Tag Archive for Tom Seaver

Terrific

Tom Seaver, who led the Mets from laughingstocks to world champions and whose singular pride and in his excellence altered the franchise in profound and sometimes controversial ways, passed away Sept. 1 in California at age 75. No player in team history was as revered or influential as No. 41.

What strikes me about Seaver wasn’t just his remarkable ability but the dedication to that ability. He took a pride in craftsmanship and professionalism as few players did and was mindful and protective of what it meant to be excellent. No player took more pride in being among those selected as Hall of Famers. Seaver was better than most other ballplayers and knew it, worked hard to be sure it stayed that way, and wanted very much to be among others who shared that sentiment. That determination and pride would occasionally land him in controversy, clashing with two generations of club management inadequately prepared to deal with such a player and ultimately altering both the trajectory of Seaver’s career and the franchise’s very fortunes. I wrote about that unusual dynamic here.

So long, Tom Terrific.

 

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“Whomp, Whomp, Whomp”

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, and also, the anniversary of Tom Seaver’s dominant outing at Shea Stadium where he whiffed 19 batters including the final 10 Padres in a row. Tom Terrific had the benefit of a sizzling fastball but also, effects of a bright sunny afternoon which enveloped the San Diego hitters in shadow by the late innings. The Padres managed just 2 hits and 2 walks off Seaver that day. Al Ferrera hit a second-inning solo home run to left field; and Dave Campbell bounced a single off Joe Foy’s glove at third base for a single in the fourth inning. The Mets won 2-1.

Though some 30 years before “pitch counts” became a thing, an account in the Daily News indicated Seaver threw 136 pitches that day–91 for strikes, and 81 fastballs. It notes that two change-ups were thrown for strikes. The 19 whiffs broke a club record of 15 strikeouts that had been set just four days before by Nolan Ryan, triggering a round of ribbing by teammates that the droll Texan took in stride. “That’s what they’re there for,” he said. Catcher Jerry Grote also set a record that day with 20 putouts.

Seaver himself hadn’t realized the roll he was on until the scoreboard informed of the team record–the News account indicated neither had manager Gil Hodges. Tom confessed afterward the game was “exciting, but not quite as exciting” as the near no-hitter he’d pitched vs. the Cubs a year before.

Ed Kranepool, who played first base that afternoon, had the best take. “He was like a machine out there: Whomp, whomp, whomp.”

WFAN will be rebroadcasting the game this evening beginning at 6:30. Happy Earth Day.

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Seaver Coming, Seaver Going

Here are links to the paper and the powerpoint presentation I gave as a part of the Mets 50th Anniversary conference last month at Hofstra University. My topic was examining each of the transactions involving Tom Seaver, beginning with Bing Devine’s role in “making your own luck” and convincing the Mets to enter the Seaver drawing in 1966, the tension with Don Grant leading to the Seaver trade in 1977, and the story behind his reacquisition in 1983 and loss as free agent compensation in 1984. In retrospect I could have pitched a paper on any one of these deals, rather than all four, as the original paper was something like 19 pages long and I was supposed to have limited it to 12. And even then…

I’ve said this before, but this conference was a great event, and I’m sorry I got to see so little of it. I welcome your feedback!

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Live at the Hofstra Conference

41retiredIf you’re planning to head out to the 50th Anniversary Mets Conference beginning this week at Hofstra University (and I hope you are) come see me! I intend on blowing minds with a brilliant and devastating analysis of the four Tom Seaver Transactions in a speech scheduled for Opening Night, a 6:45-8 p.m. session which also will include a presentation I’m dying to see about Dave Kingman and an analysis of sports business trends in the wake of the Midnight Massacre. Following my presentation there will be a screening of the film “Mathematically Alive.” I also intend to return to see some presentations on Saturday. Full details of the conference are available here. Hope to see you there!

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Toppermost of the Poppermost

I was in Pittsburgh over the weekend where I attended my first Pirates home game in more than 20 years. To say they improved the stadium since then is an understatement: PNC Park is even nicer than it looks on television. The scale is just right, the atmosphere and views and neighborhood and service are terrific, it doesn’t appear to radically alter the balance of offense and defense in any way, it owes more to history than gimmickry, good seats were affordable and the scoreboard doesn’t come off as an anchor for surrounding ads. In other words, it’s just about everything CitiField is not. And I might be dense but never realized until I sat there what a ripoff of Pittsburgh the “Shea Bridge” is. I know the Mets admired this park and endeavored to use it in some ways to inform their park, but boy did they swing and miss.

Here’s something I liked. Whenever a Pirate batter first came to the plate, the scoreboard graphic introduced him by panning across a “mural” of former Pirates (and Homestead Grays of the Negro League) in period unis, from which the current batter appeared to “step out” from. While I was running downtown the next morning, I came across the actual mural, which I since learned is a billboard-sized reproduction of a painting by a local artist.

You’ll recognize Willie Stagell in the gold jersey and in the shot of a statue outside the stadium I snapped here. The Pirates rightly retired his No. 8 jersey, which brings to mind another contrast getting a lot of sudden attention recently, and that’s a well-intentioned but ultimately wrongheaded campaign for the Mets to retire No. 8 in honor of Gary Carter.

The news about The Kid’s health is heartbreaking and tragic. But it doesn’t make him the Mets’ equivalent of Willie Stargell, much less Tom Seaver, the only Mets player to have been honored with a retired jersey. As argued here before, retiring No. 8 — obviously a topic the Mets have long considered given their reluctance to have issued the jersey since Desi Relaford last wore it in 2002 — would surely require an accompanying retirement of 17 for Keith Hernandez, 16 for Dwight Gooden, 18 for Darryl Strawberry, 1 for Mookie Wilson and perhaps, 5 for Davey Johnson and 50 for Sid Fernandez. That’s before considering what it will say about Jerry Koosman, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Howard Johnson, Jerry Grote, Edgardo Alfonzo and other players who played more than Gary Carter’s five years for the Mets, and had more than Gary Carter’s two good years for the Mets.

The Mets have appropriately enshrined Carter in the team’s Hall of Fame, which if they’d only made an effort to promote all these years, could serve as appropriate salve for those determined to interpret a failure to retire a uniform number as an act of disrespect (and to a cancer patient at that). Subjective it may be, but its long been our stance here that retired numbers should be reserved for the true greats and not the Hall of Famers who pass through, no matter how charasmatic (or tragic). Stargell for the Pirates? a No-Brainer. He spent his entire career with the Pirates and is most closely associated with them. The best way to honor Carter — and his teammates — might be a symbolic retirement of the never-worn jersey No. 86, and for them to honor Carter’s memory by issuing No. 8 to the next energetic, powerful catcher who comes along.

Stuff I missed until now: The return of Lucas Duda and No. 77, DJ Carrasco and accompanying reassignments of Nick Evans and Dale Thayer.

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