This Date in Mets History: April 20 — Tom Seaver wins his first game

Malcolm Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Tom Seaver was like the Matt Harvey of his time, you guys.

As we bask the aftermath of another Happy Harvey Day, let's look back at the guy to whom he's been compared many times over during his current stretch of dominance: Tom Seaver. It was 46 years ago today that Seaver, then a 22-year old armed with an arsenal of power pitches, earned the first of his 311 career against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. Tom was a bit more hittable in big league start #2 than he was in his debut, as the Cubs nicked him for seven singles and a triple across seven-plus innings of one-run ball, but he also had much better command of his stuff. After walking four in five innings in his first game, Seaver didn't issue any free passes versus the Cubbies.

Seaver's opposite number, Curt Simmons, wasn't as sharp as the rookie. Mets left fielder Tommy Davis took him deep for a solo home run in the fourth, while Ken Boyer and Ron Swoboda tacked on two more in the sixth with a single and sac fly respectively. That lead would stretch to 6-1 by game's end.

So how did Seaver celebrate his first win? Well, according to Tom Seaver by John Devaney, a trade paperback I found in the dollar bin at Molasses Books that bills itself as "an intimate portrait" of the "two-time [sic] winner of the Cy Young Award", Tom and wife Nancy "went off to a Chinese restaurant" for whiskey sours and a big meal.

Birthdays

  • Sean Green is 34. Shamelessly stealing a feature from James Kannengieser's game recaps, the unintentionally sexual quote of the J.J. Putz/Sean Green trade goes to Dan Warthen who said this when the sinkerballer was acquired from Seattle: "I'm really, really excited about what's coming out of his hand."
  • Pretty sure we all know how former Mets pitcher Jason Roach is doing on 4/20. Celebrating his 37th birthday, presumably with family, friends, and cake. Roach made two starts for the Mets in 2003 and got stomped in both. All told, he pitched nine innings in the majors, gave up 12 runs, and took two losses. Not good, but also not so bad considering he was originally drafted as a third baseman and didn't start pitching until he was 24 years old.
  • Masato Yoshii turns 48. Convinced by good friend Hideo Nomo to make the pan-Pacific leap from NPB to MLB, Yoshii signed with the Mets in 1998 and spent two years with the club. His seasons in Flushing were solid overall and occasionally very good. Yoshii hurled seven shutout innings against the Pirates in his major league debut, though his best performance came two months later when he struck out 10 Bronx Bombers in a 2-1 Subway Series triumph over the Yankees. He wasn't quite as effective in 1999, but he pitched well enough to make the postseason rotation and went toe to toe with Randy Johnson for five-plus innings in Game One of the NLDS, which helped set up this.

Game of Note
The Mets ran their record to 11-4 by beating up the Padres on this date in 2006. Petco Park's homer-unfriendly dimensions proved no hurdle for the visiting New Yorkers, who connected for a trio of long balls, though the first didn't clear the fence. Kaz Matsui, making his first plate appearance of season, led off the third inning with a fly to deep right that Brian Giles could neither track in the air nor corral after it ricocheted off the wall. That allowed Matsui to motor around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. In doing so, he became the first player since Ken Griffey, Jr. to homer in his first at-bat of the season for three consecutive years.

The second blast of the night came off the bat of Julio Franco. With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the eighth, Franco turned the one-run deficit into a one-run lead by taking a Scott Linebrink offering the other way and over the wall for a pinch hit two-run shot. Aged 47 at the time, that made Franco the oldest player in major league history to hit a homer. Carlos Delgado added a non-landmark, non-record breaking bomb later in the inning and the Mets went on to win by a final score of 7-2.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Since we already got the obligatory four-twenty joke out of the way in Jason Roach's birthday blurb, let's instead remember that it was 101 years ago today, on April 20, 1912, that Fenway Park opened to the public. Historically, Mets catchers have enjoyed playing in Boston. Gary Carter hit a pair over the monster in Game Four of the '86 Series, while Mike Piazza posted a career 1.364 slugging percentage at the ballpark on Yawkey Way. Of course, Fenway is also where the lightning god known as Omir Santos manifested himself among mortals back in 2009 by taking a big rip against Jonathan Papelbon and smoking a game-breaking ninth inning homer. Still gotta be high to wear that shirt, though.

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