The New York Mets got lucky. That’s how Tom Seaver came to be a Met. Sheer luck. The Atlanta Braves had drafted Seaver but violated the rules and, because of those indiscretions, Major League Baseball decided conduct a lottery drawing for the rights to sign him which the Mets won.
It wasn’t luck that drove the legacy of Tom Seaver. Seaver was driven by hard work, determination, and professionalism. His presence, his emergence as a star…as a New York City sports star…the one who transformed the Mets from lovable losers to World Series Champions…was the one who made everything right with the New York Mets.
But Seaver was also a prime example of what was wrong with the Mets. Why do I say that? Because when you DO get lucky enough to get a player like a Tom Seaver, you covet that player, you protect that player, you make him the face of your franchise. I mean, he WAS “The Franchise.” The press labeled him that. The Mets…well…they took him for granted.
Granted? How fitting. Because he was “granted” right out of town…that’s right…M. Donald Grant. traded The Franchise for a mere bag of balls on what has been called “The Midnight Massacre” on June 15, 1977, a night that has gone down in infamy as THE worst night in Mets history.
The New York Mets did not protect their biggest asset - Tom Seaver
The Payson ownership under Grant didn’t care enough of about Tom Terrific to give him the respect he deserved. On the contrary, they treated him with contempt.
Then came the Doubleday-Wilpon era. Management made a decision to bring Seaver back just as the team was beginning its resurgence in 1983. It was during that season that another great decision was made, to acquire Keith Hernandez from the St. Louis Cardinals. But it was immediately after that season that management made a huge blunder. They failed to protect Seaver on the 40-man roster, thinking that no other team would want him. So Seaver would get his 300th career victory IN NEW YORK. But he got it as a member of the Chicago White Sox against the New York Yankees. How embarrassing.
Oh…and he was in the dugout at Shea Stadium during the World Series in 1986…as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Then the Wilpons finally build a new stadium. Seaver, along with Mike Piazza, ceremoniously closes the doors of Shea Stadium in 2008 and then opens the doors to Citifield to start the 2009 season. Nice gesture. But the opening of Citifield left me scratching my head.
Now I come from a family of Brooklyn Dodger fanatics. My grandparents were season ticket holders and followed the team on road trips as part of the Section 8 Club. My grandfather played the cymbals in the Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-Phony. And Jackie Robinson was a special player, and a special person. He is revered by so many.
Nostalgia is great. But the Wilpons owned the Mets. They didn’t buy the Dodgers and bring them back from Los Angeles. I think they forgot about that when they decided to design the new ballpark after Ebbets Field. They forgot about that when the very first thing you see when you enter the ballpark is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
The gesture is nice. Jackie deserves a place in New York sports history. But the Mets “history,” the Mets museum, if that is what you would call it, is nothing more than a wall and a couple of display cases off to the side. Almost like an afterthought.
There is more reverence for the Brooklyn Dodgers than the New York Mets…a team that has had itss share of moments. The Mets 1969 World Championship is depicted in three movies – Oh God!, Frequency, and Men in Black III. Can the Brooklyn Dodgers say that about any of their championships?
The Wilpons disrespected the Mets past, and failed to pay tribute to the most respected, most revered player to ever don a Mets uniform.
From the moment that Citifield opened, there should have been something to honor Tom Seaver. When Yankee Stadium opened, it was referred to as “The House that Ruth Built.” And Babe Ruth was not only still alive, he was still playing. Before Seaver, the Mets were laughable. And after he was done toiling for them, they, quite often, became laughable once again.
Although in his speech he gave credit to the Wilpons for starting the process (yeah, okay), Mets owner Steve Cohen, starting his third season at the helm, finally made things right. Because as of April 15, 2022, an imposing figure of Tom Seaver, in his inconic “drop and drive” delivery, will welcome fans in front of the main gate of Citifield – at 41 Seaver Way.
Seaver compiled some amazing statistics during his career. He was a Hall of Famer if ever there was one. He was a perfectionist. An artist on the mound who mesmerized opponents and captivated fans. He stood head and shoulders above all others who wore a Mets uniform. And he will remain larger than life not far from where he once toed the rubber as The Franchise, No. 41 of the New York Mets.