What Seaver really displayed was the meaning of the expression, “He knows how to win” — a quality baseball people prize more highly than a spectacular low-hit or high-strikeout performance. Anyone can win when his stuff is at it’s best; the real winners are the ones who can do it when things start to go wrong.”
— Leonard Koppett, New York Times
The 1967 New York Mets are a team at the end of an era and the beginning of another. They are scattered with future champions such as Ed Charles, Bud Harrelson and Cleon Jones, but they aren’t yet the sharpest players in the tool shed. Wes Westrum lifted them to 9th place in 1966 and have them there with a 27-45 record going into a matchup with the Giants at Shea Stadium, where NBC will broadcast the game to millions of fans across primetime America.
On the mound for the Mets is their 1966 lottery prize, the rookie, 6’1” 22-year-old right-hander out of Fresno High School and USC…Tom Seaver. 3rd Baseman Jim Davenport walks to the plate for the Giants, and promptly strikes out against The Franchise. Catcher Tom Haller flies one out to left. Up walks Willie Mays, the all-time Giants player Tom used to admire from the Candlestick Park stands. And now, he has to get him out.
“I try to throw the ball in and out on Willie and keep him loose on the pipe and keep the ball down. I think that he likes the ball up where he has a chance to get at it and I try and throw hard stuff away from him, sliders down and away, and I try and throw fastballs down and possibly have him swing and miss or hit the ball on the ground and get the ground ball. I think if, to Willie, if you get the ball up he’s got a good chance of getting the ball out of the park.”
–Tom Seaver, Mets Yearbook ’67
Tom uses this strategy to strike Willie Mays out looking.
On the mound for the Giants stands Bobby Bolin, the 6’4”, 28-year-old right hander out of Hickory Grove, SC. The Mets do gets a single in the 1st but erase that when left fielder Tommy Davis grounds into an inning-ending double play.
After left fielder Jim Ray Hart grounds out to 3rd base to open the 2nd, 1st baseman Willie McCovey sends a towering blast to the back of the Mets bullpen in right field for a 0-1 Giants lead. Tom Terrific is anything but immediately thereafter, giving up a sharp singles to right fielder Ollie Brown and shortstop Hal Lanier. Up walks light-hitting 2nd baseman, Tito Fuentes…who, of course, gets a sharp single to score Brown and make it 0-2. The Mets catch a break, however, as Lanier is caught trying to get to 3rd. Fuentes advances to 2nd on the throw. But no matter, because Tom Seaver strikes Bolin out to limit the damage to 2 runs.
After 1st baseman Ed Kranepool and right fielder Ron Swoboda ground out to 1st and strikeout, repsectively, 3rd baseman Ken Boyer walks up to the plate and immediately gets a run back with a solo shot. 2nd baseman Jerry Buchek strikes out, however, to end the inning.
Seaver immediately gets into more trouble in the top of the 3rd. Davenport singles, followed by a Holler single that sends Davenport over to 3rd. Mays then flies out to left, scoring the 3rd Giants run. Seaver, however, gets Hart to ground into a double play, once again limiting the damage.
Tom gets into another jam with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 out in the top of the 4th, but once again gets Bolin to strike out, ending the inning.
In the bottom half, things get off to a fast start for the Mets. Center Fielder Larry Stahl doubles to right field. Davis then singles, sending Stahl over to 3rd. Ed Kranepool walks up, looking to give the Mets a huge boost. And, boy, does he do so, sending the ball soaring over the fence in right-center, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. Swoboda singles, driving Bolin from the game and bringing in reliever Ron Herbel. The Mets move some runners over, but unfortunately do not score any more.
It doesn’t matter much really, because Tom Seaver keeps the Giants hitless through the rest of the game. The Mets get him an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th on a passed ball, but he hardly needs it. Tom Seaver finishes the game, giving up only 3 runs on 7 hits, walking 2 and striking out 7, for the 5-3 win.
Bolin loses the game, going 3 innings plus, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, no walks and 4 strikeouts.
Growing pains endure throughout the year. They end up losing 101, winning just 61. 16 of those wins belong to Tom Seaver. He becomes the National League Rookie of the Year.
The 1967 New York Mets.
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