NEW YORK, NY – Having worked in the film business in all capacities for three decades, meeting and working with stars is not a big deal. Bono, Shaq, Mick Jagger, Kevin Costner, Denzell Washington, Mel Gibson, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Robert Redford, Bill Murray, Jerry Seinfeld, Keith Hernandez, Eric Lindross, Pete Rose, Howie Long, Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Jim Kelly, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Harold Ramis, Sydney Pollack, Jerry Stiller, James Woods, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Sofia Vergara, Jimmy Fallon, Usher, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Robin Wright, Chris Farley, Matthew J. Fox, Usher, Alicia Keys… it’s a long list and I know I’m missing some biggies but the point is I don’t get star struck. Oh yeah… add Donald Trump. All were cool to meet and 99% were nice, regular people. Trump, Midler and Hawn fall in the 1% category… Yet, there was one person, out of all them, that gave me the goosebumps when we met – and for whom I had custom sneaks made to honor (see the tongue inscriptions):
George Thomas Seaver.
Tom Terrific. The Franchise. Aside from my Dad and brothers, Tom Seaver was my idol as a kid growing up as an afflicted, addicted Mets fan. It was Seaver & Mr. Met that hooked me, then Rusty Staub put the gaf in and I’ve been flopping around on the deck of a perpetually sinking, not-so-Amzain’ ship, as it lilts along the Acheron in Mets Hell since.
I remember his countenance on the mound the most. His ability to shrug off a teammate’s error or a missed call by an umpire was uncanny. The pressure of pitching with little to no run support didn’t outwardly phase him… or keep him from winning more games than his owners deserved. After hearing him talk about his career in retrospect, explaining how his strategy was more about game management over 9 innings rather than just firing pitches to a pitch count, it all made sense. This was a guy with an explosive fastball and pinpoint accuracy, yet who also fully grasped the idea of a game plan. Are you listening Noah? He knew the 7th and 8th hitters must be gotten out. He wouldn’t let the lefty #3 hitter beat him with a base open and two outs with a righty on deck. He called pitching his art and he gave a master class just about every time he toed the rubber.
Great Day For Baseball & Standout Stat
How about 171 Complete Games in 10 1/2 seasons with the Mets? He amassed 231 Complete Games in total, including his 300th win against the Yankees in the Bronx for the White Sox. The final score was 4-1. Carlton Fisk was his catcher. He threw an Eephus pitch in the game and a cow knocked Phil Rizzuto over (it was Phil Rizzuto Day). Meanwhile, down in Anaheim, Rod Carew got his 3,000th hit against his former team, the Twins. Further, Yankee starter Joe Cowley also wore #41, but the sold-out stadium gave a standing ovation to the visitor’s #41 after the final out.
Did I mention that a young kid for the Mets also won 4-1 that day? Some kid named Gooden.
Sure, there were two trips to the World Series during Seaver’s initial time in Flushing but other than that, the teams he pitched for were lucky to be at .500. They were at a .531 clip (he was 7-3) when the unthinkable happened and M. Donald Grant shipped him to Cincy. Without Seaver they played .395 ball, didn’t get to .500 again until after 6 full seasons of ineptitude, and had 3 seasons UNDER .400. Hell, the Edmonton Oilers won a Stanley Cup without Wayne Gretzky. That’s why Tom Seaver was, in fact, The Franchise.
Getting back to the aforementioned goosebumps… During winter break from my undergrad work at the University at Buffalo (very high-brow), I started the first part of an internship in the Mets Public Relations Department under Jay Horwitz. The team had just gotten Seaver back. Jay comes into the office and says, “Come with me, there’s somebody I want you to meet.” We head down to the locker room and out of the shower comes Tom Seaver, who was there by himself, after working out. He sees us and wraps a towel around his privates as we approach. “Tom, this is Matt McCarthy. He’s interning with us.” Seaver offers his hand, and as I shake it says, “Nice to meet you, Matt.” He looks at Jay and says, “It’s about time you got another Irishman around here.”
I don’t really remember the small talk after that. It was brief and cordial but heck, the guy was naked and trying to get dressed and I was just giddy fan trying to act unfazed. It didn’t matter, though. This was a special human being that had been through this ritual countless times before – and was fine with it.
George Thomas Seaver the Marine and Hall of Fame pitcher had an aura and carriage that few have, as cliche as that sounds, and it was instantly apparent. On a personal level, I owe my passion for baseball to him and the way he went about his craft. Now he’s gone, in cruel fashion, with the perennially bumbling Mets brass only now announcing a statue in his honor. Maybe they’ll dedicate the rotunda to him next, and rid us of the Dodger shrine once and for all.
In the meantime…
Thank you, Tom. Rest easy. You will live on in the hearts and minds of many in perpetuity. You will be in mine.
Comment below and come back tomorrow for Replacement Matt.
P.S… My favorites from all those on that list in the opening paragraph? Robert Redford (“Just call me Bob.”), Bono (regular guy) Seinfeld (we talked Mets), Shaq (a good guy, whom I met with Mini Me), Howie Long (on a commercial set he said “Ladies & Gentlemen, Howie Long on steroids [points to self] and [points to me] Howie Long off steroids.”) Jerry Stiller (farted in my face on a commercial, finished the take and came back and apologized. “Sorry, but hey, I’m 84!”)