George Thomas Seaver earned the highest percentage of votes of anyone ever inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame– more than Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth or Willie Mays.
Born in Fresno, California, on November 17, 1944, to a mother who was a homemaker and father that was a former Walker Cup golfer and executive with a raisin distributor, Seaver started playing baseball at age nine as an outfielder and pitcher. In Little League, he batted .540 and threw a perfect game, then went on to become an All-City basketball and baseball player at Fresno High School, alma mater of singer/actress, Cher. Upon graduation, Seaver joined the Marine Corps Reserves, where he was stationed at 29 Palms, before enrolling at Fresno City College in 1963 to play baseball. In his sophomore season at FCC, Seaver won 11 games in a row, set school strikeout records and attracted the interest of Rod Dedeaux, the legendary baseball coach at USC. Dedeaux-who had led the Trojans to 11 College World Series titles—needing to be convinced that Seaver was worthy of a scholarship, sent the right-hander to play for the Alaska Goldpanners, an amateur college baseball summer league team, where he was named to the All-Tournament team and solidified his scholarship. As a junior at USC, Seaver went 10-2, struck out 100 batters in 100 innings, and was named All-Pac 8 in 1965. On April 8, 1966, in the midst of his senior season, he was drafted in a lottery by the New York Mets.
The New York Mets joined the National League in 1962 as an expansion team to fill the void in New York following the departure of the Giants and Dodgers. Loveable losers, they had never won more than 66 games or finished higher than ninth place in a season. Tom Seaver spent the 1966 season playing for the Jacksonville Suns—New York’s top farm team–in the International League, where he tossed four shutouts and fanned 188 batters. The following year, he became the number-two starter, won 16 games for the last-place Mets, and was named NL Rookie of the Year. Seaver was also named to the 1967 All-Star team, where he earned a save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning. In 1968, he again won 16 games while recording over 200 strikeouts for the first of nine consecutive seasons as the Mets finished in ninth place. New York sports teamed enjoyed a monumental 1969, as Joe Namath led the Jets to the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history and Tom Seaver led the Mets—one of the worst franchises in baseball history—to a World Series championship. “Tom Terrific” won a league-high 25 games—a quarter of the team’s wins, earned the first of three Cy Young Awards and finished runner-up to Willie McCovey [Daily Dose, July 29] for NL MVP. Seaver also earned the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year and was named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. He set a major league record in 1970 by striking out the final ten batters of a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres and led the league in strikeouts and ERA one year later. “The Franchise” led the Mets to the World Series in 1973, where they lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games. In 1977, Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, going 75-46 and throwing his only career no-hitter in six seasons with the Redlegs. On August 4, 1985, Seaver recorded his 300th win as a member of the Chicago White Sox, throwing a complete game 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium. He played the 1986 season with the Boston Red Sox before retiring at age 45.
Tom Seaver is the first right-handed pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards. He was an intelligent pitcher that matched great velocity with pin-point control. One of the benchmarks for pitching excellence is recording 200 or more strikeouts in a season, which “Tom Terrific” did nine straight times. Another is a 20-win season—Seaver had five of them. He made 12 All-Star teams, threw five one-hitters and led the league in strikeouts five times. He is widely considered the best pitcher of a generation that included Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton. Hank Aaron called him the “toughest pitcher I’ve ever faced.” Perhaps no single player is identified more with one team than Tom Seaver is with the New York Mets. “The Franchise” won 311 games, recorded 3,640 strikeouts [6th most all-time], led the NL in wins three times and tossed 61 shutouts [2nd most all-time] over the course of his 20- year career. He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1988—where they retired his jersey–and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.
On this date in 1992, Tom Seaver was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with 98.84 percent of the vote. He has the only plaque at Cooperstown wearing a New York Mets hat.
“My idea of managing is giving the ball to Tom Seaver and sitting down to watch him work.”– Former Reds manager George “Sparky” Anderson