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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Seaver At Seventy

He was born.
He matured.
He picked up a baseball.
He threw it.
He was about to be as good at it as anyone who has ever lived.

He joined a baseball team that had been as bad at its profession as any group that works with baseballs had ever been.
He made them better.
Everyone in his midst matured.
All of them together became the best.
All of them together won all there was to win.

He himself was recognized as the prime reason.
He was considered the best at what he did.
He, who was 24 years and 11 months old, appeared to be a fully realized individual on and off the baseball field.

One month and one day later, he turned 25.
Forty-five years after that — today — Tom Seaver turned 70 years old.
It was bound to happen and it has happened.

Most 1969 Mets who have lived this long are at least 70 years old.
None who populated their World Series roster is, at this moment, younger than 66.
Wayne Garrett will be 67 on December 3.
Only one is older than 80.
Ed Charles turned 81 on April 29.
Only four who are still with us have passed 75: Charles, J.C. Martin, Ron Taylor and Al Weis.
Two others who have passed on would have been at least 75: Donn Clendenon and Don Cardwell.

When you subtract the 45 years it has been since 1969 from 75, you get 30.
That was a loaded number in 1969.
“Don’t trust anyone over 30,” it was said by some in a context wholly unrelated to baseball.
The Mets of 1969 were mostly under 30.
The whole lot of them, though, were implicitly trusted, deep inside an era when everything was being questioned.
All of them — the ones under 30, the ones over 30 — won a championship and the faith of millions.

Taken as a whole, they seemed awfully young, even in the realm of a kids’ game.
Now all of them who are still with us (which encompasses 20 of the 25 Mets from that World Series roster) are nearly 70, right at 70 or somewhere over 70.
Which was bound to happen and it has happened.

So Weis, who hit the homer that tied Game Five, is 76; and Cleon Jones, who scored the go-ahead run, is 72; and Jerry Koosman, who threw the final pitch, is 71.
And Tom Seaver, who spoke for all sentient peoples outside the state of Maryland when he declared the Mets’ victory over the Orioles as “the greatest feeling in the world,” is 70.

Those of us who watched them and idolized them and relished their legend as we grew up and thought of them as not necessarily having been under 30 or over 30, but as 100-62…we’ve done some aging, too.
We’ve aged enough so that I am moved to revisit a thought I expressed in September of 2005, when 1969 was 36 years removed from the present, and I was 42, and we mourned the loss of the Most Valuable Player from that World Series:

“What I can’t get over in absorbing the news that Donn Clendenon has passed away is that the ’69 Mets have 70-year-old men.”

When you are six years old and watching your favorite baseball team win the World Series, everybody on TV is unfathomably older than you.
When you begin to comprehend the difference in ages as you go along in life, you decide certain numbers are young; others are not exactly old but are getting there; and, up the line, everything sounds ancient.
But as you get further along, nothing sounds impossibly old.
Because you’re old enough to know better.

You allow for the occasional jolt.
Jamie Moyer comes off the mound for good at 49, leaving you, at last, with no major leaguer you can call your senior.
Jose Reyes, whose calling card will always be that grin of impetuous youth, is now not only 31, but the de facto Longest Ago Met Still Active.
Dwight Gooden, never not cited in deference to what he did at 19 and 20 when the latest phenom explodes onto the pitching scene, just hit the half-century mark (Doc always did like to hit).
Yet, really, nothing about age surprises you anymore.

Tom Seaver was 22 when he emerged as National League Rookie of the Year and the best Met ever simultaneously.
He was 24 when he and 24 teammates won the World Series.
He was 25 when he struck out 19 batters in one game, the last 10 of them in succession.
He was 26 when he won his 20th game in his last start of what was the best season of his already certifiably brilliant career.
He was 27 when he won his 100th game.
He was 28 when he won a second Cy Young Award and led the Mets to another pennant.
He was 30 when he set another strikeout record and won another Cy Young.

He was 32 when he left town on business.
He was 38 when he came home.
He was 39 when he was called away again.
He was 40 when he won his 300th game while wearing a set of horizontally striped pajamas.
He was 42 when he retired as a Met, or as much of one as he could.
He was 43 when he bowed to his public as his number was framed on Shea Stadium’s outfield wall.
He was 47 when he was inevitably enshrined in Cooperstown.
He was 54 when he returned to Flushing to broadcast his old team’s games.
He was 61 when his appearances at Shea became recurring guest spots.

He was 63 when he closed the old ballpark down.
He was 64 when he lit the new ballpark up.
He was 68 when he delivered the ceremonial first-pitch benediction to the new ballpark’s first showcase event, an All-Star Game to be started by 24-year-old Met ace Matt Harvey, who had been sensational enough when he debuted at 23 to inspire immediate comparisons to Tom Seaver, who threw his last official competitive pitch on September 19, 1986, just over two-and-a-half years before Harvey was born.

