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Online EasyAce

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The Franchise could use a miracle
« on: March 07, 2019, 09:44:13 PM »
Stricken with dementia, Tom Seaver retires from the public but not from the memories of his greatness
By Yours Truly
https://throneberryfields.com/2019/03/07/the-franchise-could-use-a-miracle/


Fifty years later, Met fans still consider stricken Hall of Famer Tom Seaver “The Franchise.”

Writing for Harper‘s in 1977, A. Bartlett Giamatti—a decade before he left the presidency of Yale for that of the National League, in a romantic instance of upward mobility—mourned with New York when the impasse between the Mets and Tom Seaver ended with Seaver’s exasperated demand for a trade. And, with the Mets trading him to the Reds. The Saturday Night Massacre.

Giamatti mourned not just the front office foolery that led to the Mets trading The Franchise at all, but the loss to New York of Seaver the young man, recalling a 1971 evening he and his wife got to spend with Seaver and his wife at a then-literary light’s home adjacent to Seaver’s then Connecticut home:

Seaver had . . . dignitas, all the more for never thinking for a moment that he had it at all. A dignity that manifested itself in an air of utter self-possession without any self-regard, it was a quality born of a radical equilibrium. Seaver could never be off balance because he knew what he was doing and why it was valuable . . . With consummate effortlessness, his was the talent that summed up baseball tradition; his was the respect that embodied baseball’s craving for law; his was the personality, intensely competitive, basically decent, with the artisan’s dignity, that amidst the brave but feckless Mets, in a boom time of leisure soured by division and drugs, seemed to recall a cluster of virtues no longer valued . . .

Of course Tom Seaver wanted money, and wanted money spent; he wanted it for itself, but he wanted it because, finally, Tom Seaver felt about the Mets the way the guy from Astoria felt about Seaver—he loved them for what they stood for and he wanted merit rewarded and quality improved. The irony is that Tom Seaver had in abundance precisely the quality that [then-Mets chairman] M. Donald Grant thinks he values most—institutional loyalty, the capacity to be faithful to an idea as well as to individuals . . . The anguish surrounding Seaver’s departure stemmed from the realisation that the chairman of the board and certain newspaper columnists thought money was more important than loyalty, and the fury stemmed from the realization that the chairman and certain writers thought everybody else agreed with them, or ought to agree with them.

That’s still probably as close as anyone has come to distilling both Seaver’s core, on and off the mound, and the fractured Mets’ fan’s heart as expressed by a banner hung from a Shea Stadium rail the day after the trade:

I WAS A
BELIEVER
BUT NOW WE’VE
LOST
SEAVER

Giamatti interpreted it to mean “lost faith in the Mets’ ability to understand a simple, crucial fact: that among all the men who play baseball there is, very occasionally, a man of such qualities of heart and mind and body that he transcends even the great and glorious game, and that such a man is to be cherished, not sold.”

The truly sad news is that even such a man can’t transcend nature’s cruelties.

Tom Seaver has been diagnosed with dementia. His family announced it Thursday, not long after his 1969 Mets teammate Art Shamsky disclosed his struggle with short-term memory loss, in an excerpt from Shamsky’s forthcoming After the Miracle, a chronicle hooked around the 1969 triumph and a final journey to Seaver’s California home and vineyard by Shamsky and other Miracle Mets teammates.

Shamsky already suspected, based on that visit, that Seaver wasn’t likely to be part of commemorations this year for the 1969 Mets. The formal announcement of Seaver’s condition, from his family by way of the Hall of Fame, turned suspicion into sad reality: Tom will continue to work in his beloved vineyard at his California home, but has chosen to completely retire from public life.

The arguable sixth to eighth best starting pitcher ever to play the game, and arguably in a dead heat with Randy Johnson as the best post-World War II starter, Seaver was intelligent and personable and possessed of a fine, dry wit. During the 1969 World Series, when Sandy Koufax (working as an NBC baseball analyst and commentator) asked him whether God was a Met fan, Seaver said with a slight grin, “I don’t know, Sandy, but I think He’s rented an apartment in New York this week.”

Seaver’s health issues began when he was stricken with Lyme’s disease in 1991, then suffered a recurrence in 2012, leaving him with Bell’s palsy and short-term memory loss. Though he’d enjoyed visitors to his vineyard (including Koufax, himself an oenophile) and always enjoyed seeing former teammates, not to mention appearing at the annual Hall of Fame inductions, Seaver had cut his public appearances back considerably since that 2012 illness.

The 1977 contract extension rift was compounded by Seaver’s criticism of the reeling Mets’ administration for refusing to invest in both replenishing their farm system and the early free agency market. And, by Grant’s foolish public remark that the Mets had won two pennants “without superstars” and would do it again. (As the Mets continued their mid-to-late 1970s decline, the fabled Shea Stadium Sign Man, Karl Ehrhardt, pricked Grant routinely by hoisting a sign saying WELCOME TO GRANT’S TOMB, which helped the Mets alienate Ehrhardt for decades to follow.)

