Nov 16, 2020

Mets Hall of Fame Pitcher: Tom Seaver (Part One)- the Sixties

George Thomas Seaver
was born November 17, 1944 in Fresno, California. His father was an executive at a company that distributed raisins all over America & his mother a home maker. 

Seaver was a star All City basketball player in high school and a pitcher on the baseball team. The schools star pitcher was Dick Selma who would later join Seaver as a member of the Mets.

After high school he went to Fresno City College and worked in the raisin trade, also joining the Marine Corps Reserves. He was beginning to get noticed as a pitcher, and USC baseball coach the legendary Rod Dedeaux wanted Seaver to join the USC Trojans in his junior year. He was sent to Fairbanks Alaska, to earn his scholarship; making USC the next year where he went 10-2 as their pitching ace.


The Tom Seaver Lottery: There he was signed by the Atlanta Braves as a first round pick. But MLB rules prohibit a player from being signed during a College baseball season, although Seaver hadn’t pitched yet for the 1966 season, Commissioner William Eckert voided the contract. 

He stated that any team who matched the Braves $51,500 offer could qualify for a lottery to win Seaver's services. The Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies & New York Mets all made offers, luckily for the Mets they were the winners.

In 1966 he pitched for Mets top farm club, the Jacksonville Suns going 12-12 with 188 strikeouts. Manager Solly Hemus insisted Seaver was ready for the majors right away as did rival minor league manager Earl Weaver. Weaver told his Orioles bosses that Seaver was worth trading for, giving up whatever they had to, to get him. 

He spent only the one season in the International League with Jacksonville where he won a championship with future Mets team mate & Hall of Famer, Nolan Ryan on the same staff.

Seaver & Ryan formed a friendship that would last through their lives. They both married their high school sweethearts that same year and the wives became close friends as well. 

Marriage To Nancy: Tom & Nancy Seaver were married on June 6th 1966, a marriage that would last a lifetime. They became a popular young New York couple as Seaver became a star in the Big Apple. 

Tom was the good looking star
athlete with his pretty blonde wife, enjoying all New York had to offer. 

They were not wild party goers but they enjoyed the museums, restaurants & art Manhattan had to offer. They socialized with the Ryan’s but the Ryan’s were not big city people, & Nolan would never adjust to New York City. Tom & Nancy would eventually have two daughters & move to nearby Greenwich Connecticut.




THE SIXTIES:
Tom Seaver was a highly touted rookie with a lot of excitement built around his major league debut in 1967. On Opening Day Don Cardwell got the start taking a 6-3 loss to the Pirates. 

Seaver made his debut on April 13th 1967, in the second game of the '67 season. He went up against Pittsburgh’s Woodie Fryman. In a bit of irony, his first career strike out victim was Donn Clendenon, the future Met 1969 World Series, MVP. Seaver pitched well, getting no decision while allowing two runs on six hits, striking out eight batters exiting, including Willie Stargell & Clendenon twice.  He exited the game in the 6th inning during a 2-2 tie, the Mets went on to a 3-2 victory. 

At the plate, he walked in his first career at bat & then singled in his second at bat.




On April 20th, he got his first career win, it came at Shea Stadium, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-1. Tom went into the 8th inning allowing only one run, on eight hits while striking out five. 

In his next outing he beat the Cubs again, this time in Chicago,  allowing one run on four hits, in ten innings pitched. He soon settled in to his own pitching style & was a force to be respected. On May 5th, he pitched his first complete game, it came in a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium, where he struck out five. 

After a loss, he got a no decision against Atlanta. But in this May 17th game at Fulton County, he collected three hits, including two doubles & a pair of RBIs. He then got a win in his fourth start, beating the L.A. Dodgers & pitcher, Bill Singer. 

On June 6th, he shut out the Pirates for six innings, earning no decision in the 1-0 Mets win. Ken Boyer's sac fly in the 10th inning off Roy Face was the only run of the game. His next win was on June 13th, a complete game in the second game of a double header against the Cincinnati Reds.  

On June 18th, he took a 4-3 loss at Wrigley Field, when Lee Thomas' 8th inning sac fly was the difference. Seaver then won his 6th game on a win over the Braves in Atlanta.

