I had an opportunity to see if there were another three months or another 15 games left in my arm. There are no more pitches there. I've used them all up.
It was with those words, uttered at Shea Stadium press conference on this date in 1987, that Tom Seaver officially retired from major league baseball. For all intents and purposes, however, Seaver's 20-year career had been over since the previous fall. Back on September 19, 1986, the Franchise took his scheduled turn as a member of the Red Sox rotation and labored to complete four innings against Toronto on a bum knee. One day later, Seaver had the joint examined by Blue Jays physician (and former Miracle Met teammate) Ron Taylor, who diagnosed it as severely sprained, effectively ending his season.
Short term, the injury kept Tom off the Red Sox postseason roster (and from facing his old team in the '86 World Series). Longer term, it also prevented him from concluding his career in a satisfying way. So when the Mets came calling in May 1987, the club's chances at defending the title suddenly in jeopardy because of David Cone's shoulder issues, Bob Ojeda's elbow woes, and Dwight Gooden's ongoing rehab, Seaver was more than amenable to the idea of donning the orange and blue one more time and seeing if he had anything left.
As evidenced by the quote at the top, he didn't. After signing, Seaver started an exhibition game between the Mets and Triple-A Tidewater. Tom was not terrific. He lasted just two innings-plus, allowed seven runs on nine hits, three of which were booming RBI doubles to lesser lights like Kevin Elster, Steve Springer, and Andre David. After the game, plans for a major league return against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 20 were pushed back. One week later at Shea, Seaver gave up six hits to light-hitting backup catcher Barry Lyons in a simulated game. At that point, the idea of a start versus Philly was scuttled entirely and a press conference called instead.
"It was a very easy decision to make," Tom told the assembled members of the media. "I realized I can't help [the Mets] as a pitcher and I trust my own intelligence and my own heart in making that decision."
- Willie Harris, Met-killer turned member of the 2011 team, is 35. Harris spent most of last season with the Reds' Triple-A affiliate, but he appears to be retired at the moment. Still, there's probably a better than break-even chance that the next time the Mets are in a pennant race, he'll sign with a rival and promptly proceed to make a momentum-deflating circus catch in a loss that knocks New York out of contention.
- Ron Hodges turns 64 today. The longtime backup catcher spent his entire twelve-year major league career with the Mets. Unfortunately, he was active during one of the least fallow twelve-season spans in team history. It started well for Hodges, as he made his big league debut for the 1973 National League champs and even got into a World Series game that fall, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance. After that, though, it was a decade of misery. The team began to show promise again during the 1984 season, which of course, is the one Hodges chose to make his last.
A year and a day after the Mets released Jose Valentin, the team severed ties with his brother, Javier, on this date in 2009. Unlike his elder sibling, Javier never saw action with the big league team, though he did hit a decent .260/.360/.416 for the Buffalo Bisons prior to getting his walking papers.
Game of Note
Peripatetic outfielder Claudell Washington made two All-Star teams in his career. He represented the American League at the 1975 Midsummer Classic, then switched sides at played for the Senior Circuit at the 1984 game. Unfortunately for the Mets, they happened to acquire Washington in 1980, which falls smack dab in the middle of the valley between those peak seasons. Still, Claudell showed flashes of his elite talent while playing for New York and he gave the team a tantalizing glimpse 33 years ago today. Facing the Dodgers in his hometown of Los Angeles, Washington put on a show for whatever friends and family happened to attend by connecting for three home runs in a 9-6 Mets win. "I'd have to say that's the biggest day I've had as a pro," is what Washington told reporters after the game. No argument there.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Sports fans around the world had an ear glued to the radio on this date in 1938, listening as Joe Louis utterly demolished German heavyweight Max Schmeling before a crowd of 70,000-plus at Yankee Stadium. The era of outdoor boxing matches had pretty much passed by the time Shea was built, but the old arena did host a few bouts in its time (and not just in the upper reserve during blowout losses). Here's a pretty good remembrance of the fights that happened under Shea's lights. It's even got an obligatory Joe Frazier (boxer)/Joe Frazier (Mets manager) joke.