Nov 5, 2014

Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher & Tom Seaver's Childhood Friend: Dick Selma (1965-1968)

Richard Jay Selma was born on November 4, 1943 in Santa Anna California. He grew up pitching in local California little league against his friend Tom Seaver. Selma actually reached the high school varsity squad before Mr. Seaver did.

The five foot eleven, right handed Selma attended Fresno State University getting signed by the New York Mets in 1963. He won 12 games in his first year at A ball Salinas, then followed up with two nine win seasons going through the ranks of the minor leagues. At the age of 21, just two years after being signed, he made the '65 Mets as a September call up.

Selma debuted on September 5, 1965, in a start at St. Louis against the Cardinals. He allowed three runs on six hits over five innings, earning the victory. In his second start he pitched a 1-0, ten inning shutout against the Milwaukee Braves, striking out 13 batters. In four games that month he went 2-1 striking out 26 batters in 26 innings.

In 1966 he was the clubs starter for the third game of the season, as he earned no decision in the Mets 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. In his next start he was knocked out in the third inning & then was moved into the bull pen. He was 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA at the end of May after earning two relief victories. He was put back into the rotation & suffered a five game losing streak. He was back in the bullpen in September finishing off the season at 4-6 with one save, a 4.24 ERA, 58 strike outs & 39 walks in 80 inningsin 30 games.

In 1967 he began the year at AAA Jacksonville going 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA getting called up in June. When he arrived he was reunited with his childhood friend Tom Seaver. Seaver was the 1967 Rookie of the Year, going 16-13 dazzling NL hitters with his fastball. As for Selma, he was used as both a starter & reliever going 2-with two saves, while posting a 2.77 ERA.

In 1968 Selma got himself back into the starting rotation by May, starting 23 of the 33 games he pitched that season. In his first start Selma pitched into the 9th inning, allowing two runs earning a 7-3 win over the Cubs. In his next start he tossed a five hit shutout at Chicago's Wrigley Field. He came home & pitched another complete game beating the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. He went 6-0, topping off his win streak with another five hit shutout, this time beating the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

In July he pitched into the 7th inning six straight times, but only got one victory despite yielding more than one earned run in five of those outings. On the year, a lack of offense & losing seven of his last eight decisions finished his year at 9-10 despite a good 2.76 ERA. On August 27th he pitched a six hit shutout against the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, who were on their way to a second straight pennant. He pitched three shutouts and struck out 117 batters in 169 innings that season walking 54.

The Mets lost him in the 1968 expansion draft when the San Diego Padres selected him as their fifth pick. In 1969 he made San Diego Padre history getting the start in the first Padre's game. He struck out twelve Houston Astros in San Diego, earning the franchise's first win, while pitching a complete game.

Strangely he was traded to the Chicago Cubs after only four games, in exchange for pitcher Joe Neikro. At Wrigley Field in Chicago he became popular for leading cheers with the Bleacher Bums from the Cubs bullpen. Selma went 10-8 for the second place Cubs that year, that were defeated by the Amazing Mets.

On May 4th he lost a 3-2 heart breaker to Tug McGraw (who pitched a complete game) when a wild pitch scored Ron Swoboda in turned out to be the winning run. In the first game of a double header that day, his friend Tom Seaver beat Bill Hands 3-2 as well. On July 15th he lost a 5-4 game to Gary Gentry as the Mets pulled within five games of the first place Cubs. That season Selma also served up Pete Rose's 1000th hit.

Selma was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Oscar Gamble at the end of the season in exchange for Johnny Calison. In 1970 he became a quality closer, posting 22 saves (5th best in the NL) and setting a record with 173 strikeouts for a relief pitcher. He spent four years in the Phillies, never saving more than three games in a season again.

In a a famous club incident at Newark airport in 1972, he was knocked out by a traveling Phillies secretary who was a former minor league hockey player. Selma who was notorious for ragging on people, landed on the luggage carousel unconscious.

In 1974 he pitched for both the California Angels & Milwaukee Brewers in his final season. In a ten year pitching career he was 42-54 with 31 saves, 681 strike outs & 381 walks in 840 innings pitched while posting a 3.62 ERA in 307 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he took a night job at Flemming Foods in Fresno, California. In the daytime he coached both college & high school baseball. In 2001 he passed away from liver cancer at the age of 57.

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