George Thomas "Tom" Seaver (born November 17, 1944), nicknamed "Tom Terrific" and "The Franchise", is a former Major League Baseballpitcher. He pitched from 1967-1986 for four different teams in his career, but is noted primarily for his time with the New York Mets. During a 20-year career, Seaver compiled 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts and a 2.86 earned run average. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage ever recorded (98.84%), and has the only plaque at Cooperstown wearing a New York Mets hat. As of 2010, Tom Seaver and Gil Hodges (played for the Mets in 1962-63) are the only Met players to have their jersey numbers retired by the team (Gil Hodges' number was retired as a manager even though he also played for the Mets).
Seaver was born in Fresno, California to Betty Lee Cline and Charles Henry Seaver. Pitching for Fresno High School, Seaver compensated for his lack of size and strength by developing great control on the mound. Despite being an All-City basketball player, he hoped to play baseball in college.
In 1966, he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves, who had drafted him in the first round of the secondary June draft (20th overall). However, the contract was voided by Baseball CommissionerWilliam Eckert because his college team had played two exhibition games that year (although Seaver himself hadn't played). Seaver intended, then, to finish the college season, but because he had signed a pro contract, the NCAA ruled him ineligible. After Seaver's father complained to Eckert about the unfairness of the situation, and threatened with a lawsuit, Eckert ruled that other teams could match the Braves' offer. The Mets were subsequently awarded his signing rights in a lottery drawing among the three teams (the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians being the two others) that were willing to match the Braves' terms.
Seaver spent one season with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League, then joined New York in 1967. He won 16 games for the last-place Mets, with 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA, all Mets records to that point, and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He was also named to the 1967 All-Star Game, and got the save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning. In 1968, he won 16 games again, and recorded over 200 strikeouts for the first of nine consecutive seasons, but the Mets moved up only one spot in the standings, to ninth.
In 1969, Seaver and the Mets won their first World Series championship. Seaver won a league-high 25 games and his first National League Cy Young Award. He also finished runner-up to Willie McCovey for the League's Most Valuable Player Award.
On July 9, before a crowd of over 59,000 at New York's Shea Stadium, Seaver threw 81⁄3 perfect innings against the division-leading Chicago Cubs. Then, rookie backup outfielder Jimmy Qualls lined a clean single to left field, breaking up Seaver's perfect game.
In the first-ever NLCS game, Seaver outlasted Atlanta's Phil Niekro for a sloppy 9-5 victory. Seaver was also the starter for the Mets' first World Series game, but lost a 4-1 decision to the Baltimore Orioles' Mike Cuellar. Seaver then pitched a 10-inning complete-game for a 2-1 win in Game Four to put the Mets on the cusp of their first championship.
On April 22, 1970, Seaver set a major league record by striking out the final 10 batters of the game in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium. Al Ferrara, who had homered in the second inning for the Padres' run, was the final strikeout victim of the game. In addition to his 10 consecutive strikeouts, Seaver tied Steve Carlton's major league record with 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game,. The Mets also won the game in which Carlton struck out 19, with Carlton victimized by Ron Swoboda's pair of 2-run homers in a 4-3 Mets victory in St. Louis on September 15, 1969. (The record was later eclipsed by 20-strikeout games by Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson, and twice by Roger Clemens.) By mid-August, Seaver's record stood at 17-6 and he seemed well on his way to a second consecutive 20-victory season. But he only won one of his last ten starts, including four on short rest, to finish 18-12. Nonetheless, Seaver led the National League in both ERA and strikeouts.
His 1971 season was arguably Seaver's finest year, when he led the league in ERA (1.76) and strikeouts (289 in 286 innings) while going 20-10. However, he finished second in the Cy Young balloting to Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs, due to Jenkins' league-leading 24 wins, 325 innings pitched, and exceptional control numbers. Seaver himself has said that 1971 was his best season.