He started out July, with wins over the Giants & Braves at Shea Stadium, getting to the season half way way point. At 
the All Star break he was 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA amongst the best in the league. 

1967 All Star: He was chosen to represent the Mets at the 1967 ALL star Game, held in Anaheim California. When the young Seaver arrived in the NL clubhouse, Lou Brock told him to get him a beer, thinking he was a club house attendant. Seaver came into the game in the bottom of the 15th inning just as the NL had taken a 2-1 lead. 

First Seaver got Tony Conigliaro to fly out, and then he walked Carl Yastrzemski. Seaver bore down, retired Detroit’s Bill Freehan & then Ken Berry earning the save for the National League.

After a loss to the Reds, he he won his next two starts. On July 19th, at Shea Stadium, he struck out a career high (up to that point) 12 batters, allowing two runs in the 7-2 victory.  He also went 1-3 at the plate & drove in a run. In his next game, the Mets gave him their biggest run support of the season, in an 11-5 win over the Giants, at Candlestick Park.

On July 30th, he had his worst day, as he was knocked out of the game by the Astros in the 1st inning, allowing five runs on four hits. The Giants then beat him at Shea. He rebounded, with two straight complete game wins, first a one run, win over the Braves. Then on August 13th, he collected his first career shut out.  The four hitter, where he struck out six, came over the Pirates at Shea Stadium.

His next start was once again against the Pirates, this one at Forbes Field. He got to pitch in both ends of a double header, he started the first game pitching just two innings, while allowing four runs. In the night cap, he closed out a 12-9 loss in the 14th inning, to help a depleted bullpen.

He struggled the rest of August, losing three straight & the first game of September. But he finished off his rookie season with a strong ending. He won four straight games, beating the Braves, Reds & Dodgers pitching three complete games along the way. On September 23rd, he tossed a three hit shutout against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium. He struck out nine & walked three in his last victory of the year. He ended the year, with a loss, as the Dodgers' Claude Osteen shut out the Mets, on September 28th.

Rookie of the Year: Tom finished off the rookie year winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award, no doubt having the best season of any Met in their short six year history. Seaver went 16- 13 with 170 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched. He posted a 2.76 ERA with two shut outs & 18 complete games, all Mets records at the time. Very importantly, Seaver brought some respect to the Mets & a winning attitude.

1968: In 1968 he had a new manager in Gil Hodges. Hodges just observed in his first year & built a champion in his second season. Hodges like Seaver, believed in a winning attitude & would not settle for less. 

Hodges brought along pitching coach Rube Walker, who would form a special bond with Seaver, supporting him as pitching coach throughout his entire Mets career.

Seaver now began his relationship with battery mate Jerry Grote, one of the games best defensive catchers. Together the two would reach many milestones, championships & records set. Also on board would be Duffy Dyer, who would back up Grote & work as a longtime battery mate to Seaver as well.

Seaver struggled to get wins early on, even though he pitched well. Hodges gave Seaver the Opening Day call, it was the first of a Mets record ten straight opening day starts. He took the loss on Opening Day to Juan Marichal & the Giants at Candlestick Park. Willie McCovey homered off Seaver in the 5-4 loss. 

Historic Game: His second start of 1968, came in a historic game at the Astrodome. Seaver got the start & pitched ten shutout innings, against the Astros, giving up just two hits. The game went 24 inning & is one of the longest games in MLB history, lasting six hours & six minutes. The Mets lost the game 1-0 in the 24th inning, on an Al Weis error with bases loaded. Les Rohr took the loss.

On April 20th, Seaver would get his first win of the ’68 season beating the L.A. Dodgers at Shea Stadium. It was a 1-0 pitchers duel against Bill Singer. Singer struck out 12 Mets along the way to Seavers' eight. He took a no decision, then pitched a ten inning, 2-1 loss to Bob Gibson & the Cards, in St. Louis. Orlando Cepeda collected the walk off base hit off Seaver. 

On May 16th, he won his third game, after a nine inning pitching duel with Gerry Arrigo, Tommie
Agee's walk off base hit won the game 2-1. He followed with an 11 inning no decision at Shea, where he allowed three runs to the Pirates. The Mets won the game in the 17th inning, as Ken Boswell drove in Tommie Agee with the game winning run.


