Tom Terrific Takes a Terrible Turn; Longtime Trouble Worsens Tragically

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Hi all. Yesterday was another day of great unhappiness in the baseball world. News of deaths and illness among baseball greats have dotted columns like this one. This time it’s the Mets’ Tom Seaver, #41, “The Franchise” and above all Tom Terrific. In the ’60s and ’70s you didn’t have to ask who Tom Terrific was. Now, dementia has struck yet another baseball man of that era. Seaver is in the company of Fritz Peterson, Jim Bouton and his own shortstop from those halcyon days with the Mets, Bud Harrelson. They make up a small group of men in their 70s for whom dementia is damaging their minds.
This isn’t a totally new problem for Seaver. While he’s 74 and that’s early for dementia, his memory issues date back nearly decade to when he suffered a recurrence of Lyme disease. As a result of the latest cruel twist of fate, Seaver won’t be seen in public again; not when the ’69 Mets meet at Citi Field in June, not if the woeful Mets should ever luck out and make the playoffs again, not ever. He’ll work in his winery as long as his body gives him leave to do so. Winemaking has been his life since 2005.
Early on, Seaver was a Marine, then played summer ball for the Alaska Goldpanners before beginning a short career at USC. He hreached Shea Stadium in 1967, at age 22. 3 times he claimed the Cy Young award–1969, 1973 and 1975. He won 25 games in 1969, leading the Mets’ charge from third place in mid-August to the top of the heap in mid-October. For that he came up second in the MVP voting. Like Jacob DeGrom a year ago, Seaver won his last Cy Young on a truly awful team whose ownership showed its gratitude by trading Seaver to Cincinnati. He carried on for another decade, winning his 300th game against the Yankees as a member of the White Sox. He was with the ’86 Red Sox, but in his final year he wasn’t part of the postseason roster. He was an All-Star a dozen times, the first being 1967 when he got the save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning. He was his league’s Rookie of the Year in 1967. A quarter century later he was inducted in Cooperstown with close to 99% of the required votes. He and catcher Mike Piazza are the two players with Mets’ caps on their HOF plaques.
Like DeGrom today, Seaver rarely got run support. In his decade with the Mets he started 108 games in which he pitched 9 or more innings allowing 1 run or less. He has a 93–3–12 record in those games. Among the 12 no-decisions he pitched 10 or more innings 7 times. He pitched 117 innings in those 12 no-decisions, giving up a grand total of 5 runs. That’s a 0.38 ERA, how like the dominance of DeGrom who won last year’s Cy Young award while barely breaking .500. Two sluggers who ought to know their pitchers had high praise for Seaver. Henry Aaron called him the toughest pitcher he ever faced. Reggie Jackson said of Seaver, “Blind men come to the park to hear him pitch.”
Even while he was still active, Seaver did some TV work. It was allowable then for active players to do color commentary for the playoffs and World Series. Seaver was one who did. Another fine pitcher, Rick Sutcliff showed great ability at the microphone while still an active player. Seaver worked for ABC, the Yankees, NBC, and finally the Mets on TV.
He had dealt with Lyme disease as early as 1991. It had remained dormant in his system until 2012 when, among other things he began to suffer the short-term memory loss which led to his present diagnosis. The hope among Mets’ fans is that ownership will right a wrong that should never have existed. How many teams have busts of their great players outside their parks, if not inside them? Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park was the stuff of legends when the monuments were in play. St. Louis has several statues of its great Cardinals. The Mets’ only statue is that of Jackie Robinson, who although a baseball icon never played for the Mets. I don’t know how long it takes to create one of these statues, but the notoriously incompetent Mets’ ownership needs to step up now on Seaver’s behalf.

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