NEW YORK – The long goodbye has ended. The Mets' "Franchise" is gone.
Tom Seaver, the greatest of all Mets who dropped out of public life in March of 2019 after being diagnosed with dementia, died early Monday. According to family sources, Seaver, 75, died peacefully at his home in Calistoga, Calif., from complications from COVID-19 and dementia.
He leaves behind 311 victories, 3,640 career strikeouts, three Cy Young Awards and countless millions of New York baseball fans who will forever cherish the memories of the Miracle Mets 1969 championship season and his starring role in it.
In the annals of baseball there will never be a more improbable World Series champion than the '69 Mets, who had never had a winning season since their inception in 1962. Seaver was the catalyst, the ace of a young and talented pitching staff that included Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Gary Gentry, who all blossomed together.
Leading the league with 25 wins en route to his first Cy Young Award, Seaver hurled eight consecutive complete game victories from Aug. 31-Sept. 27 as the Mets rallied from as far back as 10 games behind on Aug. 13 to chase down Leo Durocher's Cubs.
Earlier that season, on July 9 against the Cubs, Seaver pitched what he called the "greatest game of my career" in an emotionally charged night at Shea when he took a perfect game into the ninth inning only to lose it on a one-out looping single to left-center field. Seaver took two other no-hitters into the ninth inning in his career before finally succeeding, June 16, 1978, against the Cardinals while a member of the Reds.
"A no-hitter is momentary," he said afterward. "You enjoy the moment. But nothing can ever compare to winning a World Series."
After sweeping the Atlanta Braves 3-0 in the '69 National League Championship Series, the Mets completed their miracle season by upsetting the Orioles of Frank and Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell, who'd led the majors with 109 wins, in the World Series. Seaver was outpitched by Mike Cuellar in Game 1, but redeemed himself mightily by holding the Orioles to one run in a 10-inning complete game victory in Game 4.
The next day, Koosman hurled another complete game to clinch the Series.
It was sometime during the '69 season that Jack Lang, the Mets beat writer for the Long Island Press, began referring to Seaver as "Tom Terrific" in his game stories — a moniker that stuck for the rest of his career and beyond.
After one year in the minors, Seaver earned a spot in the Mets rotation in 1967 and was named NL Rookie of the Year with a 16-13 record and 2.76 ERA.
If there was one thing Seaver made clear when he joined the Mets it was that he wanted nothing to do with the "lovable losers" image they'd acquired ever since setting the major league record of 120 losses in 1962. When he beat the Dodgers 5-2 on June 3, 1969 to lift the Mets over .500 for the first time in their history, he seethed at a reporter's question about it being worthy of a champagne celebration. "Champagne?" he snapped. "Five-hundred is nothing to celebrate. It's mediocrity. Maybe Marv Throneberry and Rod Kanehl [two of the legendary inept '62 Mets] will celebrate. But I had nothing to do with that. The only time for champagne is when we win a World Series."
Beginning in 1968, Seaver set a slew of strikeout records. On April 22, 1970, he tied the major league record by striking out 19 San Diego Padres in one game, including a record 10 strikeouts in a row to finish it. From 1968-76, he set the all-time record of nine consecutive 200-strikeout seasons. His career total of 3,640 ranks sixth on the all-time list; his 61 shutouts tied for seventh with Ryan.
In 1970 and '71, Seaver led the NL in both ERA (2.81 and 1.76) and strikeouts (283 and 289) but did not win the Cy Young Award. It wasn't until 1973, when he led the Mets to their second World Series, with a 19-10 record and league leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games, 251 strikeouts and 0.976 WHIP, that he became the first pitcher to win the Cy Young without winning 20 games. He won his third and final Cy Young in 1975, leading the NL in wins (22-9) and strikeouts (243).
Sadly, after retiring, he was unable to fully enjoy his successful second career and new life as a California winemaker. Sometime around 2010-2011 he began having memory issues, mood swings and occasional flu-like symptoms.
Fearing he'd had a stroke or was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, he did nothing about it. It wasn't until one day in 2012 when he couldn't remember the name of his head vineyard worker that Nancy, his wife, insisted he see a doctor.
In March of 2013, Seaver revealed to the Daily News that he was suffering from a recurrence of the Lyme disease, which he first contracted in 1991 working in his garden in Greenwich.
Because he had taken so long to get it diagnosed, doctors told him the damage to his brain was irreversible and his memory loss likely would get worse.
In October of 2018, he shut off communication with his friends. The following March the Hall of Fame put out a statement that Seaver was suffering from dementia.
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.