Seaver was 2-5 with three no decisions at the end of May, but still had an ERA under two at 1.91. In June things turned around, he would go 14-7 the rest of the way.

He had a great June going 5-0. He started with a 4-2 win at Wrigley Field. On June 10th, he out dueled Don Sutton as he tossed a ten inning, four hit shut out at Dodger Stadium. The only run of the game was an RBI single from Al Weis, scoring Ron Swoboda. 

He closed out the month with shut outs on the road, in Cincinnati & Houston. The Houston win was a 1-0 win where he struck out eight, earning his 7th win, while lowering his ERA under two to 1.91. 

After a July 5th loss, he earned the only save of his career as he followed Jerry Koosman in  a rare relief role as well, in a 4-2 win over the Phillies. Dan Frisella a career reliever, had started the game. This was the last game before the All Star break. He went into the break at at 7-6 with a 1.98 ERA. 



1968 All Star Game:
Tom Seaver,
Jerry Koosman &
their catcher Jerry Grote, were chosen to represent the Mets at the All Star Game at the Astrodome in Houston. Seaver pitched the 7th & 8th innings of the 1-0 NL win, striking out five batters. His strikeout victims were Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Azcue, Boog Powell, Mickey Mantle & Rick Monday.

Seaver returned from the All Star Game to shut out the Pirates on a six hitter. On July 23rd, he then beat the Braves & Pat Jarvis in a 2-1 game where Ed Kranepool & Ron Swoboda homered. On July 28th, Seaver was knocked out after two innings, allowing four runs on eight hits to the Reds in his worst outing of the year. 

After two more losses, he was at 10-9, but would had another three game win streak to close out August at 13-9 on the year. In an August 25th win over the Reds, he drove in two runs with a double off pitcher, Bob Lee. It was his second double of the year. In September after a 4-3 over the Braves, he earned two losses as the Mets were shut out both times. 

On September 20th, in the first of a twin bill at Philly, he beat Woodie Fryman 3-2. The game was tied going into the 9th, when Jerry Grote drove in Cleon Joes with the game winning run. On September 25th he threw a three hit shutout in Atlanta, where he only struck out three but walked no one.

Seaver finished the 1968 season, winning 16 games for the second straight year, he was 16-12, with
205 strike outs (6th in the league). It was the first season of what would be a record nine straight seasons with 200 or more strike outs. He posted a 2.20 ERA (7th best in the NL) while throwing five shut outs & 14 complete games in 278 innings pitched (5th in the league). 

The Mets finished ninth 73-89, but it was the most win they had ever recorded in their seven year history. Next year they became the Amazing Mets, the Miracle Mets becoming World Champions, led by Tom Seaver.


1969 Championship Season: 

The 1969 Mets staff consisted mainly of Seaver, left hander Jerry Koosman, who was an All Star himself, a young fireball throwing Nolan Ryan, rookie Gary Gentry & sophomore Jim McAndrew, as well as veteran, Don Cardwell. A solid bullpen of Ron Taylor, Tug McGraw, Cal Koonce & Jack DiLauro made up one hell of a staff. They were led by Seaver & good enough to win it all, against all the odds.

In 1969, Seaver actually started the season 0-2 and didn’t record his first win until the end of April. From that point on he was out right spectacular, becoming the Mets first true superstar and the best pitcher in baseball. 

Opening Day at Shea Stadium was a historic one, as it featured MLB's first team from outside the USA, the expansion Montreal Expos. Seaver got the start but earned no decision in the 11-10 loss.  In his second start he lost to Bob Gibson & the Cards 3-1. On April 19th, in St. Louis he had a rematch & beat Gibson 2-1, with RBI singles from Cleon Jones & Ed Kranepool supplying all the offense Seaver needed.

After a no decision at Wrigley Field, he won a 2-1 pitching contest against Mike Wegener at
Montreal. Ken Boswell's RBI single in the top of the 9th broke the 1-1 tie & was the game winner. 

