**** August 31st, 2020 is the day that will forever mark the end of my childhood, as it will for every other Mets fan of a certain age.
George Thomas Seaver, the greatest player in Mets history, passed away in his sleep Monday night after a long battle with the debilitating effects of Lyme’s Disease.
#41 will forever live in our hearts…
It’s April 8th, 1969 and Opening Day for perennial losers the New York Mets. An 11-year-old 6th-grader is playing sick, and is home from school on a Tuesday afternoon, when he stumbles upon the advertising for today’s baseball game on WOR-TV in New York. It will be the first full ballgame he will ever watch, and the home team features a hard throwing young ace named Tom Seaver. Seaver will pitch a rough 5 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, with 3 walks, and the Mets, following in the tradition established in their first year 1962, will go on to lose 11-10, giving up 4 runs in the top of the 8th, then falling just short with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth.
The ’69 Miracle Mets would chase the Chicago Cubs most of the season, then overtake them in spectacular fashion, closing a 9 game lead, and winning the division by the same margin. They were led by their 25-year-old emerging superstar righthander who quickly became my favorite player. Seaver would close out that season with 10 straight wins, along the way hurling his famous near-perfect game against the Cubs on July 9th, the win announcing to the world that the Mets were for real. I thought I was blessed…
And I was, even though Seaver and the Mets would never duplicate the magic of that season, I got to watch my boyhood hero excel, despite marginal run support. The greatest righthander in baseball history was brilliant in every way, displaying brains, power, and a tenacious will to win. Off the field I looked forward to his appearances on the post-game show, “Kiner’s Korner,” where you could count on his witty remarks, wise-cracks, and unique cackle. I emulated Seaver in every way possible, pitching complete games with a sponge ball against the courtyard wall of the neighborhood hospital.
I watched Tom Terrific strike out 10 Padres as the sun slowly set behind the 410 marker in centerfield of the old Shea Stadium, saw Leron Lee of the same Padres break up Seaver’s second bid at a no-hitter in the 9th inning, and proudly watched him collect three Cy Young awards on his way to a Hall Of Fame career. When he was traded to the Reds on June 15th, 1977, I was crushed, and did not watch my beloved team again until he was traded back to the Mets for the 1983 season.
That infamous trade to the Reds was nothing compared to the news today that George Thomas Seaver is suffering from dementia, slowly losing his decades long battle against the debilitating after effects of Lyme’s Disease. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets championship, and I’m numbed by the realization that our shining hero, the greatest player to ever wear a Mets uniform, #41, will not be out on the field to share in the celebration.
Tom’s wife Nancy, and the rest of the Seaver family announced that he will withdraw from public life to battle his disease. I, along with other Mets fans, can only hope and pray, and root for our hero to somehow overcome the disease and find some peace and comfort tending to his second greatest endeavor, his vineyard.
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