Growing up in the 1970s, I was a die hard New York Mets fan. I would listen on the radio on AM radio or when they were on TV, would watch them on Channel 9. When they were on the west coast and the games would begin at ten o’clock at night (or 11 in San Francisco) I would lay in bed with my transistor radio under my pillow. Otherwise the games were usually at around 1:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night.
I would take any chance to read, listen or watch baseball. The “Game of the week” on Saturdays or even sometimes, very rarely though, I would turn on my TV, turn the dial towards the UHF channels and through the static I would see a Phillies game. I loved watching, “This week in Baseball,” and would get so excited when they would show the Met’s highlight of the week. I would voraciously read the newspapers about them and always watch Eyewitness News at 6pm and channel 5 at 10pm, just to see what they had to say during the sports report. Tom Seaver was the main reason why I would never give in to root for the Yankees. Never.
The Mets, during these post 1973 years, were mediocre at best; with only a couple of reasons to watch their games. There was Dave Kingman and of course, Tom Seaver.
In truth, it was baseball we wanted to watch. But the reason I became such a big fan was because of Seaver. We would run to watch as Seaver would stand on the mound, squint his eyes and concentrate on the signals given by his catcher, Jerry Grote of what pitch to throw.
He struck out over 200 batters it seemed every year. He was number 41, had a beautiful wife, Nancy, and was a good looking cool guy. I don’t care how he was in the real world, his personality to me, was defined on the diamond. He was a diamond. Then on June 15, 1977, the Mets did what they always do best, they broke their fans hearts. They traded away Seaver to avoid paying him a large contract. (Sound familiar?) There is a lot I can write here about Seaver and his career.
Here is a little bit about him that’ll give you an idea of his dominance.
During his time with the Mets, Seaver made 108 starts in which he pitched 9 or more innings and allowed 1 run or less. His record in those starts is 93-3 with 12 no-decisions. In seven of the 12 no-decisions, he pitched 10 or more innings. In the 12 no-decisions, he pitched a total of 117 innings, allowing 56 hits and 5 earned runs, compiling a 0.38 ERA.
Whenever I would play wiffle ball or stickball, I would always be Tom Seaver. I would stand and I’d be squinting with that intensity that Seaver had. Then I would throw the ball and usually my brother or my friend, would hit a homerun. Very unSeaveresque but still, I would continue to always be Seaver.
Always Seaver. We felt we could all be him. He had a regular build, was not too tall, was not powerful looking; he used his legs when he pitched and he used his smarts. He was my hero.
Seaver is what made baseball a thinking sport for me. Do you throw a curveball? Do you throw a fastball? Do you throw it inside, outside, high or low? Baseball is a game of chess for pitchers like Seaver. There aren’t anymore like him and never will be.
Hearing now that he has dementia is heartbreaking.
I’ll always remember hearing the sounds of Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson or Ralph Kiner calling a game with Seaver on the mound. “It’s a beautiful day, at Shea with George Thomas Seaver, Tom Terrific, on the mound for the New York Metropolitans.”