On May 4th, Seaver won a big game against the mighty Chicago Cubs. The win over Bill Hands, came in the first game of a double header Mets sweep. The first place Cubs still didn't think the Mets were for real yet, that would come later in the season. 

After beating the Houston Astros, Seaver beat the eventual NL Western Champion Braves, who twice in an NLCS preview. The second win was a 5-0 three hit shutout in Atlanta.

Overall in May he went 6-1, winning five straight decisions, throwing four complete games, ending the month with a 2.53 ERA & 53 strike outs. But Seaver was just warming up. From June 3rd to July 9th, he won seven straight decisions, with three double digit strike out games.

On June 8th, he had a 14 strikeout game against the Padres in San Diego, beating Al Santorini 3-2. On June 14th, later on the West Coast road trip, he beat the Dodgers & Don Sutton 3-1 for his tenth win of the year. Not only did he pitch a brilliant game, but Seaver drove in two of the three runs with a 4th inning single off Sutton.

In his next start, he got no decision in a 6-5 Mets win at Philadelphia.  Seaver had allowed a season high, five earned runs in seven innings. Ken Boswell's 9th inning two run single off Turk Farrell was the difference. 

On June 24th at Shea, he once again went up against his tough  opponent, Woodie Fryman,
beating him & the Phils 2-1. Seaver struck out nine as Fryman
struck out ten, both pitchers walked just one batter. Tonight it was Bud Harrelson & Cleon Jones supplying the runs. On June 29th, Seaver struck out ten & earned his 12th win in a 7-3 victory over the Pirates.

By July the Mets were still winning & proving that they were for real. They remained in second place holding steady behind Leo Durocher's Cubs. 

An exciting Mets Independence Day double header sweep at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, had Sever winning the first game & veteran Don Cardwell the second. The Mets were now 7 1/2 game out.


The Imperfect Game:
July 9th, 1969 is one of the most memorable nights in Mets history. It as the night where Seaver pitched what is now known as “the imperfect game”. The game is looked at as the night the Mets became true contenders & Seaver showed the world how great he really was. The Mets hosted the the first place Cubs, during an early pennant race matchup. 

Before a wild, excited, loud crowd of over 50,000 at Shea Stadium, Seaver threw 8 1/3 perfect innings of baseball. He struck out eleven Cub batters along the way. 

He began the 1st inning with two strike outs. In the 2nd, he struck out the side, including Ron

Santo & Ernie Banks. He would collect one strike out in each of the next four innings as well. The tension grew as the game went on & the crowd went crazier with every out. In the 8th Seaver struck out Banks again & Al Spangler to end the inning.

He was still flirting with perfection entering the 9th. Catcher, Randy Hundley tried to bunt his way on but Seaver fielded it & got the first out. 

With just just two more outs to go, the light hitting Jimmy Qualls who was 0-2, singled to left field. He broke the perfect game up & the hearts of millions of Mets fans. 

Seaver tapped his glove in frustration as catcher Jerry Grote came out to offer words of encouragement. Quall played in just 63 career games over three seasons hitting .223.


Seaver retired the next two batters to complete the 4-0 one-hit shutout. That night Seaver said he felt he could do no wrong, no matter where he wanted to throw a pitch, that’s where it went. He had phenomenal control with all his pitches working sharply. 

As for Qualls when he came to bat, Seaver wasn’t sure how to pitch him, because the team had no scouting reports on the rookie. The win brought the Mets to within 3 ½ games of first place, proving to everyone, they were for real.

After the July 9th game, Seaver struggled a bit losing four of his next five starts. He suffered from some stiffness in his arm over that period. He was checked out by doctors & was fine. At the All Star break he was 14-5 with a 2.59 ERA on his way to his third Mid Summer Classic. 

1969 All Star: Seaver did not pitch in the All Star game played in Washington D.C. But he watched his team mate Jerry Koosman throw 1.2 scoreless innings in the NL’s 9-3 victory.

In his first start after the All Star Game he beat Wayne Granger & the Reds 3-2, tossing a complete game, striking out eight to earn his 15th victory.

