Mets legend tosses out first pitch to open All-Star Game in front of hometown fans
NEW YORK -- A man who embraces the concept of pitchers finishing what they start left the Citi Field mound after merely one pitch Tuesday night, and he was smiling nonetheless. The right knee of his slacks was un-smudged, an indication that he hadn't taken the mound with his best stuff. There was only the slightest hint of a limp, the residue of surgery a few years back.
But Tom Seaver had delivered his pitch with a level of energy that belied his age, 68, but that was consistent with what he had witnessed in the dugout of the National League All-Star team before he moved to the mound to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.
"What I liked so much was the energy I saw," Seaver said. "The pride, National League."
He was reminded of his first All-Star experience 46 years ago. He was a Mets rookie then. He threw enough pitches that Anaheim afternoon to earn a four-batter save in the 2-1, 15-inning National League victory.
"I had better stuff then," he said on Tuesday, minutes after he had delivered a pitch caught by catcher-for-the moment David Wright. First Mets icon to current Mets icon.
"I'm too old," Seaver said. "No life on the fastball."
Seaver was a must for this All-Star Game, the second ever hosted by the Mets. He missed the first one by three years. Shea Stadium had been the site in 1964, the ballpark's first year. A year ago, questions existed about his availability for this, the 84th game. Seaver was suffering with the symptoms of a recurrence of lyme disease. It hadn't yet been diagnosed. But he and people close to him knew he wasn't well.
His problems were open secrets in Cooperstown last summer. His absence from Hall of Fame induction weekend seemed to confirm the fears he and others developed.
But he was fully able Tuesday night. He was "Tom Terrific" again, full of life and anecdotes. He had stood on the rubber on the Citi mound for just a few moments before and after his pitch. Soon afterward, he stood on a soap box outside the National League clubhouse, imploring managers, general managers, pitching coaches and the medical people in the game to let pitchers pitch.
Bring back the complete game or something akin to it was his message. "Forget the computer," he said. It wasn't the first time he had taken that slant.
"When you have a guy in the ninth inning and he's given up four hits and no runs and no runner's reached third ... put him out there again," he said. "Leave him out there."
Seaver was preaching in behalf of the activity he still holds close to his heart. He has his wine and his vineyard, his family (with grandchildren). He appreciates fine art. But pitching remains a smoldering passion. He calls it an art form.
He watches few games, but describes himself as "a voracious reader of box scores." He has little use for boxes with four pitchers per team.
But on this baseball night he understood each team might use as many as eight, maybe more.
"I make allowances for this game," he said. "It's a great event. I'm proud to be here, pleased I was asked."
And though he talked around it Tuesday, Tom Seaver was delighted he could attend.