Even the Golden Boy of the Miracle Mets is not immune to the ravages of age.
Tom Seaver – the Hall of Fame pitcher whose right arm helped the 1969 New York Mets achieve baseball’s “impossible dream” – this week was diagnosed with dementia.
For those who remember that team and that time, it’s a bitter and cold blast of reality.
“It’s so sad,” said Villager Stu Sachs, a longtime, die-hard Mets fan. “To me, Tom Seaver is the Mets. He will always be my all-time favorite Mets player. His presence guaranteed competitiveness. He was – and is – a winner.”
Calendars and birth certificates don’t lie.
In 1969, the Mets won the World Series. In 2019, Tom Seaver is 74. This year’s 50th anniversary of that Mets’ championship will be bittersweet. But, in the end, age and disease catches up with us all.
Somehow, you just know that Seaver – nicknamed Tom Terrific – will give this fight all he’s got. The man’s got game – and showed courage and grit on the diamond.
“Tom Terrific for a reason,” fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer tweeted on Thursday. “I always strove to be like Tom both on and off the field.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York released the following statement on Thursday: “The Seaver family announced today that Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has recently been diagnosed with dementia. Tom will continue to work in his beloved vineyard at his California home, but has chosen to completely retire from public life. The family is deeply appreciative of those who have supported Tom throughout his career, on and off the field, and who do so now by honoring his request for privacy.”
Seaver spent 12 years with the Mets and two decades in the Big Leagues. He earned the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1967. Seaver won the Cy Young Award – as baseball’s best pitcher – three times. He made the All-Star team 12 times.
Seaver’s career record stood at 312-205, with an ERA of 2.86. He also played for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.
No one in New York will ever forget the magical season of 1969 with the Mets. The New Yorkers had been the laughingstock of the National League. They finished with a 73-89 record in 1968.
Everything changed a year later.
The Mets won 100 games in 1969 for Manager Gil Hodges. Seaver finished the year 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA. Players like Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, Jerry Koosman, Tommy Agee, Ed Kranepool and Buddy Harrelson became Big Apple folk heroes.
The Mets upset the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 1 in the ’69 Series. Seaver won Game 4 by pitching 10 innings and the Mets won the game, 2-1.
It was classic Seaver.
“Tom did everything with class and dignity,” Kranepool told the New York Post. “Everything he did on the field was 100 percent. He was one of a kind.”
“I was proud to be his teammate,” Jones said. “No one competed like Tom Seaver.’’
Baseball is a game dominated by statistics. It takes more than numbers or analytics to fully comprehend the accomplishments of Tom Seaver. He symbolized change for a New York baseball team during a time of dramatic upheaval in America.
Seaver was a symbol of hope to a sports franchise, its fans and a city. He – like those ’69 Mets – proved that if you work hard and believe in something bigger than yourself, dreams can come true.
Even impossible dreams.
Tony Violanti is an award-winning journalist and writes for Villages-News.com.