Seaver had four more twenty-win seasons (20 in 1971, 21 in 1972, 22 in 1975, and 21 in 1977) (7 wins for the Mets, then 14 more after being traded to the Reds). He won two more Cy Young Awards (1973 and 1975, both with the Mets).
During his tenure with the Mets, Seaver made 108 starts in which he pitched 9 or more innings and allowed 1 run or less. His record in those starts is 93 - 3 with 12 no-decisions. In seven of the 12 no-decisions, he pitched 10 or more innings. In the 12 no-decisions, he pitched a total of 117 innings, allowing 56 hits and 5 earned runs, compiling a 0.38 ERA.
Between 1970 and 1976, Seaver led the National League in strikeouts five of the seven seasons, finishing second in 1972 and third in 1974. Seaver also won three ERA titles as a Met. Two famous quotes about Seaver are attributed to Reggie Jackson: "Blind men come to the park just to hear him pitch." The second was that, while pitching for the Mets during the 1973 World series, 6th game, with the Mets up 3 games to 2, and so poised to win their second Championship, with Mr. Seaver scheduled to start. He did, but did not have his "arm" that day, his arm strength, that is, and the opposing team knew it. Seaver would go on to start and lose the 6th game... Mr. Jackson is reported to have said "Seaver pitched with his heart that day." Seaver was perhaps the foremost latter-day exponent of "drop and drive" overhand delivery, but his powerful legs protected his arm, and ensured his longevity. Seaver was frequently compared to fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson.
By 1977, the free agency period had begun and contract negotiations between Mets ownership and Seaver were not going well. Seaver wanted to renegotiate his contract to bring his salary in line with what other top pitchers were making, but chairman of the board M. Donald Grant, who by this time had been given carte blanche by Met management to do what he wished, refused to budge. Longtime New York Daily News columnist Dick Young regularly wrote negative columns about Seaver's "greedy" demands. As for Seaver, he attempted to resolve the impasse by going to then-team owner Lorinda de Roulet, who along with then-GM Joe McDonald, had negotiated in principle a three-year contract extension by mid-June. But before the contract could be signed, Young wrote an unattributed story in the Daily News claiming that Seaver was being goaded by his wife to ask for more money because she was jealous of the fact that Nolan Ryan was making more money with the California Angels. Upon being informed of the story, Seaver informed de Roulet that he immediately wanted out, and asked McDonald to immediately trade him, feeling that he could not co-exist with M. Donald Grant.
In one of two trades that New York's sports reporters dubbed "the Midnight Massacre" (the other involved struggling outfielder Dave Kingman), Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977 (the trading deadline for that year) for pitcher Pat Zachry, minor league outfielder Steve Henderson, infielder Doug Flynn, and minor league outfielder Dan Norman. Seaver would go 14-3 with Cincinnati and win 21 games that season, including an emotional 5-1 win over the Mets in his return to Shea Stadium. Seaver struck out 11 in the return, and also hit a double. Seaver, who was immensely popular in New York, also received a lengthy ovation at the 1977 All-Star Game, which was held in New York's Yankee Stadium. His departure from New York sparked sustained negative fan reaction, as the Mets became the league's worst team, finishing in last place the next 3 seasons. Combined with the Yankees' resurgence in the market, attendance dipped in 1978, and plunged in 1979 to 9,740 per game. M. Donald Grant was fired after the 1978 season, and Joe McDonald was fired after the 1979 season following a sale of the team to publishing magnate Nelson Doubleday, Jr.. In a sardonic nod to the general manager, Shea Stadium acquired the nickname "Grant's Tomb".
After having thrown five one-hitters for New York, including two no-hitters that were broken up in the 9th inning, Seaver finally recorded a 4-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978 at Riverfront Stadium. It was the only no-hitter of his professional career.
