- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

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 [1] 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 [2] will be 67 on December 3.
Only one is older than 80.
Ed Charles [3] turned 81 on April 29.
Only four who are still with us have passed 75: Charles, J.C. Martin [4], Ron Taylor [5] and Al Weis [6].
Two others who have passed on would have been at least 75: Donn Clendenon [7] and Don Cardwell [8].

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 [9], who scored the go-ahead run, is 72; and Jerry Koosman [10], 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 [11] comes off the mound for good at 49, leaving you, at last, with no major leaguer you can call your senior.
Jose Reyes [12], 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 [13], 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 [14] 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 [15], 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.