Tom Seaver died Monday in California at the age of 75. He is unquestionably the greatest player in the history of the New York Mets franchise, and his storied career should be recognized and lauded throughout the baseball world.
To celebrate Seaver’s life and accomplishments, we bring you the ten best games from the legendary pitcher.
10. April 25, 1967: Seaver’s third career start
It didn’t take long for Seaver to justify the hype he had coming out of USC, pitching a 10-inning complete game against the Chicago Cubs in just his third start of his career. Allowing four hits and an unearned run with five strikeouts, this was hardly Seaver’s best-ever performance, but nonetheless a sign of future success for the rookie. The Mets would finish 61-101 on the season, their fifth 100-loss season in just their sixth year of existence, but finally found a ray of hope in Seaver, who won the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year with over half of the first-place votes.
9. August 11, 1971: Ten-inning, zero-run no-decision
So the nine-plus inning, zero-run start is going to come up a few times on this list. In late 1971, Seaver took the mound in San Diego Stadium and pitched for ten innings, giving up three hits and zero runs and striking out fourteen Padres batters. He was then pulled in the 11th inning for Danny Frisella, who pitched a scoreless inning before giving up the winning run in the 12th, with the Mets losing 1-0. With a game score of 98, this was Seaver’s second-best pitching performance of his career by that metric, and in typical Mets fashion it came in a loss.
8. October 10, 1973: Mets win the pennant
Seaver’s postseason numbers remain an under-examined footnote of his career. In the playoffs, he was not Tom Terrific, but merely Tom Pretty-Good, going 3-3 in eight career starts with a 2.77 ERA. He did earn one series-clinching win against the Reds in Game 5 of the 1973 NLCS, giving up only one run in over eight innings pitched, sending the Mets to the World Series for the second time in five years. His Game 1 NLCS and Game 3 World Series performance might merit more praise, but for someone like Seaver so focused on winning, it’s likely nothing felt as sweet as the win to get him to the final series.
7. April 20, 1983: Seaver returns to Queens
After spending five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Seaver returned to the Mets for one season in 1983 and immediately crafted a memory. In just his third start of the season, the 38-year-old pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. By game score, it was the best game Seaver had pitched since 1978, matching only his no-hitter with the Reds during that stretch. Though he would finish the season with a losing record, Seaver’s brief return to form in early 1983 reminded fans of his glory days.
6. September 24, 1975: Seaver wraps up the Cy Young
The last of Seaver’s three Cy Young awards came in 1975, a pedestrian year for the Mets but a banner year for their greatest-ever player. His best game of the year came on a Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, where he pitched a 10-inning, no-run start that, of course, the Mets would end up losing 1-0. But already a 20-game winner at that point, Seaver likely locked up his third Cy Young award at that point, and he would handily win with 15 of 24 first place votes.
5. July 9, 1969: Season-turning win against Chicago
This wasn’t the Black Cat Game, but this was arguably the turning point for the Mets in their miraculous 1969 season. With the Mets down six games in the win column to the first-place Cubs, Seaver pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout, striking out eleven Cubs batters and adding an RBI single for himself in the second inning. Seaver would end up winning a league-high 25 games that season, nearly unanimously earning his first Cy Young Award and finishing second in the MVP voting, capping off his magical season with a World Series win.
4. June 16, 1978: His first and only no-hitter
Though Seaver is synonymous with the Mets, many of his milestone moments came with other franchises, most notably his 3,000th strikeout, his 300th win, and his only no-hitter, pitched in 1978 for the Cincinnati Reds. Seaver struck out only three Cardinals but frustrated hitters by inducing 15 ground ball outs and walking only three. Seaver would win 75 games in six years with Cincinnati and even led them to a playoff berth in 1979, while many Mets fans still lament that one of his greatest individual performances did not happen in orange and blue.
3. May 1, 1974: 12-inning, 16-strikeout loss
Okay, this one is bananas. On May 1st, 1974, Tom Seaver strolled into Dodger Stadium and struck out 16 batters over 12 innings, giving up only one run on a Steve Garvey home run in the fifth. A Wayne Garrett home run bailed Seaver out from an undeserved loss, but it wasn’t enough to get him or the Mets a win. In the bottom of the 14th inning, Garvey struck again, hitting the game winning single up the middle against Harry Parker, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 victory. Seaver recorded his highest game score ever at 106, with the game of course ending up in a Mets loss.
2. April 22, 1970: Seaver sets two records
Though his 19-strikeout start against the Padres is only his fifth-best according to game score, this was arguably Seaver’s greatest individual performance and unarguably one of the greatest pitching performances of all time. Against the Padres in late April, Seaver set a major-league record by striking out 19 batters in a nine-inning game, eclipsed only three times since then by Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood, and Max Scherzer. Additionally, Seaver set a major-league record by striking out the last 10 Padres batters he faced, a record that has yet to be topped.
He needed every one of those outs as well, as the Mets would only score two runs off a Ken Boswell RBI double in the first and a Bud Harrelson RBI triple in the fifth. Al Farrera’s second-inning home run was Seaver’s only blemish in the box score, but it’s an outlier compared to the five ks and five backwards ks that filled the last three-and-a-third columns of San Diego’s scorecard. If all the games counted the same, this would be Seaver’s magnum opus. But as every year has two baseball seasons, there is one game that still eclipses this one.
1. October 15, 1969: Seaver wins Game 4 of the World Series
It’s a legend at this point: The Mets’ young ace struggled in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Braves, with the Mets making the World Series in spite of their best player’s performance, not because of it. And when given a chance to redeem himself in Game 1 of the World Series, Seaver struggled again, giving up four runs in five innings to the Baltimore Orioles in his first postseason loss. And then the Mets won Games 2 and 3, finding themselves with a lead giving the ball back to their franchise player. He did not disappoint.
Seaver pitched eight innings of scoreless baseball before giving up the tying run on a Brooks Robinson sacrifice fly in the ninth. He finished the ninth and came out again to pitch a scoreless tenth, allowing the Mets to take Game 3 on an errant throw to first base in the bottom of the tenth. He finished with ten innings pitched, six hits, and one run in the biggest game of his career.
By game score, this game doesn’t even crack his top-50 pitching performances. By his own standards, this was his only truly great postseason game. But in 1969 the franchise cornerstone brought the Mets out of the cellar and into the spotlight, and once there he proved why he was one of the greatest to ever pitch.