitch around him if he could.  One time he could not.  It was a key situation and the bases were loaded.  The count ran to 3-2, and Seaver threw him a couple of 99 mph heaters which McCovey fouled off.  On the next pitch, Seaver threw a rare (for him) changeup to strike him out.  McCovey shouted "aw man, you're supposed to throw a fastball, you're Tom Seaver".  That time, it was wiles over cojones.

Doc Gooden posted heartwarming comments about Seaver with a picture on Twitter, which I recommend having a quick look at it if you need a boost.

Thanks, Magpie, for the remembrance.

Dewey - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 11:14 AM EDT (#389860) #
Nice tribute, Magpie. I wish I had seen him pitch. (And Reggie’s quote is a gem.)

That was a really good Cubs team that the Mets overtook in 1969. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and of course Fergie Jenkins -- for starters. With Leo the Lip as Master of Ceremonies. I’ve never really forgiven those Mets for that. But Seaver was always special.
Magpie - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 11:22 AM EDT (#389862) #
Willie McCovey... did very well against Seaver

McCovey hit .260/.376/.584 with 6 HR in 77 career AB against Seaver, which was indeed very good considering the circumstances (you've got Tom Seaver on the mound.) As far as I can tell, only two men hit more HRs against him - Ron Cey (who hit 8 HRs) and the guy who really owned Tom Terrific: Rick (Weep, Ye Expos Fan) Monday, who hit .349/.456/.791 with 11 HRs in 86 ABs against Seaver. Dusty Baker also gave him a lot of trouble (.347/.383/.589), all of which may explain why he had a poorer record against the Dodgers (22-22, 3.23) than any team he faced at least 10 times.

It's interesting that Baker gave him trouble. Baker was a good hitter, but Seaver normally destroyed any RH power hitter he faced. People like Aaron, Banks, Mays, and Bench couldn't touch him. (Granted, the first three were all past their prime when they ran into Seaver, as if the matchup wasn't unfair enough already.) Aaron did the best of that group, if .205/.281/.423 is to your taste.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#389867) #
Joe Morgan and Ted Simmons were the guys who were able to control the strike zone and hit for power against Seaver.  LH with quick bats was the recipe. Prime Seaver controlled RH hitters- opposing managers would be wise to give a few of them the day off as managers would later do with LH hitters facing Randy Johnson. 
John Northey - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 02:02 PM EDT (#389871) #
Those '69 Mets gave a couple of HOF'ers their only WS ring. Tom Seaver, and Nolan Ryan. Seaver was their ace while Ryan was the hotshot kid with a killer arm but no idea where it was going (5.3 BB/9 vs 9.3 K/9 when that was rare). Funny that Ryan lasted so much longer (Seaver retired after 1986 - almost got a second ring at 41 but Bill Buckner, vs Ryan lasting until 1993 when his arm finally blew out at 46).
Magpie - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 04:24 PM EDT (#389875) #
The Mets tonight are all smudging their right knees with dirt. What a cool way to pay tribute.
Chuck - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#389878) #
"Our grandfathers told us we should. We don't really know what it means."
Magpie - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:40 PM EDT (#389882) #
So I'm scrolling through the Twittering thingie on the off-chance that I encounter someone being Wrong On The Internet so I can yell at them and I stumble across this tweet from the American Baseball Biomechanics Society (apparently there is such a thiing) posted to demonstrate Seaver's "Drop and Drive" mechanics. It'spretty neat to look at, but it was the accompanying sentence that really struck me:

This style of pitching is obsolete in American pitchers today, but served Tom well.

Obsolete? Really? When did that happen?

Admittedly, I can't think of anyone who dropped and drove quite like Seaver, but I never could anyway. David Cone was certainly the same general model but it wasn't the same. Seaver exploded off the mound, vaulting forward, generating all this power from his upper thighs and glutes. This is obsolete? Now I want to look for it....
John Northey - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 09:31 PM EDT (#389891) #
Interesting - one would think someone would teach it again as leg power was everything for Seaver and Ryan - two clear HOF'ers who came up with the same organization which at the time was known for pitching. Both very long careers too. Logically I'd be pushing pitchers to use their bottom halfs as much as possible to generate power.
Tom Seaver (1944-2020) | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.