On July 31st, he took a 2-0 loss to the Astros, who were the Mets toughest opponent in their Championship season. The Mets were 2-10 against Houston that year, the only team they were under .500 against. The only other team the Mets had trouble with was the Res who played .500 baseball 6-6 with New York that season They beat Seaver in his August 5th start, knocking him out in the 3rd inning.

As the summer & the pennant race heated up so did Tom Terrific. His stiffness cleared up & he was on fire. From August 9th until the end of the season he won every decision going an incredible 10-0. He threw eight complete games, which was every start he made from August 26th through the end of the season. He allowed just 14 earned runs in 12 games, in 94 innings of work. In seven of those outings he allowed five hits or less. 

On August 16th, the Padres came to town and got blanked on a four hit shut out. His only bad start in that stretch, came at Shea against San Francisco, where he gave up six runs in seven innings, earning a no decision. 

On August 26th the stretch of complete games thru the end of the season began. 

On the final West  Coast trip of the year, He beat the Padres again for win # 18. In San Francisco he blanked the Giants 8-0 in the first of a double header, allowing seven hits, striking out 11 & walking three to beat Mike McCormick for his 19th win of the year. 

in Montreal he shut out the Expos on a five hitter. In his final game of the regular season, he three hit the Phillies in another shut out in Philadelphia.

On September 5th, in Philadelphia he pitched a one run five hitter, striking out seven. The game was a mile stone as Seaver won his 20th game of the year. He also drove in a run in the 5-1 Mets win.

On September 8th, the Mets & Cubs went at it again at Shea Stadium. The Cubs pitcher, Bill Hands leveled Tommie Agee to lead off the game. If the Cubs were sending a message, Jerry Koosman sent one right back, nailing the Cubs slugger Ron Santo on the wrist. Agee went on to hit a two run HR in his next at bat & the Mets beat Hands 3-2 to get with 1.5 games of first place. 

The next night it was Tom Seaver, as he held the Cubs down to one run on five hits. The Mets bats beat up on 19 game winner Fergie Jenkins, to get to within a half game of first place, the Mets took over the Eastern Division the next night.

On September 13th, the Mets & Seaver won at Pittsburgh. 

On September 18th, Seaver had a pitching duel with the Expos Bill Stoneman, in Montreal.
Seaver tossed a five hit shut out & struck out nine. Behind Ed Kranepool's HR & two RBI's, the Mets won it 2-0, for Seaver's  22 victory.

On September 22nd, Seaver beat the Cardinals 3-1 in the complete game effort, giving up just four hits. In the 7th inning he singled off Nelson Briles bringing in Jerry Grote. He would drive in six runs on the season while batting .121. He finished off the regular season, with a 1-0 win over Grant Jackson & the Phillies at Philadelphia.

When the year ended Tom Seaver was named the N.L. Cy Young Award winner& the Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Year". He led the league with 25 victories (25-7) posting a .781 winning % (2nd in the NL). He struck out 208 batters (10th in the league) posting a 2.20 ERA (4th best in the league) pitching in 273 innings, with five shutouts (6th in the league) & 18 complete games (7th in the NL). He walked 82 batters & allowed 24 HRs.


1969 Post Season- NLCS: The Mets took on the Atlanta Braves in the first NLCS ever played. 1969 being the first year divisional play began.

On October 4th, 1969, Tom Seaver went up against another future Hall of Famer, Phil Neikro in Game #1, at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.


Seaver did not have his best day, in seven innings of work, he allowed five runs on seven hits, allowing HRs to Hank Aaron & Tony Gonzalez. Seaver walked four & struck out only four as well. But the Mets bats supported him that day, with nine runs on nine hits. 

Bud Harrelson & J.C. Martin both drove in two runs each.  Cleon Jones & Jerry Grote also had RBIs. Tom Seaver & the Mets had their first ever post season wins. 

The Mets went on to sweep the Series in three straight games.
The pennant clincher was at Shea Stadium & the fan stored the field after the win, destroying the playing turf. Seaver & Gary Gentry came out to survey the damage before after the game. Wondering if he field would even be ready by the time the World Series was to come to Shea.



1969 World Series:
On October 11th, 1969, The NL Champion Amazing Mets took on the heavily favored, mighty Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. In Game #1, Tom Seaver was the Mets starter for the opener at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. He would face off against the O's, Mike Cuellar. 

