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This Date in Mets History: March 2 - Seaver Almost Brings the Heat for Hot 'Lanta

Tom Seaver came really close to being the Franchise for the Atlanta Braves. Thankfully, commissioner William Eckert prevented it from happening on this date in 1966.

Tom Seaver, seen here showing the Braves how many Cy Young Award-winning seasons they missed out on.
Tom Seaver, seen here showing the Braves how many Cy Young Award-winning seasons they missed out on.

Yesterday, we looked at the first spat in the chain of increasingly bitter disagreements that culminated in Tom Seaver leaving New York. Today, let's profile one of the key events that helped bring Tom Terrific to the Mets in the first place. On March 2, 1966, Commissioner William Eckert ruled that Seaver, who just two months prior had been selected 20th overall by the Braves in the old January phase of the amateur draft, was ineligible to sign with Atlanta. According to the commissioner, because Seaver's USC Trojans had played a pair of exhibition games prior to the draft, the pitcher was in violation of an MLB statute that forbade college amateurs from signing with professional clubs after the start of the school season.

Initially, Seaver planned to return to USC for his junior year, but the NCAA decided that he'd lost his amateur status upon inking the now-nullified Braves contract. Stuck in limbo, Tom and his father settled the sticky situation the way most viscid scenarios get solved: by threatening legal action against all parties. In the interest of avoiding a lawsuit, Commissioner Eckhart declared that any team willing to at least match the $40,000 deal Atlanta offered Seaver would be entered into a lottery for the pitcher's rights. One month and $50,000 later, the Franchise was a Met.

Shortstop Chico Fernandez turns 81 today. The Havana-born infielder got into 58 games for the 1963 Mets, hitting .200 with one home run and nine RBI. That was a far cry from the 20 long balls he connected for a year earlier as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Of course, the Mets' everyday shortstop in '63, Al Moran, hit .193 with one homer in 119 games, so even with the significant decline, Fernandez was still an improvement over the incumbent.

Game of Note
On October 3, 2004, Tom Glavine and the Mets handily dispatched the Montreal Expos by an 8-1 score in the last game the team would play before relocating to our nation's capital. Almost exactly five months later, on March 2, 2005, Glavine was the opposing pitcher for the first spring training game in Washington Nationals history. This time, the lefty and the Mets were on the losing side of the ledger. Jose Guillen had the day's biggest hit, a two-run homer, and the Nats ran the franchise winning percentage to 1.000 with a 5-3 triumph.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
It was 51 years ago today that Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored an NBA-record 100 points in a 169-147 thrashing of the New York Knicks. The most runs the Mets have allowed in a single game also happened to come against a team from the City of Brotherly Love. On June 11, 1985, the Phillies roughed up Tom Gorman and Calvin Schiraldi for 16 runs in two and two-thirds innings, then hung a ten spot on Joe Sambito for a 26-7 annihilation of visiting New York. No Phil rewrote the record books the way Wilt did in his performance against the Knickerbockers, though outfielder Von Hayes had a nice day. He led off the bottom of the first with a blast and, after the Phillies batted around, connected for a grand slam in his second plate appearance of the inning.