Monday, October 1, 2007

Famous Queens Resident Series, Part XVII

Tom Seaver - The famous Mets pitcher once lived on 215th Street in Bayside and on 60th Ave. in Flushing.

Rookie of the Year
Seaver spent one season with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League, then joined New York in 1967. He won 16 games for the last-place Mets, with 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.76 E.R.A., all Mets records to that point, and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He was also named to the 1967 All-Star Game, and got the save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning. In 1968 he won 16 games again, and recorded over 200 strikeouts for the first of nine consecutive seasons; but the Mets moved up only one spot in the standings, to ninth.

The "Miracle Mets" season
In 1969, Seaver and the Mets completed a remarkable season, coming from the depths of the National League to win their first World Series championship. Seaver won a league-high 25 games and his first National League Cy Young Award.

On July 9, before a crowd of over 59,000 at New York's Shea Stadium, Seaver threw 8 1/3 perfect innings against the division-leading Chicago Cubs . Then, rookie backup outfielder Jimmy Qualls lined a clean single to left field, breaking up Seaver's perfect game. The next batter hit into a double play, ending the game. In the first-ever NLCS game, Seaver outlasted Atlanta's Phil Niekro for a sloppy 9-5 victory. Seaver was also the starter for the Mets' first World Series game, but lost a 4-1 decision to the Baltimore Orioles' Mike Cuellar. Seaver then pitched a complete-game, 10-inning win in Game Four to put the Mets on the brink of their first championship.

At year's end, Seaver was presented with both the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year, and Sports Illustrated magazine's " Sportsman of the Year" award.

Continued excellence

On April 22, 1970, Seaver set a modern major league record by striking out the final 10 San Diego Padres batters of the game. In addition to his 10 consecutive strikeouts, Seaver finished the game with 19 strikeouts, tying Steve Carlton 's major league record for a nine-inning game.[5] (The record was later eclipsed by 20-strikeout games by Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson, and twice by Roger Clemens.) Just four days earlier, Nolan Ryan had tied the former Mets record for K's in one game, which had been 15.

Seaver had three more twenty-win seasons (20 in 1971, 21 in 1972, and 22 in 1975) and two more Cy Young Awards ( 1973 and 1975) with the Mets. He was the runner-up for the award in 1971. 1971 was arguably his best year, when he led the league in ERA ( 1.76) and strikeouts (289 in 286 innings) while going 20-10. However, the sportswriters voted Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs the Cy Young Award, due to his league-leading 24 wins, 325 innings pitched, and exceptional control numbers. Seaver himself states 1971 was his best season. [citation needed]

Between 1970 and 1976, Seaver led the National League in strikeouts six of the seven seasons, finishing third in 1975. Seaver also won three ERA titles as a Met. A famous quote about Seaver is attributed to Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson : "Blind men come to the park just to hear him pitch."

Bye-bye, Big Apple
By 1977, the free agency period had begun and contract negotiations between Mets ownership and Seaver were not going well. Longtime New York Daily News columnist Dick Young regularly wrote negative columns about Seaver's "greedy" demands. When Young wrote an unattributed story claiming that Seaver was being goaded by his wife to ask for more money because she was jealous of Nolan Ryan 's wife, Seaver had had enough and demanded a trade away from New York.

In what New York's sports reporters dubbed "the Midnight Massacre", Mets General Manager M. Donald Grant sent Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977 for Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, and Dan Norman. He finished the 1977 season with 21 wins by going 14-3 with Cincinnati, including an emotional 5-1 win over the Mets in his return to Shea Stadium. Seaver struck out 11 in the return, and also hit a double. Seaver also received a lengthy ovation at the 1977 All-Star Game, which was held in New York's Yankee Stadium .

His departure from New York sparked a massive fan revolt. Attendance plummeted, and Shea Stadium earned the nickname "Grant's Tomb."

After having thrown five one-hitters for New York, including three no-hitters that were broken up in the 9th inning, Seaver finally recorded a 4-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978 at Riverfront Stadium. It was the only no-hitter of his professional career.

Seaver was 75-46 during his time in Cincinnati. He was a close runner-up for the 1981 Cy Young Award, and was voted 3rd and 4th in two other seasons.

