Nov 16, 2019

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 Aerica & 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 Trojans in his junior year. He was sent to Fairbanks Alaska to earn his scholarship; making USC the next year going 10-2.

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 Seavers services. The Indians, 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. 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. He 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.

Tom Seaver was a highly touted rookie with alot 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 the April 13th 1967 on the second game of the season going up against Pittsburgh’s Woodie Fryman. He pitched well, getting no decision while allowing 2 runs on six hits, striking out batters exiting in the 6th inning during a 2-2 tie.

He got his first win, in his next outing beating the Cubs. 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 in Chicago, this time allowing one run on four hits, in ten innings pitched. He settled in to his own pitching style and by the All Star break he was 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA amongst the best in the league. 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.

He won four of six decisions after the break, having his first game where he struck out 10 or more batters on July 19th. That night he set down 12 Astros at Shea Stadium, as the Mets won the game 7-2. He struggled in August, before finishing off strong in September. He won four straight games, pitching three complete games along the way. In his last victory of the year he tossed a three hit shutout against the Astros at Shea Stadium. Tom finished off the year winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award having the best season of any Met in their short six year history. Seaver was 16- 13 with 170 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched. He posted a 2.76 ERA with 2 shut outs & 18 complete games, all Mets records at the time.

In 1968 he struggled to get wins early on, even though he pitched well. In his second start of the year he pitched 10 shutout innings, only giving up two hits at the Astro dome, but got no decision. He would get his first win of the ’68 season beating the Dodgers at Shea Stadium on April 20th. He pitched another 10 inning no decision in St. Louis then an 11 inning no decision at Shea, allowing only three runs vs. the Pirates.

He was 2-5 with three no decisions into May, but as June began things turned around. He went 14-7 the rest of the way, having a great month of June where he was 5-0. He threw three shut outs on the road including a ten inning four hit performance at Dodger Stadium on June 10th. He would have another four game win streak in August, & post five more double digit strike out games. On September 25th he threw a three hit shutout in Atlanta, finishing the year winning 16 games again (16-7) and striking out 205 batters (6th in the league) for the first of what would be a record nine straight seasons. He posted a 2.20 ERA (7TH in the NL) while throwing five shut outs & 14 complete games in 278 innings pitched (5th in the league).

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. In May he went 6-1, winning five straight decisions, throwing four complete games, including a three hit shutout at Atlanta. From June to early July he won seven straight decisions, with a 14 strikeout performance against the Padres on June 8th.

This led to the classic night, of July 9th, where Seaver pitched what is now known as “the imperfect game”. That night, has become one of the most famous in Mets history, as they became true contenders battling the first place Cubs, during an early pennant race.

Before a crowd of over 50,000 at Shea Stadium, Seaver threw 8 1/3 perfect innings striking out 11 Cub batters. Then, rookie, outfielder Jimmy Qualls stepped in as a pinch hitter & lined a clean single to left field, breaking up the perfect game. He 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. At the All Star break he was 14-5 with a 2.59 ERA on his way to his second Mid Summer Classic. He did not pitch in that game but watched his team mate Jerry Koosman throw 1.2 scoreless innings in the NL’s 9-3 victory.

As the summer & the pennant race heated up so did Tom Terrific, from August 8th 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.

In seven of those outings he allowed only five hits or less. The Padres came to town and got blanked on a four hitter, in San Francisco he blanked the Giants on seven hits striking out 11 & 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.

When the year ended he 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) with a .781 winning %. 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.

Post Season: In the 1969 NLCS Seaver opened the Series in Atlanta, pitching seven innings earning the win. It was not his best performance as he allowed five runs on seven hits, walking four & striking out only four. But the Mets bats supported him with nine runs as he rolled to the Mets first post season victory.

In the 1969 World Series, Seaver was the Mets starter for the Game #1 opener at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. He allowed a leadoff HR to Don Buford and was out dueled by Mike Cueller as he took the 4-1 loss. It was the only post season game the Mets would lose in 1969.

Seaver came back to pitch Game #4 at Shea Stadium and this time, Tom Terrific was brilliant in a ten inning outing. He allowed only one run on five hits, striking out six Orioles while only walking two. He began to tire in the ninth inning, putting runners on first & third with Brooks Robinson at bat. Brooks hit a screaming liner to right field and then Ron Swoboda dove making his famous spectacular game saving catch. In the bottom of the 10th inning it was J.C. Martin’s controversial bunt single that scored Rod Gaspar from second base that sealed the win for Seaver & the Mets.

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.”