Each week during the off-season, I will be selecting a random, former Met to highlight. This will be taking place of our usual Friday segment, Rising Apple Player of the Week, until the regular season starts back up in April. If you have a former Met that you’d like me to highlight, please contact me at email@example.com and title your email: Rising Apple Off-Season Player of the Week suggestion.
It took me long enough to get to Tom Seaver, didn’t it? While at work yesterday, I was trying to think of a good player to highlight for this week’s feature, and thankfully he popped into my head. “Tom Terrific” is truly an ambassador for the Mets, as he’s the only player in Cooperstown to don the hat that hails from Flushing. Gary Carter had requested to go in wearing a Mets hat as well, but his request was denied. Seaver, a 20-year MLB veteran, three-time Cy Young award winner, and 300-win club member, was elected into the Hall of Fame back in 1992, getting 98.8% of the vote from the writers of the BBWAA.
It all started in Fresno, California, where Seaver grew up and eventually went off to college at USC before the Mets signed him as an amateur free agent in 1966. Here’s where you knew he was destined for baseball immortality; after signing in ’66, he spent his lone year in the minor leagues in Triple-A, where he went 12-12 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts in 210 innings pitched at the age of 21. Needless to say, that’s all the organization needed to see, and he made his MLB debut that next year in 1967. He instantly became a rock in the rotation, earning his first of twelve All-Star Game selections, and took home the NL Rookie of the Year award after posting a 16-13 record with a 2.76 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 170 strikeouts in 251 innings pitched.
June 18, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets former pitcher Tom Seaver gestures in the dugout before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
He did more of the same in ’68, and truly solidified himself as an ace for the Miracle Mets in 1969, anchoring the rotation with a 25-7 record, 2.21 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, while striking out 208 hitters in 273.1 innings pitched. He enjoyed 17 seasons in which he compiled double-digit wins, and before the Mets traded him to the Reds in 1977 after failed contract negotiations, he never once had a losing season in Flushing- at least, not until he returned in 1983 for one more season in the Orange and Blue (9-14 record). To add salt to the wound, Seaver threw his first and only no-hitter with Cincinnati in 1978, after throwing five one-hitters for New York.
Outside of winning the Cy Young three times, Seaver ended up in the top-10 for the award on seven other occasions. He led the league in strikeouts five times, while winning ERA, wins, and WHIP titles three times each. He also enjoyed five 20-win seasons, four of which came with the Mets. He had the pleasure of pitching in two World Series with New York, and compiled a 3-3 record with a 2.77 ERA in 61.2 postseason innings. Seaver’s 311 wins rank 11th all-time, his 101.1 WAR for pitchers is 7th best, and his 3,640 strikeouts are still ranked 6th highest ever. To put it plainly, he didn’t experience a whole lot of disappointment during his career, only enduring three losing seasons.
Now that he’s retired from the game, he did try his hand at some color commentating during Mets broadcasts in the early 2000s, but he’s thrown most of his focus lately to Seaver Family Vineyards, which is located in California. I’m fortunate enough to have a memory of meeting Tom Seaver a couple years ago that I’d like to share; while in college at Sacred Heart University, I obtained an internship at a nearby baseball bat company, called Mattingly Hitting Products. I interned there for a year and had the opportunity to meet Don Mattingly on a couple occasions, which was awesome. Two years later, they were helping Donnie launch Mattingly Charities, and were holding an event at Mickey Mantle‘s restaurant in NYC. They needed some volunteers, and I jumped at the opportunity to join.
I was lucky enough to meet a handful of New York baseball greats, as I had a quick conversation with Bernie Williams, got Goose Gossage a cranberry juice, and tried a couple workout products with Donnie. However, I knew Seaver was supposed to make an appearance, but the night was about half over and he hadn’t shown up yet. I was standing by the door, talking to a friend about how disappointed I was that he didn’t show, and about two minutes later, BAM! In walks Tom Terrific, right in front of me. Luckily, I was in the right spot at the right time, being one of the first to shake his hand and welcome him to the event, and of course tell him I’m a huge fan.
At the end of the night, it was obviously tough for him to walk outside without being recognized, as there was a big group of Mets fans waiting for him, wanting his autograph. He was gracious to give each fan what they wanted, but only if they sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with him first. Obviously, they obliged, and Seaver stood there for about ten minutes creating memories for everyone in attendance.
So, here’s to you, Mr. Seaver. Thank you for being our first Mr. Met, and for being a huge part of the organization’s first World Championship. Also, thanks for being awesome at that dinner two years ago; you’ve given me a memory I will never forget.