Nov 16, 2015

Mets Hall of Fame Pitcher: Tom Seaver (Part Two)- the Seventies

As Tom Seaver entered the seventies he only seemed to get better. After a rough Opening day start he went on to begin the year at 6-0. 

On April 22nd 1970 (the first recognized Earth Day) Seaver received his Cy Young Award at a pre game ceremony at Shea Stadium. He went out & took the mound making baseball history as he tied an MLB record by striking out 19 San Diego Padres. He also set a record by striking out the final ten batters of the game, while retiring the last 16 in a row. On the day he only allowed one run on two hits while walking two batters.

On May 15th in Philadelphia, Seaver had another spectacular day. He tossed his second career one hitter, as he struck out 15 Phillies. This time the only hit came in third inning off a forgotten player named Mike Compton. He bested his record to 7-1 after a 6-0 start.

In June he began another great stretch winning nine straight decisions, going two full months without taking a loss. In that stretch he threw 10 complete games, tossed three separate three hitters & one shut out. He got to start the 1970 All Star Game in Cincinnati for his manager Gil Hodges, pitching three shut out innings, striking out four while only allowing one hit.

 The rest of the year didn’t go as well as 1969; the Mets & Seaver both struggled as he lost six of his last seven decisions. He finished the year at 18-12 leading the league in strikeouts (283) & ERA (2.82). He pitched 290 innings with 19 complete games & two shut outs.

Quotes: One of the most famous quotes about Seaver is comes from Pete Rose, who once said: "Blind men come to the park just to hear him pitch”.

In 1971 Seaver earned the victory on Opening Day, although he only pitched five innings. In his second start he threw nine shutout innings but got no decision. He threw a three hit shutout in his next start against Pittsburgh at Shea Stadium & began the year at 4-0. 

By the end of June he was 10-3 with a 2.03 ERA, but then he lost four straight. He made the All Star team but did not pitch in the 1971 classic. By this time he already had five multiple strike out games & allowed one run or less seven times. After the break he got even better, striking out 10 or more batters eight more times on his way to a league leading, career best 289 strikeout seasons.

From August through the end of the season he was 9-2, with ten complete games; including a two hit shutout in Montreal, striking out 12 Expos. On Sunday September 24th Seaver took the mound against the eventual World Champion Pirates & once again flirted with a no hitter. It wasn’t until the 7th inning when Vic Davillio singled breaking up the no hitter. Seaver struck out 10 & walked one earning his 19th victory. He finished the year off with his 20th win four days later against the Cardinals.

He wrapped up 1971 with a 20-10 record, leading the league in strike outs posting a career high 289. He also posted his career best ERA leading the league at 1.76. He was runner up to the Cy Young Award, pitching a career high 21 complete games with four shutouts in 286 innings. The Mets finished third 14 games out.

Seaver’s hitting cannot be left out, as he was a fine hitting pitcher. He hit a HR every year from 1970-1973, including three in 1972. He posted 10 RBIs in 1970, with 17 hits good for a .179 average. In 1971 he had career highs in average (.198) hits (18) & doubles (3) driving in seven runs. 

He had at least three runs batted in every season he pitched in New York in the seventies. He hit over .100 every year he played with the Mets except for 1974 when he hit .099 & 1976 batting .085.

During Spring Training 1972 Gil Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack just before the start of the season. The team was devastated, Seaver remarked “Gil is here inside each man, & will be here all season. The man made a terrific impact on the whole ball club.” Seaver then went out & won on Opening Day, after Hodges was honored in a pre game ceremony retiring his number.

He started out the year again at 4-0, then after a loss won three more straight games. On the 4th of July he pitched another memorable game for the Shea fans. He struck out 11 Padres and had a no hitter going into the 9th inning. This time it was Leron Lee who spoiled it, as Seaver went onto toss his fourth career one hitter, besting his record to 10-4 with an ERA under two.

The rest of the way he was 10-8 putting in a strong September finish winning his last four games. He struck out 15 Pirates on September 20th at Shea, the nine days later in Pittsburgh; he struck out 13 more Pirates while tossing a two hit shutout. 

He finished the year 21-12 (second most wins in the NL) striking out 249 batters (also second in the NL) with a 2.92 ERA, 13 complete games with three shutouts in 262 innings pitched. It was the first time in four years he did not lead the league in any major pitching category. Seaver still had the best strikeout per nine innings ratio in the league, for the third straight year.

In 1973 Seaver began the year with a five hit shut out on Opening Day against the Phillies & winning his second start in St. Louis. He took two losses following that & then won his next five starts, all complete games, only allowing more than two runs (3) one time.

