This Date in Mets History: April 5 — Tom Seaver goes to eleven

Jim McIsaac / Getty images

No one in Mets history has Opening Day starts on his résumé than Tom Seaver. In case you were wondering, Craig Swan is tied for a distant fifth with two.

Tom Seaver holds the all-time record for most Opening Day starts with 16. Eleven came with the Mets and the final one occurred 30 years ago today. On April 5, 1983, before a crowd of 48,682 fans, Tom Terrific took the Shea Stadium mound in a Mets uniform for the first time since June 1977. He wasn't the same pitcher as he'd been five and half years before, as multiple injuries had sapped some of the life out of his fastball. Still, it must have felt like old times when Seaver opened the game by striking out Phillies' leadoff hitter Pete Rose.

Also like old times? The Mets inability to score runs in support of their ace. In the team's defense, it's not like they were facing some slouch, as Steve Carlton got the Opening Day nod for Philadelphia. Carlton, Seaver's self-described greatest rival, matched zeroes with his nemesis for six innings. In the bottom half of the frame, Mets manager George Bamberger pulled Seaver for a pinch hitter, ending any chance of Tom picking up a win in his homecoming. Still, it's a move that Phillies skipper Pat Corrales should have taken under consideration regarding his own ace. Corrales let Carlton start the seventh and the Mets greeted him with four consecutive singles. The last one, coming from right fielder Mike Howard, brought a run. Second baseman Brian Giles followed with a sac fly and the Mets had a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish.

While Seaver didn't get the Opening Day W, the Mets did for the ninth year in a row, a streak Tom Terrific started back in 1975. That remains the National League record for most consecutive Opening Day victories.

Birthdays

  • Happy birthday to Lastings Milledge, who technically turned 28 yesterday since he's on the other side of the International Date Line playing for the Yakult Swallows in Japan's Nippon League. Milledge, once rated the #9 prospect in the minors by Baseball America, Blastings-ed 21 home runs with a team-high .300 batting average for the Swallows in 2012. He's off to a hot start again this year, too. Through five games, he's hitting .350 (7-for-20) with a pair of doubles.
  • Jimmie Schaffer turns 77. A backstop by trade, Schaffer donned the tools of ignorance 21 times for the 1965 Mets. A catch and throw guy, Schaffer dispatched 46% of would-be base thieves in his eight-year career, a mark eight percent better than league average over that timespan. He went oh-for-five throwing out runners as a Met, of course.

Transactions
Mets general manager Steve Phillips and his protégé, recently hired Expos GM Omar Minaya, agreed to a seven-player swap on April 5, 2002. New York sent pitchers Bruce Chen, Dicky Gonzalez, Saul Rivera, and infielder Luis FIgueroa to Montreal for relievers Scott Strickland, Phil Seibel, and outfielder Matt Watson. Chen would wind up being the best player in the deal, but it took him nearly a decade to establish himself as a viable back of the rotation starter. At the time of the trade, though, Strickland seemed like the real catch. Just 26 years old, Strickland was a three-year veteran who'd struck out more than a batter per nine in 147 career innings. He'd do the same in a season-plus for some terrible Mets teams before succumbing to Tommy John surgery.

Game of Note
The Mets opened the 1993 season by hosting the brand-new Colorado Rockies at Shea Stadium on this date twenty years ago. Dwight Gooden made his seventh Opening Day start for New York and was opposed by David Nied, the first overall pick in the previous year's expansion draft. Newly acquired leadoff man Tony Fernandez plated the game's first run with a groundout in the bottom of the fourth and Bobby Bonilla doubled the Mets' lead by taking Nied deep one inning later. The team added one more slat to the scoreboard picket fence when Eddie Murray drove home Vince Coleman with an RBI single in the sixth.

That was more than enough run support for Gooden. Doc allowed just four singles in a complete game shutout that taxed his arm for a scant 101 pitches. All in all, a nice way to start the '93 campaign. Unfortunately, there were still 161 games to come.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Elihu Yale, benefactor of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, a New Haven-based university that would later bear his name, was born on this date in 1649. Thirteen former Bulldogs pitchers have graduated to the major leagues since 1883 and two played for the Mets: Ron Darling and Ken Mackensie. Nerds.

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