Then the Mets laid a second screwing upon their three-time Cy Young Award winner. Re-acquired from the Reds for 1983, Seaver was inadvertently left off the protected list, in the short-lived compensation pool allowing teams who’d lost players to free agency to claim another player from anywhere. The White Sox claimed Seaver, who won his 300th career game in their uniform—and in Yankee Stadium.

Those were no ways to treat the Franchise.

He finished his career with the 1986 Red Sox, where he was unable to partake in the World Series due to a knee injury, which probably suited New York just fine. They’d already demanded penance from the Mets’ administration for letting Seaver win number 300 in that foreign playpen in the Bronx. Letting him pitch even one inning against the Mets in a World Series would have been worth a public execution.

No genuine Met fan blamed Seaver, of course. And he thought of returning to the Mets in 1987 when they needed pitching help, but a couple of poor gigs at their then-Tidewater AAA farm convinced him to call it a career. A year later, he appeared at Shea Stadium when the Mets retired his number 41; characteristically, Seaver strode to the mound and bowed to the cheering crowd in all directions before leaving.

Seaver made such impressions practically from the beginning. Making his first All-Star team in his rookie season, 1967, Seaver felt compelled to introduce himself to his fellow future Hall of Famer Henry Aaron. “Kid, I know who you are,” Aaron replied, “and before your career is over, I guarantee you everyone in this stadium will, too.”

“Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch,” Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson once said. As well they might regarding one of only two pitchers with over 3,000 strikeouts and a lifetime ERA below 3.00 on their resumes. (The other? Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.)

Tug McGraw, the ’69 Mets relief pitcher, about whom Seaver said, “He’s got about forty-eight cards in his deck,” once said that when Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, he knew the Mets had a chance. (McGraw died of brain cancer in 2004.) Seaver saw things a little less esoterically: “There are only two places in the league—first place and no place.”

Wrote Giamatti:

Seaver held up. His character proved as durable and as strong as his arm. He was authentic; neither a goody two-shoes nor a flash-in-the-pan, he matured into the best pitcher in baseball. Character and talent on this scale equaled a unique charisma. He was a national symbol, nowhere more honoured than in New York, and in New York never more loved than the guy who seemed in every other aspect Seaver’s antithesis, the guy who would never give a sucker an even break, who knew how corrupt they all were, who knew it was who you knew that counted, who know how rotten it all really was—this guy loved Seaver because Seaver was a beautiful pitcher, a working guy who got rewarded; Seaver was someone who went by the rules and made it; Seaver carried the whole lousy team, God love ’em, on his back, and never shot his mouth off, and never gave in, and did it right. The guy loved Seaver because Seaver did not have to be street-wise.

In 1977’s Oh, God! John Denver’s earnest supermarket manager asks George Burns’s God about working miracles to send messages. After demurring on grounds of too much flash, Burns/God continues: “Oh, now and then I do one just to keep My hand in. My last miracle was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you have to go back to the Red Sea. Aaaaah, that was a beauty!”

It would not be unreasonable for those who love baseball to pray for Seaver to receive a miracle now.


Seaver (left) with fellow Hall of Famer and oenophile Sandy Koufax at a Cooperstown
induction ceremony.



Seaver and rookie pitching star Gary
Gentry (39), inspecting the carnage after
celebrating Shea Stadium fans decimated
the playing field following the ’69 Series
triumph.

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Offline Applewood

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2019, 02:55:02 AM »
Tom Seaver was one of the best of his day.  So sorry to hear about his dementia.  May God be with him and his family.

Online EasyAce

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2019, 02:25:15 PM »
Tom Seaver was one of the best of his day.  So sorry to hear about his dementia.  May God be with him and his family.
@Applewood
For the entire decade of the 1970s Seaver was arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

And, sadly, he's not the only baseball player to have had a battle with dementia or Alzheimer's disease:

Fritz Peterson—Yankee pitcher of the lost decade between 1966-75. Has lowest ERA in Yankee Stadium of any Yankee starting pitcher ever including Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, 2017.

Bud Harrelson—Shortstop for the 1969 Miracle Mets and their 1973 pennant winner. Longtime Mets coach and managed the club a couple of seasons. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, after his former wife was alarmed that he’d missed things he normally knew by heart.

Jim Bouton—Yankee pitcher of the 1960s; groundbreaking author of Ball Four. Battling cerebral amyloid angiopathy, an illness tied to dementia since 2016. Ironically, when I first wrote about Bouton’s struggle, Fritz Peterson himself e-mailed me to say that if anybody could beat that, Bouton could.

