Friday, January 14, 2011

#80 - Tom Seaver

If there is a New York icon in this set, this guy is it. Tom Terrific (I never liked that nickname) was the most consistent NY All-Star of his time and again was a pivotal reason the Mets got into the post-season. While he came up just shy of 20 wins, his miniscule ERA, NL-leading strikeout totals, and very nice post-season work helped him grab his second Cy in '73. Here he is pitching at Shea with John Milner in the background as well as some blob-like thing right over Tom's butt. It looks like Topps blurred that bit out intentionally, but I wonder why? If it was something untoward in the stands, I cannot imagine it would be seen clearly, since nothing else that far back is. It does look like Tom is throwing heat here, so maybe it's just something thermal.

Tom Seaver had an interesting time of things even before hitting the majors. He graduated high school in Fresno in '62 and did a stint in the Marines. He attended Fresno City College from '63 to '64 and in the summers of '64 and '65 played baseball in Alaska. He initially went there at the suggestion of Rod Dedeaux, the USC coach, who was interested in signing Tom but wanted to see him first against some major college competition. Tom passed the test and went to USC for the '65 and part of the '66 seasons. He was drafted by the Dodgers in '65 but shot them down (he thought it would take too long to reach the majors with them). The Braves signed him in early '66 but the signing was voided as a sort of tampering case. The Mets then signed Tom as a free agent to their Triple A Jacksonville Suns team and he had a nice season in his only minor league time, going 12-12 with a 3.13 ERA. Then it was all MLB time.

Seaver came up in '67 and went 16-13 for a team that would lose over 100 games. He won that year's Rookie of the Year award and never looked back. In '68 he won 16 again and put up his first year of over 200 K's under Gil Hodges. Then came the magic year of '69: 25 wins, a 2.21 ERA, his first Cy Young, and the big Series win. From then until '73 he would average over 20 wins, over 200 Ks and never top 3.00 in ERA. In '70 he led the NL in strikeouts and ERA. He turned that trick again in '71, posting a sick ERA while coming in second in the Cy race. After another excellent '72, by '73 he had begun acquiring his vineyard interests in California and he hurt himself moving cases of wine, missing some starts and almost for sure another 20-win season. He also won the division-clincher against the Cubs and had that excellent post-season, even though he only went 1-2 (he put up 35 Ks in 31 innings and had a 2.00 ERA). In '74 hip problems dropped his record to 11-11 as he missed a few more starts and had a tough time completing games - the Mets were pretty awful that year - but he bounced back in '75 to win 22 and grab his third Cy. '76 was Koosman's year and Tom would post the last of his nine successive 200 K seasons as his decisions dropped substantially and he went only 14-11 despite another excellent ERA of 2.59. The next season, in the wake of bitter contract negotiations between Seaver and Mets GM Donald Grant, Tom was on a nice early season roll when at the June trading deadline the unthinkable happened: he was sent to the Reds for a bunch of young players: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry, and Dan Norman.

For pretty obvious reasons the trade of Seaver was hugely unpopular in NY, and while a couple of the kids would have some decent seasons, that Tom went on to win 21 games that year really cemented the bad feelings generated by the transaction. It certainly wasn't all bad for him though. NY was at the beginning of a downward spiral that would produce some ugly teams and last though the early Eighties. Meanwhile, Cincy was still tough and after a 16-14/2.88 year in '78 that was his final one of over 200 strikeouts, Tom returned to the post-season in '79 with a 16-6 year. In '80 he missed a bunch of starts to the hip again and his record fell to 10-8 in the first year his ERA was sub-par to the NL's. But a big season followed in the strike year of '81 when Tom went 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA to nearly nab another Cy. Unfortunately that year was followed by an '82 when he had his arguably only bad season: 5-13 with an ERA that exceeded 5.00.

In '83 Seaver returned to the Mets in another trade with a bunch of kids on the other side. NY made a huge deal about Tom's return but after a middling year for him they then left him unprotected following the season. The White Sox picked him as a free agent compensation pick as they had lost Dennis Lamp to Toronto. Then any team losing a player to free agency had the right to pick any unprotected player from any team. Tom then won 31 games in two years for the Sox, including his 300th win at Yankee Stadium. In '86 he pitched for both Chicago and Boston. It was his final season and he saw no action in that post-season. Seaver retired with a record of 311-205, a 2.86 ERA, 231 complete games, 61 shutouts, a save, and 3,640 strikeouts. In his three post-seasons he was 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 51 strikeouts in his eight games. On top of his three Cy Young's and ROY he made 12 All-Star teams. He went in the Hall on his first ballot in '92. He has become a professional vintner and done lots of broadcasting, first for the Yankees and then the Mets.

At this point in Tom's career he could have had about 30 impressive star bullets. The game with the 10 consecutive K's was against the Padres in which he struck out a total of 18. He actually did enjoy playing bridge. That was what he was doing when Jerry Koosman had a locker room guy impersonate Howard Cosell on the radio in the early 70's and say Seaver had been traded to Houston for Doug Rader. At the time trading Tom was unimaginable. Little did they know...

Tenace and Seaver again met in the '73 Series. How do we get them together?:

1. Seaver and Keith Hernandez '83 Mets;
2. Hernandez and Gene Tenace '81 to '82 Cards.

Another All-Star. That's appropriate.

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