Tom Seaver was 75-46 during his time in Cincinnati. Notably, he led the Cincinnati pitching staff in 1979, when the Reds won the Western Division crown, and (along with Mario Soto) in the strike-shortened 1981 season, during which the Reds had the best record in the major leagues. In the latter season, Seaver, with his sterling 14 - 2 performance, was a close runner-up to Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Cy Young Award. (Seaver had finished third and fourth in two other previous years.) Interestingly, in the 1981 season, during one of his 2 losses, Seaver recorded his 3000th strikeout. It was a game in which he was not pitching well, but pressed on, knowing the fans were waiting for the moment. After recording his 3000th, he took himself out of the game, walking off the mound, yet to congratulatory cheers... He suffered through an injury-ridden 1982 campaign, finishing 5-13.
Seaver and the Mets were stunned on January 20, 1984 when he was claimed in a free-agent compensation draft by the Chicago White Sox. The team (especially GM Frank Cashen) had incorrectly assumed that no one would pursue a high-salaried, 39-year-old starting pitcher, and left him off the protected list. Faced with either reporting to the White Sox or retiring, Seaver chose the former. The result for the Mets was an opening in the starting rotation that allowed Dwight Gooden to be part of the team.
Seaver pitched two and a half seasons in Chicago, crafting his last shutout on July 19, 1985 against the visiting Indians. In an anomaly, Seaver won two games on May 9, 1984; he pitched the 25th and final inning of a game suspended the day before, picking up the win in relief against the Milwaukee Brewers, before starting and winning the day's regularly scheduled game, also facing the Brewers. This unexpected win set up one of Seaver's most memorable moments.
After Seaver's 298th win, a reporter had pointed out to White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk that following his upcoming start in Boston, Seaver's next scheduled start would be in New York, and that the possibility existed that he might achieve the mark there. Fisk emphatically stated that Seaver would win in Boston, and then would win his 300th.
On August 4, 1985, Seaver recorded his 300th victory at New York against the Yankees, throwing a complete game 4-1 victory. Don Baylor, the tying run, hit a fly ball to left field for the final out of the game. Coincidentally, it was Phil Rizzuto Day – Seaver would later become Rizzuto's broadcast partner for Yankee games. Lindsey Nelson, a Mets radio and TV announcer during Seaver's Mets days, called the final out for Yankees TV flagship WPIX.
Late in 1985, his next-to-last season, Seaver almost returned to the Mets, as general manager Frank Cashen was poised to make a late-season trade. However, manager Davey Johnson vetoed the idea, and Seaver instead ended his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1986 after being traded for Steve Lyons in mid-season. Seaver's 311th and last win came on August 18, 1986 against the Minnesota Twins. At the time of his retirement, Seaver was third on the all-time strikeout list (3,640), trailing only Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. No major league pitcher ever has matched his feat of striking out ten consecutive batters. His career average of 6.85 strikeouts per nine innings is third only to Nolan Ryan (9.55) and Randy Johnson of any Hall of Famer with at least 300 wins. Seaver's lifetime ERA of 2.86 was third among starting pitchers in the Live Ball Era, behind only Whitey Ford (2.73) and Sandy Koufax (2.76). (Jim Palmer and Andy Messersmith both have a career earned run average of 2.86 as well.) Seaver also holds the record for consecutive 200-strike-out seasons with nine (1968–1976). Seaver's 61 career shutouts are second only to Warren Spahn (63) in the Live Ball Era. His career win-loss record percentage of .603 is one of the highest of any Hall of Fame pitcher with 300 wins in the Live Ball Era, and his record of 7.84 hits per nine innings is second only to Nolan Ryan (6.56) for all Hall of Fame pitchers with at least three hundred wins, and first among all HOF pitchers in any era with 300 wins, 3000 strikeouts, and a winning percentage of .600 or better. A knee injury prevented him from appearing against the Mets in the 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox, but Seaver received among the loudest ovations during player introductions prior to Game 1. Roger Clemens attributes the time he shared with Seaver as 1986 Red Sox teammates as instrumental in helping him make the transition from thrower to pitcher. The Red Sox did not offer Seaver a contract to his liking for the 1987 season. His 1986 salary was $1 million; the Red Sox offered $500,000, which Seaver declined. When no new contract agreement was reached, Seaver was granted free agency on November 12, 1986.