Tom Seaver is 70 today.
He is one of eighteen 1969 Mets — World Series roster and otherwise — who are 70-year-old men.
Or older.
Age is as unrelenting as it is relative.
He’ll always be 41 to me.

16 comments to Seaver At Seventy

  • Harvey Poris

    I was at Seaver’s first major league start in April 1867, the second game of the season. He left in the 6th inning with a 2-2 tie, with 8 strikeouts. The Mets got a run in the 8th and won 3-2. Thje winning pitcher was another former phenom, Check Estrada and Doctor-to-be Ron Taylor got a save. I also remember the attendance, 5,005.

    I also was at many of Seaver’s great games including the 300th win at Yankee Stadium. Tom Terrific truly was that.

  • Steve D

    My first baseball memory was as a 4 year-old, sitting on the concrete steps of Shea’s upper deck. Every few minutes, the crowd would cheer wildly…not knowing what was going on, I just joined them. Years later, I was told that games was on July 9, 1969. Not a bad first game.

  • Dave

    He started and won the first game my Dad took me to, 7/26/69 against the Reds, he pitched a complete game and if my handwritten scorecard in my program is accurate, he hit a double that day too.

    Other teams honor their history and greatest players…statues in front of the stadium and the like…just saying…

  • Art Pesner

    Greg, just brilliant. Thank you.

  • argman

    Was at the game in September ’69 when he became the first Met to win 20.
    And at the game when they retired his number, and will never forget him going to the mound to take his bows.
    And my son was born on November 17 – I like to say that I arranged that…
    Thanks Greg for a great tribute.

  • Lenny65

    Tomseaver…it was almost one word when I was a little kid in the seventies. My first Mets game was in 1972, with Tomseaver pitching, naturally. The day in ’77 when they traded him away was probably the most shattering moment of my entire childhood. The greatest Met there ever was. Just reading through his career stats is mind-boggling.

  • george

    My first job was as a souvenir vendor at Shea in 1969. Needless to say, the memories are numerous; esp. when it comes to Tom Terrific. Great tribute here.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    I hope you’re happy,you made me cry.Thanks again fellas!

  • JerseyJack

    Yikes! Seaver is 70 ? I feel old :(

  • Will in Central NJ

    My first game in person was at age 7, on 6/14/1970 in sold-out Shea. Tom Seaver was shaky, but held on to beat Atlanta for the win, 7-5. Tom Seaver was the one to usher me into Mets fanhood that has lasted all these years. Thanks, Tom!

  • Ed Rising

    Learning slowly that 70 is just another number and while I’m 54 it’s not too far away from me too. But it does make you pause and consider that time is slipping by too quickly. I sure hope that Tom had a wonderful birthday and appreciates that he is being celebrated by so many of his admirers. I’m also relieved that Tom has recovered from his illness that had many of us frightened that he may have memory issues. I would hope that Tom will take a break from his wine business and do some work for MLB broadcasting or consulting. He is still a young enough man. If Paul McCartney and Neil Young and others like them can rock stadiums, Tom could take a cue and return to baseball on a part time basis. Happy birthday Tom – you are still terrific!

  • Tim H

    I’m a little bit late with this. (I guess that’s why they invented Happy “Belated” Birthday cards.)

    When I was a vendor at Shea during the 1969 season (of seasons), more often than not my fellow vendors and I would while away the time before the gates opened by playing slap-ball under the right field stands. The configuration of the playing “field” was more esoteric than that usually found in a neighborhood game of slap-ball. Home plate would be feet away from the entrance used by some players after they parked their cars nearby. And the “field” was narrowed by the ramps on the left and the solid wall on the right. Usually the Met ballplayers would take another route, through the bullpen and into the clubhouse. But, once in awhile, a real live New York Met would interrupt our game just by walking by.

    Anyway, one late afternoon, the most famous Mets player of all was very discreet in trying to ease his way past us ball-playing vendors. He was almost successful until someone — alright, it was me — yelled out: “Hey, George! Can’t you see that we’re playing here!?” George Thomas Seaver then turned around, laughed out loud and gave a wave, without missing a beat. I figured he would get a kick out of someone calling him by his actual first name.

    Apparently he did.

    Happy Belated Birthday, George.

  • Mark G

    On the day (Phil Rizzuto Day) that SEAVER won his 300th, GOODEN won his 20th game of the season. It is probably my favorite regular season memory. LETS GO METS, Happy Birthday GTS.

  • Bobby T

    Great piece. I remember how much I cried when Seaver won his 300th game, annoyed that Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson did their best M. Donald Moron–er, Grant, and let him go to the White Sox. Seaver should have at least been on the 1984 team rather than Mike Torrez.

    Mentioning Jose Reyes makes me feel old. He shares my birthday 18 years apart. You do the math :)