The pitcher’s mound was Tom Seaver's studio; the baseball, a lump of clay that he routinely shaped into breathtaking masterpieces.
George Thomas Seaver was an artist. The comparison became hackneyed from overuse during the right-hander’s heyday. But the shortchanged generations who never saw him pitch must learn that Seaver, like a great painter, sculptor or musician, routinely created works exuding power and beauty. His classic drop-and-drive delivery, which was so exaggerated that his right knee would scrape the mound, became his signature, as well as the source of his searing velocity.
In honor of Seaver, who passed away at the age of 75, here’s a top 10 list of “Tom Terrific’s” most memorable games and accomplishments.
1. The imperfect game
July 9, 1969
Widely considered baseball’s perfect pitcher, Seaver nearly gave his adherents the performance that was expected of him -- a perfect game, of course. But with one out in the ninth inning at Shea Stadium, Cubs center fielder Jim Qualls smacked a first-pitch single into left-center field. Seaver was crestfallen, despite the Mets’ 4-0 victory and his 11-strikeout effort. That bitter taste never completely left him. “I can’t measure the disappointment,” he said.
2. Wall-to-wall dominance
April 22, 1970
In his fourth start of the season, he tied Steve Carlton’s then-record for strikeouts in a single game with 19 as the Mets outlasted San Diego, 2-1. Seaver grew more untouchable as the game elapsed, which he demonstrated by striking out the Padres’ final 10 batters. Seaver, who yielded two hits and issued two walks, allowed Al Ferrara’s second-inning homer for San Diego’s lone run.
3. Prelude to a title
Oct. 15, 1969
Seaver went the distance in the Mets’ 2-1, 10-inning triumph over the Baltimore Orioles in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, which left New York one victory away from capturing the Fall Classic. Seaver nursed a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning, when Frank Robinson singled with one out and scored on Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly to tie the score. But Seaver set up the win by blanking Baltimore in the 10th, which was no surprise considering that he completed 18 of his 35 regular-season starts.
4. A milestone in the Bronx
Aug. 4, 1985
Fittingly, Seaver earned his 300th career victory in New York, though he did so as a member of the White Sox and not the Mets. The scene was Yankee Stadium, where Seaver pitched a six-hit complete game in a 4-1 win before 54,032 on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. The 40-year-old became the 17th Major Leaguer to reach the 300-win level.
5. The quintessential ace
Aug. 9-Sept. 27, 1969
Seaver finished 10-0 in his last 11 starts as the Mets, who trailed the first-place Chicago Cubs in the National League East standings by 10 games as late as Aug. 13, outraced them to the finish line to win the NL East title. Seaver recorded a 1.34 ERA while opponents mustered a .170 batting average against him in this span. His last eight outings in this stretch were complete games, including three shutouts. Those were among the nine starts during this period in which he surrendered two earned runs or fewer.
6. Clearing the path to another Series
Oct. 10, 1973
A 2-1 loser to Cincinnati in the National League Championship Series opener, Seaver wasn’t going to be denied in this Game 5 rematch, which was a win-or-go-home showdown. The Mets’ 7-2 win wasn’t one of Seaver’s dominating performances, but he got tough when he had to while allowing seven hits and walking five batters in 8 1/3 innings.
7. Ending the anticipation
June 16, 1978
The widely held assumption that Seaver would someday throw a no-hitter became reality on this Friday night at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, where 38,216 witnessed his historic 4-0 triumph over St. Louis. Seaver, who threw five one-hitters for the Mets, walked three batters and struck out three. The latter figure reflected his gradual transition from young flamethrower to sophisticated veteran.
8. All hail Seaver
Aug. 21, 1977
Sent to Cincinnati amid a contract dispute and an extremely public clash with Mets chairman of the board M. Donald Grant, Seaver returned to Shea Stadium to face New York for the first time since the June 15 swap. He received ovation after ovation from the crowd of 46,265, who watched him summon his usual effort: a complete-game six-hitter with two walks and 11 strikeouts in a 5-1 Reds victory. The decision improved Seaver’s record to 14-5.
9. Seaver comes home
April 5, 1983
The Reds returned Seaver to the Mets in a four-player swap on Dec. 16, 1982. Still an effective pitcher, Seaver was the obvious choice to start the '83 season opener against Philadelphia at Shea Stadium. Before an appreciative crowd of 46,687, he three-hit the Phillies for six innings in a 2-0 Mets win. It was Seaver’s 14th Opening Day assignment.
10. Welcome to the All-Star Game
July 11, 1967
Many fans remember that Tony Perez’s 15th-inning home run won this Midsummer Classic for the NL, 2-1. Fewer recall that Seaver, who broke into the big leagues that year, summoned the poise to earn the save. Ultimately a 12-time All-Star selection, Seaver retired Tony Conigliaro on a fly ball, walked Carl Yastrzemski, coaxed another flyout from Bill Freehan and struck out pinch-hitter Ken Berry.