Bill Freehan—Tigers catcher of the 1960s and 1970s including their World Series winner in 1968. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this decade. His family doesn’t know how many concussions he incurred as a big league catcher. His grandson Blaise Salter walked away from baseball last year after a second minor league concussion playing in the Tigers’ organisation. Freehan entered hospice care for his condition last fall.

Shorty Raudman—A Cubs outfielder in 1966 and 1967. Went to the Indians in a deal bringing former Red Sox relief star Dick Radatz to the Cubs, but was traded at once to the Reds as part of a deal for Tommy Harper. and never played in the majors again. Cross country motorcycle racer and later a builder after baseball. Diagnosed with dementia after the turn of the century and has battled it since.

Wendell Kim—Giants minor leaguer turned longtime respected major league coach with the Giants, the Red Sox, the Expos, and the Cubs. Died in 2015 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Stan Musial—Hall of Famer. Maybe baseball’s best all-around player until the primes of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Cardinals icon for decades after his playing career ended. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his 80s; the Cardinals and the Musial family didn’t reveal it until a couple of years before his death in 2013.

Bob Purkey—Durable righthanded pitcher for the Pirates and the Reds; his trade to the Reds for 1958 made a regular starter out of him and contributed to the Reds’ 1961 pennant. Had his career year in 1962 and arguably should have won that year’s one-across-the-board Cy Young Award. Ended his career with the Pirates; went into the insurance business after baseball. Died in 2008 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Joe Adcock---Power hitting first baseman for the 1950s-1960s Braves who ended his career with the Indians and the Angels. Managed the Indians in 1967. Raised horses after leaving baseball. Only the second man in history to hit a home run into the center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds 468 feet plus from the plate. (The first was Luke Easter in a late 1940s Negro Leagues game; the last two---and they did it on back-to-back days, no less---were Hall of Famers Lou Brock [of all people] and Henry Aaron.) Died in 1999 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 02:26:00 PM by EasyAce »

Offline Applewood

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2019, 02:49:59 PM »
@EasyAce

Wonder why so many in baseball end up with dementia of some kind.   Head injuries?   I can understand football, boxing and such where the participants are always "getting their bells rung."  Baseball players do have those "hard hats" to protect their heads, but the sport isn't  quite as physical as the other two.   How many head injuries are there in baseball?  Or are there other factors --  drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco, steroids? 

Ok, not looking to you to have all the answers.  It's just the high incidence of mental decline among baseball participants seems odd to me. and I'm wondering aloud.

Offline GrouchoTex

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2019, 02:52:21 PM »
Two stories in one day about pitchers who've had trouble in life.

I liked Seaver a lot as a kid.
Sorry Mets fans, but my favorite catcher was Johnny Bench.
I was happy to see those 2 work together for a while.

Online EasyAce

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2019, 03:20:58 PM »
@EasyAce

Wonder why so many in baseball end up with dementia of some kind.   Head injuries?   I can understand football, boxing and such where the participants are always "getting their bells rung."  Baseball players do have those "hard hats" to protect their heads, but the sport isn't  quite as physical as the other two.   How many head injuries are there in baseball?  Or are there other factors --  drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco, steroids? 

Ok, not looking to you to have all the answers.  It's just the high incidence of mental decline among baseball participants seems odd to me. and I'm wondering aloud.
@Applewood
Baseball players turning up with dementia or other mental illness isn't as high as you might think from the foregoing look. Catchers may be the players who suffer the most head injuries even with the recent years' rules changes. Since baseball isn't even close to the contact sport that football, boxing (if it's still anything resembling a sport), or hockey are, it makes sense that comparatively fewer players suffer issues later in life related to head injuries. And certainly there may be factors in their post-baseball lives that either caused or contributed to such illness's onsets. Smoking and chewing tobacco were more likely to cause cancers than dementia/Alzheimer's---Fred Hutchinson, Nellie Fox, Joe DiMaggio, and Tony Gwynn are just three I can think of off the top of my head who died of cancer related to tobacco use.

I only looked at former players who've dealt with dementia/Alzheimer's. In Tom Seaver's case, it seems to have sprung from a recurrence of Lyme's disease. But another former Met, Ron Hunt, who once bragged, "Some people give their bodies to science, I gave mine to baseball," and who was as bull-headed as they came when it came to physical play, now suffers Parkinson's disease.

Online Jazzhead

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2019, 03:25:48 PM »
We're all getting so old, and breaking down slowly but surely.   Such is life,  I guess.  One after one, the heroes of my youth are departing for greener pastures.

And yeah,  it seems like it was only yesterday - Swoboda goin' horizontal to snare that liner in the alley.   

