Seaver, Tom

views updated May 11 2018

Tom Seaver


American baseball player

As Tom Seaver himself put it, there was nothing like "seeing someone do what they love, and do it so well then later on being able to do it myself." For millions of fans, Seaver was the epitome of a baseball pitcher, and for nearly two decades they watched this hard-working perfectionist, the first true superstar of the New York Mets, lead that franchise to its first World Series Championship in franchise history.

Growing Up

Tom Seaver was born November 17, 1944, in Fresno, California. He would begin little league ball at the age of nine, and at twelve, pitch his first no-hitter. He was also the team's leading hitter. But Seaver's little league stardom would not last long. He was a late-bloomer, and found himself lagging behind his teammates. He lacked the size and strength to participate in sports, and after a while pure talent only took him so far.

To remedy this, Seaver became a student of the game. In fact, not hitting his growth spurt early on was one of the best things that could ever have happened to him. Seaver studied the art of pitching; he learned every pitch he could get his hands on. His hero was Sandy Koufax . "Seeing his concentration level was amazing," he told author James Mauro. "I learned about pitching from watching Koufax, even when he lost."

Even though Seaver was unable to throw as hard or as fast as other pitchers, eventually, after some time performing manual labor, and then after serving his stint in the Marines, Seaver at last had the physical size and strength to accompany his vast knowledge about the art of pitching. He earned a baseball scholarship to the University of Southern California, and was drafted into the majors.

Once a Met

Seaver ended up with the New York Mets in 1966 when the Atlanta Braves, who made Seaver an offer

while he was still in college, found that their offer had been declared void. Any team that could match the Braves' offer, the commissioner of baseball declared, could have him. The Mets won a lottery, and Seaver became a New York Met.

In his first season with the Mets he earned the nickname "Tom Terrific." Seaver won sixteen games, pitched in the All-Star game, and began capturing the hearts of Mets fans, who prior to Seaver didn't have much to cheer forand still, the team won only sixty-one games that year. But they now had Tom, who came with a trademark style: "The hand cocking back at almost sidearm height," as James Mauro described it in Psychology Today. "[His] eyes sighting the catcher's mitt like a laser-guided missile launcher; right arm windmilling over the head. And then that whole powerful, boyish body going down on one knee almost, so that when the rocket was fired and the target hit, there would be a smudge of dirt on the uniform where it had scraped the mound."

On April 22, 1970, Seaver struck out nineteen Padres, a record ten in a row to end the game, which tied a then-major league record for a nine-inning game. Seaver routinely won twenty or more games in a season, often leading the National League in strikeouts and earned run average (ERA). In 1973, he led the Mets to the second national league pennant in their short history, going on to win the Cy Young Award.

Seaver feels his best season was the 1971 season, in which he compiled a 20-10 record and led the league for the second straight year with a 1.76 ERA and 289 strikeouts. In his ten years playing for the New York Mets, Seaver would compile an astonishing 25% of the Mets' wins. He was the 17th 300 game winner in major league history, and struck out 200 or more batters in ten seasons (nine straight seasons from 1968 to 1976). He also took home three Cy Young awards.

In the end, "Tom Terrific" won 311 games with an average 2.86 ERA over twenty seasons in the majors. His 3,272 strikeouts set a National League career record, and he struck out 3,640 batters overall. The Mets would win their first World Series in franchise history, in 1969, with the help of Seaver's awesome performances on the mound.

From Met to Red

Tom Seaver had an incredible period of undisputed dominance on the mound in the early to mid-1970s. His only off-season would come in 1974, when he developed a sore hip and finished with an 11-11 record and an ERA over 3.00 (3.20), the first time ever. Of course, the very next season he rocketed to 22-9, leading the league once again in strikeouts, wins, and winning percentage, as well winning the Cy Young.

In 1976, however, Seaver developed problems with Mets general manager, M. Donald Grant. They argued about Seaver's salary, and about how Grant ran the ball-club. In June of 1977, the Mets traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players. Mets fans were devastated. With the Reds, Seaver would finally get his elusive no-hitter, on June 16, 1978, and go on to four winning years with the Reds.

Tom Seaver's career began to go downhill in 1982. He fell to a 5-13 mark that season, and the Reds traded Seaver back to the Mets. The Mets fans would rejoice only briefly, however. The White Sox lured him away after he was left unprotected in the free agent compensation pool. He won fifteen games for the Sox in 1984, 16 in 1985, and won his 300th game in a 4-1 complete game against the Yankees that season. On October 4, 1985, he moved past Walter Johnson and into third place on the all time strikeout list, where he finished his career.

In 1986 he pitched for the Red Sox, but an ankle injury kept him out of World Series play. The following season he was released, and ended up quitting rather than bounce somewhere else. Number 41 retired.

