With your indulgence, I’m going to break format to talk about Tom Seaver, one of my childhood icons (when I was a kid, I was lucky to have three: Seaver, Paul McCartney, and Mr. Spock. Seaver passed away on August 31, 2020 at age 75 after a lengthy battle with Lyme disease, dementia and Covid-19.
Here, 1969 Met teammates Cleon Jones, Jerry Koosman and Ron Swoboda stand in front of the newly christened Citifield entrance, now 41 Seaver Way, and hold a NYC Department of Transportation street sign that would be be affixed to 126th Street between Northern Blvd. and Roosevelt Avenue on the east side of the stadium. 41 was Seaver’s uniform number, retired by the Mets years ago.
The signs honor Fresno, California native, U.S. Marine and Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, the greatest player the star-crossed New York Mets have ever produced. Playing before the pitch-count era, he amassed 311 victories and 231 complete games, wining the Cy Young Award three times and winning 20 games in a season five times over a 20-year career with the Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. His arrival to the Mets in 1967 marked a change in the team’s outlook—formerly an aggregation of other teams’ castoffs, the Seaver-era Mets were renowned for pitching and defense, though making only two World Series and winning one, in 1969.
Yet the Mets haven’t served Seaver’s efforts particularly well. He was traded in 1977, still at the peak of his career, during a contract dispute. After the Mets brought him back for the 1983 season, he was inexplicably left off the Mets’ free-agent draft protected list and was promptly claimed by the White Sox. After the Mets’ new park, Citifield, opened in 2009, Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon made the grand entrance to the stadium a shrine to Jackie Robinson—a historic major leaguer, but a Brooklyn Dodger. Seaver and other Mets standouts settled for pennants on lampposts outside the park.
Finally the Wilpons decided to set Seaver’s legacy aright in 2019 by commissioning a statue him, renaming the stadium address for him as well as petitioning the city to rename 126th Street as Seaver Way. However, they did this after Seaver’s dementia diagnosis, a complication of Lyme disease he acquired tending to his California vineyards. Seaver could not travel to the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 championship at Citifield, and he never again visited the stadium that bears his name on its letterhead.
On the day after Seaver’s death was announced the Mets rubbed dirt on the right knees of their uniforms as a tribute to the dirt that accumulated on Seaver’s knee as he followed through after throwing a pitch. Pete Alonso cracked a game winning home run to beat the Yankees.
The Mets will wear a black circle with the #41 on their right shoulders for the remainder of the season.