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Tom Seaver, who was known as “The Franchise” during his time pitching for the New York Mets, has died. He was 75 and passed away in his sleep from complications of dementia and Lyme disease, according to the Mets.
“We are heartbroken to share that our beloved husband and father has passed away,” wife Nancy Seaver and daughters Sarah and Anne told the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We send our love out to his fans, as we mourn his loss with you.”
Seaver won 311 games during his 20-year career, including five 20-win seasons, a track record which brought him to baseball’s Hall of Fame and acknowledgement as the greatest player in New York Mets history. His overall career record was 311-205 with 3640 strikeouts and an earned run average of 2.86
He retired in 1987, his resume listing the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year award, three Cy Young awards, and appearances as a 12-time All-Star.
A University of Southern California man, Seaver came to the Mets in a lottery drawing. Seaver had signed with the Atlanta Braves, but his contract was ruled illegal by former Commissioner William Eckert because USC had already started its season. Players in that era couldn’t be signed off a college campus once their teams had started their seasons.
The Mets, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies all put in bids, but the Mets won the rights to sign Seaver.
In his greatest year, the young Seaver led the 1969 Mets to their improbable World Series victory, going 25-7 and dominating opponents. He went on to win 198 games with the Mets, but was also involved in one of the franchise’s darkest days.
Embroiled in a dispute with management over his pay, Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for four players in what became known as “The Midnight Massacre.” Fans were outraged by the trade, but the team returned Seaver late in his career for one last hurrah. He also pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.
Born in Fresno, California, Seaver joined the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1962, serving iwth the AIRFMFPAC in 29 Palms. After six months of active duty, he enrolled at Fresno City College. USC recruited him to play with the Trojans from there, He went 10-2 as a sophomore, and was taken in the 1965 major league baseball draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, Seaver and the Blue couldn’t come to terms on a contract.
Seaver threw the final pitch at Shea Stadium, teaming in a battery with fellow all-star and Mets legend Piazza. The park was then closed and torn down, with the Mets moving to adjacent Citi Field.
Seaver was one of the many hosts of the TV show Greatest Sports Legends, an anthology series on the lives and careers of noted athletes. It first aired in 1972, and was produced with 10 new episodes per year. The series won one Emmy award out of three nominations.
Post baseball, Seaver ran a Northern California winery, and retired from public life in 2019 after his dementia diagnosis.
Seaver’s death immediately resonated on social media, throughout the New York area, and in the sports world.
“We are devastated to learn of the passing of Mets Legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver,” Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “Tom was nicknamed “The Franchise” and “Tom Terrific” because of how valuable he truly was to our organization and our loyal fans, as his #41 was the first player number retired by the organization in 1988. He was simply the greatest Mets player of all-time and among the best to ever play the game which culminated with his near unanimous induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.
“Beyond the multitude of awards, records, accolades, World Series Championship, All-Star appearances, and just overall brilliance, we will always remember Tom for his passion and devotion to his family, the game of baseball, and his vineyard.”
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Tom Seaver, one of the greatest pitchers of all-time” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “Tom was a gentleman who represented the best of our National Pastime. He was synonymous with the New York Mets and their unforgettable 1969 season. After their improbable World Series Championship, Tom became a household name to baseball fans – a responsibility he carried out with distinction throughout his life.
In March of 2019, the Mets named a seven-block stretch of street outside Citi Field for him, along with a statue and changing the stadium’s permanent address to 41 Seaver Way.
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