Tom Seaver

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1968toppsseaver.gif

George Thomas Seaver
(Tom Terrific or The Franchise)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1992

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Biographical Information[edit]

"God is living in New York, and he's a Mets fan." - quip that made the rounds when Seaver ended up a Met and became a star

"Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch." - Reggie Jackson

Tom Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers of the 20th century, winning 311 games and three Cy Young Awards. He also wrote the classic book The Art of Pitching (1984).

Seaver was one of many star players to come from the University of Southern California. "Tom Terrific" began his pro career under unusual circumstances. The Atlanta Braves signed him to a Richmond Braves contract for a reported $40,000 bonus in February 1966. Commissioner William Eckert nullified the contract because the signing broke the college rule of the time. However, USC had ruled Seaver ineligible, so Eckert made Seaver available to any club other than the Braves in a special drawing if that club would match the original contract terms. The Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, and New York Mets were willing to meet the original terms and the Mets won the drawing. New York then signed him to a Jacksonville Suns contract for a reported $50,000 bonus.

In his major league debut with the Mets on April 13, 1967, he struck out 9 opposite batters to set a franchise record for a debut. Only three days later, Bill Denehy matched that total, and the record held for 45 years, until July 26, 2012, when Matt Harvey struck out 11 opponents in his debut.

Seaver pitched five one-hitters as a Met (no Mets pitcher would throw a no-hitter until 2012). He came within two outs of a perfect game on July 9, 1969 against the Chicago Cubs, but the effort was broken up by a Jim Qualls single. The other spoilers: Mike Compton (May 15, 1970), Vic Davalillo (September 26, 1971), Leron Lee with one out in the 9th (July 4, 1972), and Steve Ontiveros (April 17]], 1977). On September 24, 1975, also against the Cubs, Joe Wallis broke up another no-hit bid with a bloop single with two outs in the 9th. That game was a scoreless tie at the time, though, and Seaver allowed two more hits before Skip Lockwood lost it in the 11th.

In an infamous trade, the Mets dealt Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977 for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. He finally did pitch a no-hitter on June 16, 1978 as a member of the Reds against the St. Louis Cardinals. He walked 3 and struck out 3 in the game.

Seaver fires out a ceremonial first pitch in 2009

Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball during the 1970s. In an era dominated by pitching, fans were treated to classic pitching matchups of Seaver-Steve Carlton, Seaver-Ferguson Jenkins, Seaver-Bob Gibson and Seaver-Juan Marichal many times. With pinpoint control of his fastball and slider, Seaver dominated National League hitters for a decade and a half. His knowledge of pitching enabled him to turn to finesse when his fastball was no longer overpowering. He also used his powerful legs in his delivery, reducing strain on his arm, getting such leverage from his lower body that his right knee would touch the mound when he released the ball; yet he would immediately spring into a perfect fielding position, with both feet square and his glove in front of his body. His pitching mechanics are considered among the best ever. He recorded 200 or more strikeouts during 9 consecutive seasons from 1968 to 1976, which is an all-time record; he had one more 200 strikeouts season after that, in 1978. He won the Cy Young Award three times, all with the Mets, in 1969, 1973 and 1975. In 1981, he finished second behind Fernando Valenzuela when he went 14-2 for the Reds in the strike-shortened season.

Seaver returned to the Mets for the 1983 season but went to the Chicago White Sox as a free agent compensation pick in 1984; the Mets never expected that the elder Seaver would be of interest to another team and left him off their list of protected players, but they were sadly mistaken. He put in two effective seasons in Chicago, winning his 300th game at Yankee Stadium with a complete game effort on August 4, 1985.

On June 29, 1986, Chicago sent Seaver to the Boston Red Sox for Steve Lyons. Tom finished his career in Boston; he did not get a chance to face the Mets in the 1986 World Series. He retired after that season, toying with a comeback with the Mets in mid-year 1987, but retiring again before he got into a game. He finished his career with 311 career wins. He also had 3,640 strikeouts, which was the third highest total of all time at that point, behind only Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton; others have passed him since.

Players who hit well against him (minimum 50 plate appearances):

Players who hit poorly against him (minimum 50 plate appearances):

Players with the most home runs against him:

He was elected to the Hall of Fame on January 7, 1992 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Of all the members of the Hall, he came closest to election by acclamation with 425 of 430 (98.84%) possible votes (that percentage has since been bettered a number of times, including by Mariano Rivera, who did get unanimous support - see Hall of Fame Voting Percentages). He is a member of the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets team Hall of Fames and had his #41 retired in Flushing in 1988. His first baseball card appearance was in the 1967 Topps set.