 He started out June winning the NL Pitcher of the Week Award. At the All star break he was 11-5 with a 2.02 ERA among the top in strikeouts as well. In the All Star Game he pitched a scoreless bottom of the 8th inning in the NL’s 7-1 victory.

He won 6 of 7 decisions from July to mid August before losing two straight, including a two run 12 innings no decision performance against the Reds. He also tossed his second two hitter of the year, that August in San Diego. In early September, Seaver beat the Phillies twice, both times pitching complete games. The second win was an 11 inning performance, in those two games he allowed only three runs in 20 innings striking out 25 batters. In the September pennant run he was 4-2, and pitched won two of the biggest games in the race toward the end of the season.

On September 21st he beat the Pirates at Shea putting the Mets into first place, & then on October 1st he beat the Cubs on a rainy cold Wrigley Field to clinch the NL East. He pitched six innings before running out of gas in the 6-4 Mets win, as Tug McGraw closed out the season with the win.

He finished the year winning his second Cy Young Award while leading the league in ERA (2.08) strike outs (251) & complete games (18). He went 19-10 (2nd most wins in the NL) with 3 shut outs in 290 innings pitched (3rd in the NL).

Post Season: In the 1973 NLCS opener Seaver got the ball on only four days rest. He pitched a fine game making only one mistake that cost him, as Johnny Bench hit a walk off HR in the bottom of the 9th for the 2-1 win. Seaver had set a NLCS record by striking out 13 batters in the 2 run, six hit performance. 

He came back to Shea to pitch the final Game #5 with everything on the line. Tom Terrific was masterful again, shutting down the Big Red Machine, allowing only two runs on seven hits while striking out four. Tug McGraw saved it in the 9th and the Mets clinched the pennant and were on to the World Series.

In the World Series Tom pitched Game 3, the first game of the Series at Shea Stadium. The stage was set for a classic, in a pitching matchup against Hall of Famer Jim Catfish Hunter. Both were tough & in the end neither pitcher got a decision in the eleven inning Oakland win. Seaver pitched 8 innings as his fastball was impressive to the national TV audience, as he struck out 12 A’s, allowing two runs on seven hits. He struck out the side twice, including five of the first six batters he faced & had at least one strikeout in all but the 3rd inning.

On just three days rest he was called on by manager Yogi Berra to pitch Game #6. This was a controversial decision, since George Stone (14-4 on the regular season) had not started a game in the whole Series. 

In Berra’s defense Seaver as the best pitcher in baseball, but he had to be a bit tired having thrown over 300 innings up to this point. Seaver struggled a bit not having his best stuff, but he pitched with all his heart in the 3-1 Mets loss.

He only allowed three runs on six hits with six strikeouts in seven innings. The Mets bats didn’t help him at all, as Catfish Hunter& Rollie Fingers shut them down. He was praised by Series MVP Reggie Jackson after the game, saying Sever didn’t have any stuff like he had in New York the other night. He gave his team all he had by pitching on heart. Jackson said “I have all the respect in the World for Tom Seaver”.

From 1970 through 1974 he had the best strike out per nine inning ratio in the league every season. As the NL Champion Mets entered 1974 things were promising. The staff was one of baseballs best anchored by Seaver, then followed by the two lefties Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack.The staff was mentored by long time Mets pitching coach Rube Walker. 

Seaver got no decision on Opening day and then a bad back began to affect his pitching mechanics. He didn’t get his first win until the end of April & by the middle of June the reigning Cy Young winner was 3-6 with a 3.60 ERA & the Mets were in the cellar, eight games back. It was the first time he did make the All Star Game since he entered the big leagues.


Things got a bit better as he won four in a row in July & then again at the end of August to mid September. The back issues kept coming back & the Mets fell to 5th place finish. Seaver posted his worst record to date 11-11 & it was the first time his ERA was over three (3.20). He still struck out 201 batters pitched 230 innings with 12 complete games & five shutouts. His strikeout to walk ratio was also tops in the league for the second straight year.

Seaver won on Opening Day 1975, but still started out the year at 3-3. It wasn’t until June when Tom Terrific returned to top form. He sure rebounded when he was healthy again as his mechanics returned to give him his perfect delivery motion. 

He was the Player of the Week in early June & won the Pitcher of the Month Award as well. From the end of May to mid July he was 8-0 throwing two shut outs & five complete games. He went to his 8th All Star game with a 13-5 record and a 1.93 ERA. In the All Star game he blew a 3-0 NL lead by allowing a 3 run HR to Carl Yastrzemski in the 6th inning. The NL rallied & fellow Met Jon Matlack went on to earn the win & the co MVP Award.


On August 7th, Seaver pitched a three hit shutout against the Expos at Shea & went on a roll from there. He went on to win seven straight, throwing two more shut outs along the way, with two ten strike out performances. The Mets were 73-66 only five games out in early September but faded down the stretch, Seaver was 1-2 with two no decisions in that time.

