Opening Day 1983: Tom Seaver returns to the Mets and outduels Steve Carlton
By 1983, it had been six years since the Mets had traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds in the infamous “Midnight Massacre” trade of 1977. The Mets had not made the playoffs once during that stretch, while the Reds had made it to to the National League Championship Series in 1979 and Seaver had pitched his first and only no-hitter.
Nonetheless, when Seaver returned to the Amazins via trade in 1983, Mets fans were absolutely thrilled to welcome him back. He stood atop his familiar perch at Shea Stadium when he started on Opening Day against the Philadelphia Phillies. Though Seaver’s most dominant years were behind him, he was only one season removed from finishing second in the 1981 NL Cy Young Voting (and 10th in that year’s NL MVP voting). The man who finished just behind him, in 3rd place, in the 1981 NL Cy Young voting? Phillies ace Steve Carlton.
On April 5, 1983, three-time Cy Young award winner Seaver faced off against four-time Cy Young award winner Carlton. It was a full house of 46,687 Mets fans on a sunny afternoon at Shea Stadium. Seaver had a tall order in front of him, as the Phillies lineup that day featured all-time hit king Pete Rose and four future Hall of Famers.
Despite this formidable lineup, Seaver had the upper hand that day. He pitched six strong scoreless innings, surrendering only three hits and one walk while striking out five. He wound up with the no-decision, as the Mets did not touch up Carlton for any runs until after Seaver had left the game, but the Mets got the victory and ensured that Seaver’s final season with the orange and blue started off on a positive note.
“The whole day was very warm and moving,” Seaver said after the game. “I always thought that kind of reception was reserved for other people. The only thing I can compare it to was in ’69 when I lost the perfect game. All I can say about Opening Day is that it was a perfect day.”
The Mets finished the 1983 season with an unimpressive 68-94 record, but Seaver’s presence, combined with the emergence of Rookie of the Year winner Darryl Strawberry, gave an inkling that brighter days would soon be coming for the Amazins.