Tom Seaver. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tom Seaver Passes At 75: Jewish N.Y. Mets Pitcher Inspired Generations

Tom Seaver pitched for the New York Mets. Some would argue that Seaver WAS the Mets. His nickname “the Franchise” supports this concept. Tom Seaver did more than make the Mets; he WAS the Mets!

“Tom Terrific,” as he was also sometimes called, passed on August 31, 2020 at age seventy five, a great loss to baseball fans everywhere.

Tom Seaver was honored on the diamond at Citi Fields, the replacement for the famed Shea Stadium in which he played, torn down for a more modern venue. The way in which Seaver was remembered was clever, as every team member on the Mets placed a bit of dirt on their uniform’s right knee in the game against the New York Yankees.

This was because Tom Seaver was famous for his “drop-and-drive” power pitching, a style that kids all over NYC and the U.S. emulated in the ’60s and ’70s. According to Uni Watch, the idea was envisioned by reader Joe Wagner:

The Mets will also honor Terrific Tom with a patch on their uniforms, beginning this week.

Back in Tom Seaver’s twenty years in Major League Baseball, the Yankees never played the Mets, as the National League and American League teams only faced off in the World Series every October. Fans could only dream of a Yankees/Mets Subway Series game being played on the regular.

At the final Subway Series game of the season, the scoreboard was also made to emulate what it appeared like in 1969.

Tom Seaver played for the Mets from 1967 until 1977. He also pitched for the team in 1977. He stayed active in baseball in NYC, spending five seasons as a broadcaster for the Yankees. He also received the Cy Young award three times, and had an overall career record of 311 wins. Seaver also played in the All-Star games on twelve occasions, and ranks as the Met’s all-time leader in victories, as a starting pitcher. He also held a record, now broken,for the highest consecutive number of strikeouts in a game, numbering ten, in a game against the San Diego Padres at Shea held on April 22, 1970.

Tom Seaver. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tom Seaver. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

It’s no wonder that in 1992, Seaver was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving the highest number of votes, ever. The number on his jersey, 41, was retired by the Mets in 1988. On September 28, 2006, Tom Seaver was declared Mets “Hometown Hero” by sports channel ESPN. Major League baseball also understood Seaver’s significance in the history of the game, ion 2013, dedicated the All-Star Game to Tom Seaver.

In 2019, New York City renamed the street just outside Citi Field. What was once known as 126th Street become Seaver Way. The ballpark’s address was also changed to address to 41 Seaver Way, in honor of the number on Terrific Tom’s jersey.

According to Wikipedia, Tom Seaver also had a record which included, “3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts, and a 2.86 earned run average, and he threw a no-hitter in 1978.” I once owned a book about Tom Seaver as a kid, and remember a picture of Tom Seaver smiling after belting out a home run. The caption was “pitchers aren’t supposed to be hitters,” recalling that in the National League, unlike the American League, there was no DH (designated hitter) and pitchers batted, often with mediocre results.

“It’s a sad day in Metsville,” said Ed Kranepool, an 18 year veteran of the NY Mets. “We lost our star and our leader.”

Sadly, Mr. Seaver died from COVID-19, coupled with Lewy body dementia, creating life-ending complications. A statue of Tom Seaver may be in the works for Citi Field.
Many notable greats from Major League baseball, including Hank Aaron, had warm memories of Seaver, some of which were posted on Twitter.

Baseball has always been a big deal for Jewish kids and adults alike. Many numberphilic Jewish boys and men enjoy delving deep into the game, citing stats and figures. To the scores of Jewish people in New York City, Tom Seaver was especially legendary, himself a Jew, taking a team that was regarded as merely a joke, to its first World Series victory. He represented the underdog, a sentiment strong among Jews only two decades after the close of World War II, with its Holocaust and the mass incarceration, slavery, and death camps Jewish people across Europe faced.

The “Miracle Mets,” as they were then known, came into being after the NY Giants folded and the Brooklyn Dodgers scrammed, heading out West. The Miracle? Terrific Tom took the team from last to first, replacing despair with hope. Truly emblematic for Jews at the time, Tom Seaver’s place in the history of Jewish lore.

Tom Seaver also played for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and Boston Red Sox. Mets fans of all backgrounds were stunned when, on June 15, 1977, NY Mets owners decided allow chairman of the board M. Donald Grant to trade Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players of questionable skill. The reason? Tom Seaver commanded an incredible salary, with his high level of skill, and management decided to cheap out and let him go when his contract was over. Mistake. Big mistake. Fans referred to the trade as the “Midnight Massacre,” and never forgave the team for sending off one of their best players, especially because it was over money, and little else.

Most people don;’t know that Tom Seaver was a US Marine Corps veteran, and that he was first recruited by the University of Southern California to play basketball. As truth is stranger than fiction, Seaver almost ended up playing for the Atlanta Braves, and the Mets only gained him as a player in a lottery that they won. It was ordained by history.

Archie Frank

Born inquisitive. Loves seafood, chess, and curling up with Shakespeare (or John Donne). Editor-at large. Despises mosquitoes. And bell peppers. Eclectic reader. Prolific worrier.


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