Tom Seaver: 1944 - 2020
In 1969, the Mets won a game in late May to reach .500 at the deepest point in a season since their debut. The beat writers wanted to celebrate the accomplishment and get quotes from the players to support the narrative.
“I hated — hated — the idea that we were always looked at through the prism of how bad the team had been. I was serious. This was my life. I wasn’t pitching to be a punchline for anyone. And even though I was a kid, I wanted my teammates to feel the same way. And by ’69 I had a lot of kindred spirits. So he gathered them around him as soon as they returned to the clubhouse. And he delivered his orders. These guys are gonna want to celebrate that. I say [nonsense] to that. We haven’t done a thing yet. We’re .500 — that’s mediocre. I don’t want to be mediocre. We need to treat this as just another game. One step on the way to where we want to get. Who’s with me?” -Tom Seaver [New York Post]
“They never treated us like a bunch of loveable clowns after that. From then on when we lost they criticized us, but that was a lot better than when they felt sorry for us.” -Tom Seaver [New York Post]
Prior to Tom Seaver’s debut in 1967, the Mets franchise had 260 wins with 547 losses for a .322 win percentage...
“[Tom Seaver] turned the organization around from a laughingstock ballclub into a complete team instantly. You knew every time out you were going to be a competitive team.” -Ed Kranepool [ESPN]
...over 162 games that’s a 52 and 110 record...
“You put a bunch of guys together of varying abilities and you know who the great ones are. When you played behind Tom Seaver, you were playing behind greatness. And you saw it almost every time.” -Ron Swoboda [ESPN]
...in his rookie season, the Mets won 61 games...
“He was sure of himself. We weren’t so sure of ourselves. But he had us believing in ourselves.” -Ed Kranepool [Newsday]
...the next 73, the next 100 and then four straight years over .500.
“He knew who he is. He had both ends on the steering wheel and he knew where the car was going. And that wasn’t true with all of us, but it was with Tom Seaver. You realize this is a guy you could hitch your trailer up to and go somewhere.” -Ron Swoboda [Newsday]
Ron Swoboda on how he would design Tom Seaver’s statue at CitiField.
“His motion was so iconic. I would love to see something out there. I’d love to see them capture his motion from right at delivery, with his knee that close to the mound as he comes through. And its follow-through — it was so iconic.” -Ron Swoboda [ESPN]
It’s a rarity for someone to recognize themselves as part of an old guard and eagerly help the new.
“Remember, I was in that team when Keith [Hernandez] got here. But by then I was of the old school. Players would seek my advice, but I was already a museum piece to them, even if they wouldn’t say those words to me. But Keith got here and it was like the air was restored to the room. He was so serious. And all business. I liked that. And I knew things were about to change for the better.” -Tom Seaver [New York Post]
I love the antidote that Gary Cohen related that, in retirement, Seaver greeted Aaron by number of home runs he hit off him and Aaron greeted Seaver by number of times he struck him out.
“He was a terrific pitcher and a wonderful friend. I was lucky to have dinner in his home in New York and in California which I remember fondly.” -Hank Aaron [ESPN]
Elena Gustines, a life long Mets and, specifically, Tom Seaver fan, swore baseball off after the 1994 strike.
“The only way I’ll go back to baseball is if Tom Seaver himself invites me back,” -Elena Gustines [New York Times]
In 2004, the Mets tried to win her back with a handwritten letter from Mike Cameron.
“Nope. I told you, it has to be Tom Seaver.” -Elena Gustines [New York Times]
Later in the year, she received a Birthday card.
“Dear Elena, we miss you! Please come back to the baseball family. The game really needs you and so do the Mets! Your friend, Tom Seaver.” [New York Times]
“My hands started trembling. I was in complete shock.” -Elena Gustines [New York Times]
The rest of this New York Times piece is worth a read, explaining how Gustines and Seaver became such good friends that...
“Mr. Seaver who would one day end a note to Ms. Gustines signed “Your No. 1 Fan.” [New York Times]
There are more important things in life than baseball.
“I wondered if maybe this COVID-19 that was attendant to his passing might have spared him that long, slow walk into nothingness that dementia represents,” Swoboda said. “I don’t know, but I wonder.” -Ron Swoboda [Newsday]