For 1975 Seaver led the league in victories going 22-9 with a .719 winning %, he once again led in strikeouts (251) while setting a record as being the only pitcher to have eight straight 200 plus strikeout seasons. He posted a 2.38 ERA (3rd in the league) pitched 280 innings (3rd in the NL) walking only 88 batters had 15 complete games with three shut outs. He only walked 88 batters, threw five shutouts and pitched 15 more complete games.

For the start of the 1976 bicentennial year, Seaver beat the Expos on Opening Day with a five hit one run performance. He began the year at 4-0 after two complete game wins at the end of April. Things were up & down the rest of the way for him going into the break at 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA. He relieved Randy Jones in the 4th inning of the All Star Game in Philadelphia, allowing a run over two innings. 

It was another off year in the wins department for Seaver, as his final record was 14-11 but he led the league in strikeouts (235) for the fifth time, striking out over 200 batters for a record 10th season. He also posted the league’s third best ERA at 2.59, threw five shutouts with 15 complete games & 280 innings pitched.

In 1977 Seaver & the Mets were in obvious turmoil. He began the year on the mound great once again, winning the Player of the Week & Pitcher of the Month Awards. He beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Opening Day, and then threw a five hit shutout at Shea beating the Cardinals. 

On April 17th at Shea Stadium, Seaver threw his fifth career one hitter, beating the Cubs, striking out six & walking four. He finished the month with a one run complete game performance against the Padres going to 4-0 lowering his ERA to 1.52.


The contact turmoils & media hounding affected him in May as he went 0-3, although the Mets bats were also dead as the team was falling apart. In June with the trade becoming inevitable, Seaver won his final three Mets starts as a Met. He beat his future team the Reds on June 7th, throwing a five hit shutout striking out ten. 

His last outing was at the Astrodome beating Houston 3-1 in another five hit performance. His former roomate Bud Harrelson was the only Met in the line up from the 1969 Championship team & John Milner the only survivor from the ’73 NL Champion team. He was 7-3 with an ERA of 3.00 for the ’77 Mets, before being traded on July 15th, one of the worst days in Mets history.


(SEE THE MIDNIGHT MASSACRE article below)


The fans were furious when Seaver was traded, not only that but the team was in last place already 13 games out. Attendance plummeted, and Shea Stadium earned the nickname "Grant's Tomb." It was a horrible point in Mets history, especially after the glory years & what looked like
a bright future after 1973. Seaver returned to New York on August 22nd, as a huge came out to welcome him home.

It was so strange to see him in another uniform on the mound he called his office for so many years. That night he beat the Mets 5-1 striking out 11, as his long time former team mate Ed Kranepool drove in the only run. Bud Harrelson, Lee Mazzilli & Steve Henderson were the only other Mets to get hits that night. He went to his 10th All Star Game pitching two innings allowing two runs. The rest of 1977 Seaver was 14-2 behind a strong Big Red Machine lineup giving him runs support. He posted a 21-6 overall record (second most wins in the NL) posting a 2.58 ERA (also second) with 196 strikeouts in 260 innings pitched.

After having thrown five one-hitters for New York, including three no-hitters that were broken up in the 9th inning, one year to the day he arrived in Cincinnati he pitched his first no hitter. It came at Riverfront Stadium on June 16 against the Cardinals. That day Don Werner was behind the plate in place of Johnny Bench, Werner only caught 118 career games. 

Seaver never won games again, & by the time he got to Riverfront Stadium the Big Red Machine had their best days behind him. He got to the post season in 1979 but lost to the eventual Champion Pirates.

By the late seventies the Dodgers became the main force in the National League. In 1978 Seaver won 16 games (16-14) posting his last 200 plus strike out season (226) & his last season of posting an ERA under three (2.54). In 1979 he was 16-6 with a 3.14 ERA, getting no decision in the NLCS.

Seaver also began his broadcasting career in 1977 when he joined Howard Cosell & Keith Jackson on ABC Sports for the World Series. The following year he covered the World Series again this time with Joe Garagiola & Tony Kubek on NBC Sports coverage.

1 comment:

A Tom Terrific Christmas said...

He wasn't God,but on this Christmas day, we can say that he was best gift ever delivered to the NY Mets.The premier pitcher of his generation is in the Hall of Fame as a Met,despite those other teams he was on.Totally clean,best prepared and no nonsense.He called management out on its' lack of professionalism,which led to The Trade.He left in 1977 proven right.A year later,M Donald Duck was gone,Joe McDonald Duck continued to run the team into the ground before the team had to be saved from itself,and finally sold after '79 by the most uninvolved owner in MLB history,Charles A Payson.