The series did not start off well, Seaver allowed a lead off HR to Don Buford. In the 4th inning, with two outs, Elrod Hendricks singled & Seaver walked Davey Johnson.  Then Mark Belanger & pitcher Cuellar both singled, bringing in runs. Buford doubled bringing in the fourth Oriole run. 

Seaver was done after five innings, giving up four runs on four hits, with a walk & three strike outs. He took the loss as Mike Cuellar got the win. He gave up just one run o six hits, while fanning eight. It was the only post season game the Mets would lose in 1969.

Game #4: The Mets took the next two games & Seaver came back to pitch Game #4 at Shea Stadium in front of 57,367 crazed Mets fans. This time, Tom Terrific was brilliant in a ten inning outing. He allowed only one run on five hits, striking out six Orioles while walking two. 

He once again faced off against Mike Cuellar. Seaver started out the game by striking out Don Buford. He the gave up a single to Paul Blair. He ended the inning, striking out big Boog Powell.

In the 3rd he gave up lead off singles to Belanger & Cuellar, the number 8 & 9 batters. He then retire the next three batters to end any idea of a threat. Seaver retired the sides in order in the next two innings.

In the 6th, he walked Paul Blair but didn't allow a hit. In the 7th he retired the side in order, striking out Davey Johnson to end the inning. In the 8th he retired the side in order once again, adding another strike out.

The Mets were clinging to a 1-0 lead, Donn Clendenon had homered in the bottom of the 2nd.

Seaver began to tire in the ninth
inning, allowing one out singles to Frank Robinson & Boog Powell, putting runners on first & third with Brooks Robinson at bat. Brooks hit a screaming liner to right field, but out of nowhere Ron Swoboda made a dashing dive for the ball, with his glove extended as far as he
could. The ball landed in his glove as he hit the ground, holding on to the ball. 

Swoboda secured his spot in Mets history, making his famous spectacular game saving catch. On the mound Tom Seaver held his breath & let out a sigh of relief. But Frank Robinson scored on the play to tie the game.

Seaver came out to pitch the 10th inning. His manager, Gil Hodges had all the faith in the world in his star pitcher. Davey Johnson got on after an Ed Charles error at third. With one out, Seaver allowed a base hit to pinch hitter, Clay Dalrymple. But then got Buford to fly out & he struck out Paul Blair, exciting the crowd again to end the inning. 


In the bottom of the 10th inning, Dick Hall was on the mound for Baltimore.  Jerry Grote led off with a double to short left field. Rod Gaspar was brought in to run for Grote. Al Weis who was batting over .400 in the series was walked, for that reason & to create a force play. Floral ark, NY native, Pete Richert was brought in to pitch to pinch hitter J.C. Martin.

 J.C. Martin laid down a bunt, that was fielded by catcher Elrod Hendricks. The throw to first, hit Martin in the back & Rod Gaspar scampered home, all the way from second base, with the winning run. The play was controversial, as Martin may have ran out of the base line, but the umpire didn't call it & the Mets won the game. Tom Seaver had his only career World Series win.





The Mets went on to win the World Championship the next day. The 1969 Mets would forever be remembered as the Amazing Mets & the underdogs tO always be compared with.

Seaver closed out the 1960’s on top of the baseball world, earning the name Tom Terrific & The Franchise. His stats over the three year period in which he pitched were incredible. He was 57-32 with 583 strikeouts & a 2.35 ERA, tossing 12 shutouts & 50 complete games.




1 comment:

Little Tom Seaver (in 1969) said...

It was A Tom Seaver Christmas.He was also the AP Male Athlete of 1969,and the winner of the Hickock Belt.Finished 2nd in NL MVP to Willie McCovey.I would've traded his Cy Young Award to Juan Marichal for fellow Giant McCovey's MVP,because it was arguable that Marichal was actually the best pitcher in thr NL that year and as a veteran who had his best year deserved it.But there's no argument over which player had the greatest impact on his team : the man whose Hall of Fame plaque would refer to that historic time as having turned the Mets ”from lovable losers into formidable foes.”