Since retiring from baseball, Seaver has been enjoying the perks of being a hero and one of the most recognizable names in baseball (especially to Mets fans). He insists on having fun, which is an attitude that served him well a few years ago, when in 1999 he was chosen to replace Tim McCarver as the on-air analyst for Mets baseball. The move was not one that happened without controversy. Seaver, as a total student of the game, knows more about baseball than most professional teams combined, but one of the criticisms is that he's too well-versed. It's been said that, when he talks about pitching, it's like hearing Einstein explain the theory of relativity. Regardless, Seaver now juggles among his duties his position as broadcaster and front office executive for the Mets. He often goes down to talk to the pitchers, but that's not what he's paid to do. It's more of a hobby.


1944Born November 17 in Fresno, California
1953Begins playing Little League ball
1956Pitches no-hitter at age of 12
1962Earns baseball scholarship to University of Southern California
1966Drafted by Braves
1966Made free agent before career even begins, picked up by New York Mets
1969Helps Mets to their first World Series Championship in franchise history
1970Strikes out 19 in a win over the San Diego Padres, including ten in a row to end the game
1971Smashes 8th inning homer in June 24th game to win his own game, 2-1
1971Finishes season with 1.71 ERA, half the league average
1973Leads Mets to their second National League pennant
1975Reaches 200 strikeouts for major league record 8th straight season
1977Traded by Mets to the Reds
1978Throws first no-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds on June 10
1981Stung by the players' strike and would lose in Cy Young balloting by three points
1982Agrees to contract with Mets in a trade that sends him back to New York
1984Stunning New York fans once more, Seaver is picked up by Chicago White Sox
1985Sets major league record by making 15th of his 16 opening day starts
1985Becomes 17th pitcher to win 300 games
1986Makes his major league record 16th opening day start
1987Abandons comeback attempt and announces his retirement
1992Inducted to Baseball Hall of Fame with a record 98.8% of the vote
1999Becomes broadcast booth color man for New York Mets and also serves as part-time coach for the team

Awards and Accomplishments

1967National League Rookie of the Year
1967-73, 1975-78, 1981National League All-Star Team
1969Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
1969Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year
1969Named Sporting News Man of the Year
1969Awarded Hickock Bell award
1969, 1973, 1975Winner of National League Cy Young Award
1981National League Comeback Player of the Year
1992Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame
1992Honored by having his number, 41, retired by New York Mets

In 1992, Seaver was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, netting 425 votes out of 430 ballots cast.


(With Dick Schaap) The Perfect Game: Tom Seaver and the Mets, E.P. Dutton, 1970.

(With S.H. Burchard) Tom Seaver: Sports Star, Harcourt Brace, 1976.

(With Steve A. Jacobson) Pitching With Tom Seaver, Prentice Hall, 1982.

(With Martin Appel) Tom Seaver's All-Time Baseball Greats, Wanderer Books, 1984.

(With Martin Appel) Great Moments in Baseball, Birch Lane Press, 1992.

Career Statistics

BOS: Boston Red Sox; CHW: Chicago White Sox; CIN: Cincinnati Reds; NYM: New York Mets.

(With Lee Lowenfish) The Art of Pitching, Morrow, 1994.



Cohen, Joel H., ed. Inside Corner: Talks With Tom Seaver. New York: Atheneum, 1974.

Devaney, John. Tom Seaver. New York: Popular Library, 1974.

Great Athletes, vol. 7.

Hackensack, N.J.: Salem Press, Inc. 2506-2508.

Schoor, Gene. Seaver: A Biography. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., 1986.

Seaver, Tom, and Martin Appel. Tom Seaver's All-Time Baseball Greats. New York: Wanderer Books, 1984.

Seaver, Tom, and Martin Appel. Great Moments in Baseball. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1992.

Seaver, Tom, and S.H. Burchard. Tom Seaver: Sports Star. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1976.

Seaver, Tom, and Steve A. Jacobson. Pitching With Tom Seaver. New York: Prentice Hall, 1982.

Seaver, Tom, and Lee Lowenfish. The Art of Pitching, New York: Morrow, 1994.

Seaver, Tom, with Dick Schaap. The Perfect Game: Tom Seaver and the Mets. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1970.

Shatzkin, Mike, ed. The Ballplayers: Baseball's Ultimate Biographical Reference. New York: Morrow

Siegel, Barry, ed. Official Baseball Register. (1986 & '87 eds.). St Louis: The Sporting News, 1986-1987.


Friedman, Jack. "300!." People (August 19, 1985): 41.

Jares, Joe. "The Mets Find a Young Phenom." Sports Illustrated (June 26, 1967): 64-66.

Jordan, Pat. "Tom Terrific and His Magnificent Talent." Sports Illustrated (July 24, 1972): 22-31.

Leggett, William. "Sportsman of the Year." Sports Illustrated 31 (December 22, 1969): 32-37.

Ludtke Lincoln, Melissa. "TV Radio: Making Another Kind of Pitch." Sports Illustrated (September 18, 1978): 58.

Mauro, James. "Mound Olympus" (interview with Tom Seaver). Psychology Today (July-August, 1992): 22.

Schollberg, Dan. "Tom Seaver: Perfection Was His Goal." Baseball Digest (1999).


"Tom Seaver." (November 10, 2002).

"Tom Seaver." (November 10, 2002).

"Tom Seaver." (November 2, 2002).

Sketch by Eric Lagergren