Tom Seaver Biography
Often referred to simply as The Franchise during his time in New York, Tom Seaver was the greatest player in New York Mets history. The righthander helped bring a level of respectability to a franchise that previously experienced little in the way of success, eventually leading his team to two National League pennants and one world championship. Seaver did so with an air of professionalism that made him one of the most admired and respected players of his time.
Born in Fresno, California on November 17, 1944, George Thomas Seaver honed his pitching skills first at Fresno High School, and, later, at the University of Southern California. He spent just one season in the minor leagues with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League before joining the New York Mets at the start of the 1967 campaign. Employing near-perfect pitching mechanics during his delivery to home plate, Seaver was already a finished product by the time he arrived in New York. The 22-year-old hurler captured N.L. Rookie of the Year honors by winning 16 games for the last-place Mets, while compiling an ERA of 2.76, striking out 170 batters, and finishing among the league leaders with 18 complete games and 251 innings pitched. Seaver earned the first of seven consecutive selections to the All-Star Team.
Seaver made a mockery of the so-called “sophomore jinx” the following year, winning another 16 games for the ninth-place Mets, throwing 14 complete games, and placing near the top of the league rankings with 278 innings pitched, 205 strikeouts, and a 2.20 ERA. It was the first of a record nine straight years in which the righthander surpassed 200 strikeouts.
Tom Terrific took his game up a notch in 1969, winning the N.L. Cy Young Award, finishing second in the league MVP voting, and leading the Mets to their first world championship. Seaver led all of baseball with a record of 25-7, and he also placed among the National League leaders with a 2.21 ERA, 208 strikeouts, 18 complete games, and 273 innings pitched. After winning Game One of the NLCS despite allowing five earned runs in seven innings of work, Seaver lost the first game of the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles, permitting the Birds four runs in the five innings he pitched. However, the Mets’ ace was far more effective in Game Four, notching a 2-1, complete-game, 10-inning victory to put his team on the brink of winning their first World Series. At season’s end, Seaver was presented with both the Hickock Belt as the top professional athlete of the year, and Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year award.
Seaver pitched extremely well again in 1970, compiling a record of 18-12, throwing 19 complete games and 291 innings, and leading all N.L. hurlers with a 2.82 earned run average and 283 strikeouts. On April 22 of that year, the righthander struck out 19 San Diego Padres, including a record 10 in a row to end the game, to tie Steve Carlton’s then-major league record for a nine-inning game.
Even though he finished second in the Cy Young voting to Ferguson Jenkins, Seaver had perhaps his greatest season in 1971. In addition to compiling a record of 20-10 and throwing 286 innings, The Franchise hurled a career-high 21 complete games, while also leading the league with a career-best 1.76 ERA and 289 strikeouts. After being overshadowed by Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton in 1972 despite winning 21 games himself, Seaver claimed his second Cy Young Award the following season when he led the Mets to within one game of their second world championship. The righthander finished the 1973 campaign with a record of 19-10 and a league-leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games, and 251 strikeouts. He then led New York past the heavily-favored Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, winning one of his two starts, while compiling a 1.62 ERA against the Big Red Machine. Seaver failed to earn a victory against Oakland in the World Series, losing his only decision, but he allowed only four earned runs in 15 innings of work, for an outstanding 2.40 ERA.
A sore hip limited Seaver to 11 victories in 1974, but he returned the following year to win the Cy Young Award for the third and final time in his career. The righthander led the National League with 22 victories and 243 strikeouts, and he also finished among the leaders with a 2.38 ERA, 15 complete games, and 280 innings pitched.
The Mets’ feable offense enabled Seaver to win only 14 of his 25 decisions in 1976, even though he led all N.L. hurlers with 235 strikeouts and also placed among the leaders with a 2.59 ERA, 271 innings pitched, and five shutouts.
The 1976 campaign turned out to be Seaver’s last big year in New York. Contract squabbles and philosophical differences with Mets General Manager M. Donald Grant led to a trade of the star righthander to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977. In what was referred to in the New York newspapers as The Midnight Massacre, Seaver was dealt to the Reds for pitchers Pat Zachry and Dan Norman, young outfielder Steve Henderson, and second baseman Doug Flynn. The departure of Seaver broke the hearts of Mets fans and destroyed the morale of the team, which finished near the bottom of the league rankings the next several seasons. Meanwhile, Seaver continued to excel in Cincinnati, winning 14 of his 17 decisions with his new team to finish the year with a record of 21-6. He also compiled an exceptional 2.58 ERA, completed 19 games, and led the league with seven shutouts.
Tom Terrific had four more strong seasons for the Reds, before his pitching skills began to fade. He was at his very best during the strike-shortened 1981 campaign, when he led the league with a record of 14-2, compiled an outstanding 2.54 earned run average, and finished second to Dodger lefthander Fernando Valenzuela in the Cy Young voting. After Seaver’s record slipped to 5-13 the following year, Cincinnati traded him back to the Mets for three players. The righthander finished the 1983 season with a record of only 9-14 for the lowly Mets, but he posted a very respectable 3.55 ERA. Left unprotected in the free agent compensation pool at the end of the year, the 39-year-old righthander was claimed by the Chicago White Sox, with whom he spent the next two seasons. Seaver won a total of 31 games for the Sox in 1984 and 1985, one of which made him a member of the exclusive 300-victory club. He spent the 1986 campaign with the Boston Red Sox, retiring at the end of the year with a career record of 311-205, an ERA of 2.86, 3,640 strikeouts, and only 3,971 hits allowed in 4,783 total innings of work.
Seaver led his league in wins and ERA three times each, in shutouts twice, in complete games once, and in strikeouts five times. He was a 20-game winner five times, compiled an ERA under 2.50 five times, threw more than 250 innings 11 times, and struck out more than 200 batters on ten separate occasions. Seaver was named to 12 All-Star teams, and, in addition to winning the Cy Young Award three times, he placed in the top five in the balloting another five times.
Tom Seaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 7, 1992, receiving in
the process the highest percentage of votes ever accorded any player (98.84%). Greatly
respected by his teammates and opponents alike, Seaver has been identified by Hank
Aaron as the toughest pitcher he ever faced. Furthermore, in an ESPN poll among his peers, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, and Don Sutton all agreed that Seaver was “the best” pitcher of their generation.