In 1987, with their starting rotation decimated by injury, the Mets sought help from Seaver. Though no actual contract was signed, Seaver joined the club on June 6, and was hit hard in an exhibition game against the Triple-A Tidewater Tides on June 11. After similarly poor outings on the 16th & 20th, he announced his retirement, saying, "I've used up all the competitive pitches in my arm!" The Mets retired his uniform number 41 in 1988 in a special Tom Seaver Day ceremony. As of 2015, Seaver remains the only Met player to have his uniform number retired. Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges had their numbers retired as Met managers, and Jackie Robinson had his number retired by all teams. Their numbers—14 (Hodges), 37 (Stengel), 41 (Seaver), and 42 (Jackie Robinson) -- were posted in large numerals on the outfield fence at Shea Stadium, and are posted on the left field corner wall at Citi Field. He is one of only two pitchers (the other being Walter Johnson) to have 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, and an under 3.00 ERA.
Seaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 7, 1992. He received the highest-ever percentage of votes with 98.84% (on 425 of 430 ballots), higher than Nolan Ryan's 98.79% (491 of 497), and Ty Cobb's 98.23% (222 of 226). Three of the five ballots that had omitted Seaver were blank, cast by writers protesting the Hall's decision to make Pete Rose ineligible for consideration. One ballot was sent by a writer who was recovering from open-heart surgery and failed to notice Seaver's name. The fifth "no" vote was cast by a writer who said he never voted for any player in their first year of eligibility. Seaver is the only player enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque. He was also inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1988, the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1999, Seaver ranked 32nd on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the only player to have spent a majority of his career with the Mets to make the list. That year, he was also a nominee for the Major League BaseballAll-Century Team. Baseball purists often compare him to Christy Mathewson for his combination of raw power, pinpoint control, intelligence, and intense scrutiny of his performance. Seaver was the foremost latter-day exponent of "drop and drive" overhand delivery that utilitized his powerful legs, took strain off of his arm, and helped ensure his longevity. He always credited the training he received in the Mets organization, citing the long careers of teammates Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw as further proof. Seaver could also help himself at the plate. A decent hitter and proficient bunter, Seaver hit 12 home runs during his career, along with a relatively solid lifetime average for a pitcher of .154.
Hank Aaron stated that Seaver was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. Seaver approached Aaron before his first All-Star Game in 1967 and asked Aaron for his autograph. Seaver felt the need to introduce himself to Aaron, as he was certain "Hammerin' Hank" would not know who he was. Aaron replied to Seaver, "Kid, I know who you are, and before your career is over, I guarantee you everyone in this stadium will, too."
On September 28, 2006, Seaver was chosen as the "Hometown Hero" for the Mets franchise by ESPN. Seaver made a return to Shea Stadium during the "Shea Goodbye" closing ceremony on September 28, 2008, where he threw out the final pitch in the history of the stadium to Mike Piazza. He and Piazza then opened the Mets' new home, Citi Field with the ceremonial first pitch on April 13, 2009.
Seaver married the former Nancy Lynn McIntyre on June 9, 1966. They are parents of two daughters, Sarah and Annie. They live in Calistoga, California, where he started his own 3.5-acre (14,000 m2) vineyard, Seaver Family Vineyards, on his 116-acre (0.47 km2) estate in 2002. His first vintage was produced in 2005. He presented his two cabernets, "Nancy's Fancy" and "GTS", in an April 2010 wine-tasting event in SoHo to positive reviews.
His media nickname referred to the cartoon character Tom Terrific.
In 1991 Seaver was diagnosed with Lyme disease which caused Bell's palsy. After lying dormant in his system the disease reoccurred in 2012. Seaver suffered from loss of memory not even remembering long term acquaintances, "sleep disorder, nausea, and a general overall feeling of chemical imbalance". In January 2013 Seaver was diagnosed with Stage 3 of the disease. As of July 2013, after a treatment regimen of mostly vitamins, Seaver was feeling much better.