Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Tom Seaver

Posted on October 21, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Tom Seaver

Tom Seaver

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week was the staff ace on a team that pulled one of the greatest upsets in baseball history 40 years ago.

“Tom Terrific” Seaver won the first of his three career Cy Young Awards in 1969 and won a crucial game in the World Series as the New York Mets captivated the nation by winning the 1969 World Series over the seemingly invincible Baltimore Orioles.

Greatness was expected of Seaver following his college career at the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles Dodgers originally drafted Seaver in 1965, but they refused to meet his demand of a $70,000 contract.

The following spring, Seaver was drafted first by the Atlanta Braves and signed with the squad, but Baseball Commissioner William Eckert voided the contract. Eventually, Seaver’s rights were awarded to the New York Mets.

After just one minor league season, Seaver joined the Mets in 1967 and was named to the All-Star team while earning National League Rookie of the Year honors.

By 1969, Seaver was the established ace of a talented pitching staff that also included Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw.

He won his final 10 regular season decisions in 1969 as the Mets rallied to win the National League East. He finished the season with a 25-7 record and 2.21 ERA.

After winning his only start in the NL Championship Series, ironically against the Braves, Seaver started the opening game of the 1969 World Series. He lost the game 4-1, but came back in game four to allow just six hits in 10 innings and record the 2-1 victory.

Sports Illustrated honored Seaver as their Sportsman of the Year in 1969.

Seaver recorded four additional 20+ victory seasons for the Mets and twice led the National League in ERA.

Ironically, Seaver earned his second Cy Young Award in a season during which he won only 19 games. In 1973 Seaver led the NL with a 2.08 ERA and also had a league-best 251 strikeouts as the Mets returned to the World Series.

He also was named the Cy Young winner in 1975 when he went 22-9 with a 2.38 earned run average.

Traded to the Cincinnati Reds during the middle of the 1977, Seaver finished that season with 21 victories in what would be his final 20+ victory season.

He spent five and a half years with the Reds. In 1981, Seaver was second in the NL Cy Young voting as he registered a 14-2 record with a 2.54 ERA in the strike-shortened campaign.

Seaver eclipsed the 300-victory mark while with the Chicago White Sox in 1985. He finished his career with 311 wins and a 2.86 ERA.

In 1992, Seaver was selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame with a higher percentage of the ballots than any other player in the history of the Hall.

If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.

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