Return to New York

After the 1982 season on December 16, 1982, Seaver was traded back to the Mets, for Charlie Puleo, Lloyd McClendon, and Jason Felice. On April 5, 1983, he tied Walter Johnson's major league record of 14 Opening Day starts, shutting out the Philadelphia Phillies 2-0. (He made two more such starts with the Chicago White Sox in 1985 and 1986 for a record total of 16 opening day assignments.) There wouldn't be many more highlights for Seaver that year, though he pitched better for the 1983 Mets than his 9-14 record indicated. [citation needed]

300 wins
Seaver and the Mets were stunned on January 20, 1984 when he was claimed in a free-agent compensation draft by the Chicago White Sox. The team (especially GM Frank Cashen) had incorrectly assumed that no one would pursue a high-salaried, 39-year-old starting pitcher, and left him off the protected list. Faced with either reporting to the White Sox or retiring, Seaver chose the former.

Seaver pitched two and a half seasons in Chicago, crafting his last shutout on July 19, 1985 against the visiting Indians. In an anomaly, Seaver won two games on May 9, 1984. Seaver pitched the 25th and final inning of a game suspended the day before, picking up the win in relief, before starting and winning the day's regular-scheduled game. This unexpected win set up one of Seaver's most memorable moments.

On August 4, 1985, Seaver won his 300th victory at New York against the Yankees, throwing a complete game. (Coincidentally, it was Phil Rizzuto Day — Seaver would later become Rizzuto's broadcast partner for Yankee games.) After Seaver's 298th win, a reporter had pointed out to White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk that following his upcoming start in Boston, Seaver's next scheduled start would be in New York, and that the possibility existed that he might achieve the mark there. Fisk emphatically stated that Seaver would win in Boston, and then would win his 300th-- which is just what came to pass.

Seaver almost returned to the Mets down the stretch, as Frank Cashen was poised to make a trade, but manager Davey Johnson vetoed the idea. He ended his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1986, traded at mid-season for Steve Lyons. Red Sox pitcher and future star Roger Clemens has claimed he learned more about pitching from Seaver's brief stint with the Red Sox than he did from any pitching coach in his career, and attributes his change from a "thrower" to a "pitcher" to Seaver. [citation needed] Seaver's 311th and last win came on August 18 , 1986 against the Minnesota Twins . At the time of his retirement Seaver was third on the all-time strikeout list (3,640), trailing only Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. His lifetime ERA of 2.86 was third among starting pitchers in the "live-ball" era, behind only Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. ( Pedro Martinez has since recorded a lower ERA.)

A knee injury prevented him from appearing against the Mets in the World Series but Seaver received among the loudest ovations during player introductions prior to Game One. The Red Sox released him following the 1986 season. Seaver briefly tried to make a comeback with the Mets in 1987 while their pitching staff was decimated by injuries, but retired after being shelled in an exhibition start against the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, the Tidewater Tides , saying, "I've used up all the competitive pitches in my arm!" The Mets retired his uniform number 41 in 1988. As of 2007, Seaver remains the only Met player to have his uniform number retired. Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges had their numbers retired as Met managers, and Jackie Robinson (never affiliated with the Mets) had his number retired by all teams. Their numbers-- 14 (Hodges), 37 (Stengel), 41 (Seaver), and 42 (Jackie Robinson)-- are posted in large numerals on the outfield fence at Shea Stadium.

Hall of Fame
Tom Seaver's number 41 was retired by the New York Mets in 1988

Seaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 7, 1992. He received the highest-ever percentage of votes with 425 of 430 ballots ( 98.84%), surpassing Ty Cobb 's 98.23%, and falling just five votes short of an unanimous selection. Seaver is the only player enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque.

Seaver was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1992, the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 1999, Seaver ranked 16th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the only player to have spent a majority of his career with the Mets to make the list. That year, he was also a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Baseball purists often compare him to Christy Matthewson for his combination of raw power, pinpoint control, and, perhaps most of all, an intense scrutiny of his own performance, as well as that of his opponents. An excellent hitting pitcher, Seaver hit 35 home runs during his career.

Hank Aaron stated that Seaver was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. Ironically, Seaver approached Aaron before his first All-Star Game in 1967 and asked Aaron for his autograph. Seaver felt the need to introduce himself to Aaron, as he was certain "Hammerin' Hank" would not know who he was. Aaron replied to Seaver, "Kid, I know who you are, and before your career is over, I guarantee you everyone in this stadium will, too."

In an ESPN poll among his peers, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, and Don Sutton all agreed Seaver was "the best" of their generation of pitchers.

On September 28, 2006, Seaver was chosen as the "Hometown Hero" for the Mets franchise by ESPN.

Courtesy of

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Patrick your killing me with a Mets Post! I need time to forget!