He wrote the book The Perfect Game (1969) in addition to The Art of Pitching. He was a television broadcaster for the New York Yankees from 1989 to 1993 and for the Mets from 1999 to 2005.

In March 2019, his family announced that he had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia and would no longer make any public appearances. Before the announcement, he had been scheduled to be at the center of celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Mets' 1969 World Series title. On September 2, 2020, his family announced that he had passed away from the disease and from complications from COVID-19 a few days before, on August 31st, at age 75.

To pay him tribute, all of the Mets' players all wore a smudge of dirt on their right knee in their game against the New York Yankees on September 3rd.

"Pitching is getting yourself ready. It's your game plan, it's finding out what you have to do that day. It's making your body do the things you want it to do." Tom Seaver.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1967 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 1967 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 12-time NL All-Star (1967-1973, 1975-1978 & 1981)
  • 3-time NL Cy Young Award Winner (1969, 1973 & 1975)
  • 3-time NL ERA Leader (1970, 1971 & 1973)
  • 3-time NL Wins Leader (1969, 1975 & 1981)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1981)
  • 5-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1970, 1971, 1973, 1975 & 1976)
  • NL Complete Games Leader (1973)
  • 2-time NL Shutouts Leader (1977 & 1979)
  • 15 Win Seasons: 14 (1967-1973, 1975, 1977-1979, 1984 & 1985)
  • 20 Win Seasons: 5 (1969, 1971, 1972, 1975 & 1977)
  • 25 Win Seasons: 1 (1969)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 16 (1967-1979 & 1983-1985)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 10 (1968-1976 & 1978)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1992


NL Rookie of the Year
1966 1967 1968
Tommy Helms Tom Seaver Johnny Bench
NL Cy Young Award
1968 1969 1970
Bob Gibson Tom Seaver Bob Gibson
1972 1973 1974
Steve Carlton Tom Seaver Mike Marshall
1974 1975 1976
Mike Marshall Tom Seaver Randy Jones

Records Held[edit]

  • Strikeouts, consecutive, 10, April 22, 1970
  • Most consecutive seasons with 200+ strikeouts, 9, 1968-76

Further Reading[edit]

  • Thomas Boswell: "Seasons of the Hill: Tom Terrific Comes Home" in Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1984, pp. 146-148
  • Anthony DiComo: "'A light we all looked to': In memory of Tom", mlb.com, September 2, 2020. [1]
  • Bob Dittmeier: "Seaver, greatest Met of all time, dies at 75", mlb.com, September 2, 2020. [2]
  • Chris Haft: "Tom Seaver's top 10 moments", mlb.com, September 2, 2020. [3]
  • Maxwell Kates: "Tom Seaver", in Bill Nowlin and Leslie Heaphy, ed.: The 1986 Boston Red Sox: There Was More Than Game 6, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016. pp. 180-194. ISBN 978-1-943816-19-4
  • Joon Lee et al.: "Mets honor Tom Seaver's iconic drop-and-drive delivery with dirty knees", ESPN.com, September 3, 2020. [4]
  • Mike Lupica: "33 years on, Tom Terrific still Mets' biggest icon: Hall of Famer Seaver mattered more than any player in the team's history", mlb.com, May 27, 2020. [5]
  • Bob Nightengale: "The greatest Mets player of all-time, late Tom Seaver was terrific on and off mound", USA Today, September 2, 2020. [6]
  • Scott Schleifstein: "Two Days in August", The Baseball Record Journal, SABR, Volume 41, Number 2 (Fall 2012), pp. 87-92.
  • Tom Seaver (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, November 1974, pp. 53-55. [7]
  • Tom Seaver and Lee Lowenfish: The Art of Pitching, Quill Books, William Morrow and Company, New York, NY, 1984. ISBN 068813226X
  • Tom Seaver and Richard Schaap: The Perfect Game: Tom Seaver and the Mets, Dutton Books, New York, NY, 1970.
  • Andrew Simon: "Numbers prove Seaver's greatness, longevity", mlb.com, September 2, 2020. [8]
  • Steven Travers: The Last Icon: Tom Seaver and His Times, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, MD, 2011. ISBN 1589796608
  • Bruce Weber: "Tom Seaver, Pitcher Who Led ‘Miracle Mets’ to Glory, Dies at 75", The New York Times, September 2, 2020. [9]
  • Warren N. Wilbert: What Makes an Elite Pitcher? Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander, Grove, Spahn, Seaver, Clemens, and Maddux, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1456-7

External Links[edit]