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

To Seaver, The Best

Tom Seaver is no longer a public figure. Lyme disease and its long-term effects have assured we won’t see him [1] when the living members of the 1969 Mets gather at Citi Field in late June to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a world championship that Seaver never viewed as a miracle. Tom had a point, as there could be nothing miraculous about a team led by Tom Seaver proving itself the best on the planet.

When word spread on Thursday afternoon that one of the greatest pitchers ever and the greatest Met there will ever be has been diagnosed with dementia [2] and has thus “chosen to completely retire from public life,” it was simultaneously a shock to the system and not exactly surprising. We’ve read and heard about Tom dealing with Lyme disease for ages and had more than an inkling that it was taking an inevitable toll on someone who rarely gave into anything or anybody during that extended period when so many of us chose him as our idol. Seaver had already stopped traveling across the country to attend Hall of Fame induction weekend, an event he never seemed to miss in the first couple of decades after he himself was honored. I’d noticed that when the Mets put out statements and releases celebrating Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young last November, there was no boilerplate quote from the Met who’d won three of them. The media guide stopped listing him as a Club Ambassador in 2018. I can’t recall him having been present in Flushing since the 2013 All-Star Game, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to David Wright. Quietly, Tom slipped from view.

Except when you thought about the Mets. There he was and is and forever will be — No. 41, on the mound, pitcher-perfect motion, striking out any of 2,541 batters between 1967 and 1977 and then again in 1983 who dared thought of connecting with his fastball. Yes, there’s a 41 at the end of that figure, just as there’s a 41 at the top of any list of anybody who’s ever played for the Mets. He’s been the greatest of Mets since his debut in 1967, he’ll be the greatest of Mets come 2067. We’re open to auditions between now and then, but we don’t seriously expect anybody to supplant Tom Seaver atop our chart.

Tom’s family [3] says he’ll continue to work in his California vineyard. In that spirit, if you’re so inclined, raise a glass to Tom Terrific and those who will care for him as he goes on. Think of him at his best. There’s a ton to think about there.