Home Sports Mets greats always knew Tom Seaver was something special

Mets greats always knew Tom Seaver was something special

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Ron Swoboda knew from the start the Mets had something special.

Then a third-year outfielder with the team, Swoboda watched Seaver pitch his first game for the Mets in 1967 and couldn’t help but marvel at the right-hander’s talent.

“As soon as I saw him pitch the first time, I said to myself, ‘He has Hall of Fame stuff,’ ” Swoboda said Wednesday, after it was announced the 75-year-old pitcher had died from complications of dementia and COVID-19. “He just has to accumulate those numbers to get into the Hall.”

The Mets had been the laughingstock of baseball in the five seasons before Seaver arrived, but that was about to start changing.

“When he joined us as a rookie, he pitched like a 35-year-old,” Ed Kranepool said. “He had a great head on his shoulders. We became a different team when he walked into the locker room in 1967.”

Tom Seaver (center) waves to the crowd during a ceremony in 2009 honoring the 1969 champion Mets. Also pictured with Seaver (from left to right): Yogi Berra, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Grote, Jerry Koosman and Duffy Dyer.
Tom Seaver (center) waves to the crowd during a ceremony in 2009 honoring the 1969 champion Mets. Also pictured with Seaver (from left to right): Yogi Berra, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Grote, Jerry Koosman and Duffy Dyer.Paul J. Bereswill

In a 20-year career, Seaver won 311 games and three National League Cy Young awards. But he will always be remembered as the centerpiece of the 1969 Miracle Mets, which shocked the Orioles in the World Series.

Seaver went 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA for that team to win the first of his Cy Young awards.

“Tom Seaver hated to lose,” catcher Jerry Grote said. “In May 1969 we had a celebration in the locker room when we reached .500 for the first time. Tom said, ‘We want more than .500, we want a championship.’ ”

In retirement, Seaver became revered by a new generation of Mets. He returned to the organization for good as a broadcaster in 1999 — following a stint in the Yankees TV booth — and later became visible at the Mets’ signature events. Included was throwing the ceremonial last pitch, to Mike Piazza, at Shea Stadium’s closing in 2008. The next year Seaver threw out the first pitch to christen Citi Field.

“I’ll always treasure our friendship,” Piazza said. “Tom was always rooting for me to get into the Hall. Two of my fondest memories are walking out of Shea Stadium after the last game and then when he threw the ceremonial first pitch to me at Citi Field the next year. He was one of a kind.”

Seaver began withdrawing from the spotlight in the last decade (his family revealed last year that he had dementia), but still kept tabs with the organization. Included was a relationship formed with David Wright.

“Tom and I had a great relationship,” Wright said. “I think he saw a little of himself in me, I was homegrown, just like he was. He called me from time to time, but we would never talk about baseball. We would talk about life.”

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