Prayers for Tom Seaver,  one of the all-time greats.   
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 06:55:47 PM by Jazzhead »
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Online EasyAce

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2019, 03:51:33 PM »
Two stories in one day about pitchers who've had trouble in life.

I liked Seaver a lot as a kid.
Sorry Mets fans, but my favorite catcher was Johnny Bench.
I was happy to see those 2 work together for a while.
@GrouchoTex
Johnny Bench would be considered baseball's all-time greatest catcher if not for a fellow named Yogi. The critical distinction, since they were practically the same player give or take a few differences at the plate, is: Yankee pitchers not named Whitey Ford (who threw to Yogi strictly as a Yankee) pitched better with Berra behind the plate as a regular catcher than they ever pitched a) with any other Yankee catcher behind the dish when Yogi needed a day off; and, b) with any other team for whom they pitched in their careers. (Believe it or not, this includes Allie Reynolds.) In one way that's not entirely fair to Bench, largely because---with the notable exception of Tom Seaver---Bench largely had to catch pitching staffs that were more prone to arm and shoulder trouble than most of the league staffs. (You could probably win a pennant with a pitching staff full of Reds pitchers in Bench's time who'd looked and pitched great for a couple of seasons and then got waylaid by arm and/or shoulder issues: Jim Maloney, Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Sammy Ellis come to mind at once.)

The ERA of all pitchers who threw to Yogi Berra: 3.41, 50 points under his league's average. The ERA of all pitchers who threw to Johnny Bench: 3.53, 13 points under his league's average. These were two men who knew what they were doing behind the plate, had remarkable insight into their pitchers, and could flat out hit. But Berra also led his league in catcher's putouts eight times, assists five times, double plays six times, and fielding average twice. Bench led his league in catcher's putouts twice, assists once, double plays once, and fielding average once. Yogi was also slightly superior at the plate; he didn't walk as often as Bench did but he struck out way less (414 for Berra lifetime; 1,278 lifetime for Bench) and hit into far fewer double plays. (Yogi: 146; Bench: 201.) He reached base a little more often than Bench (.348 OBP vs. .342 OBP) and used far fewer outs to do it.

As for catchers I got to see play in their full careers or their primes (Yogi had become a part-time catcher/outfielder when I first became baseball conscious circa 1961-62), I'd have to give it to Bench with Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez close seconds. And between the Kid and I-Rod, my nickel would go to Carter because he was a better handler of pitching staffs and got a little more out of his pitchers than Rodriguez did even allowing that Rodriguez didn't always have the kind of raw talent throwing to him that Carter did. It really is to wonder how Tom Seaver would have pitched overall if he could have thrown to Johnny Bench for the absolute prime of his career. Seaver would probably still have shaken out the way he still does as a Hall of Famer, but you wonder sometimes whether some of his numbers would have been better with Bench behind the plate.

The truly curious thing about Berra and Bench---as great as they were behind the plate, each man only ever got to catch one bona-fide Hall of Famer during their careers. Berra, of course, got to catch Whitey Ford; Bench got to catch Tom Seaver. (Yogi almost got to catch Robin Roberts, but Roberts didn't stay very long with the Yankees after they bought him from the Phillies after the 1961 season---they released him in May 1962, leaving him to be signed by the Orioles for his second wind, and Roberts never threw a single regular season inning as a Yankee.)
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 03:52:16 PM by EasyAce »

Offline GrouchoTex

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2019, 04:07:19 PM »
@EasyAce

I suppose I  I first became baseball conscious about a decade later, which would explain my affinity for Bench.
I liked Carter and I-Rod as well, but I saw I-Rod a lot more than I did Carter.
Carlton Fisk is another that comes to mind.
We got to see one of the better defensive catchers in the game here in Houston, 2001 to 2008, Brad Ausmus, now manager for the Angels.

Offline Cyber Liberty

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2019, 04:09:35 PM »
I feel a obscure little franchise is in need of a miracle today, having traded off Goldschmidt to the Cards. :crying:
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Online Jazzhead

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2019, 06:57:14 PM »
I feel a obscure little franchise is in need of a miracle today, having traded off Goldschmidt to the Cards. :crying:

You still have David Peralta, one of my favorite players in the NL.   And at least neither the Dodgers nor the Giants brought Harper into your division.    As a Philadelphian,  I heartily endorse higher taxes in California!
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 06:59:37 PM by Jazzhead »
"He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way"

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Offline Cyber Liberty

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Re: The Franchise could use a miracle
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2019, 08:19:31 PM »
You still have David Peralta, one of my favorite players in the NL.   And at least neither the Dodgers nor the Giants brought Harper into your division.    As a Philadelphian,  I heartily endorse higher taxes in California!

LOL on the taxes, except it's driving the kooks into my new town.  My old one, too.

We have Peralta, true, but there's a log of batting slack to take up with Goldy leaving.  I agree about Harper.
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