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Still With Us

Tom Seaver is 75 years old today. We join the multitudes of baseball fans in wishing him a happy birthday and a happy day every day. We miss him. He’s still with us in the most elemental sense, yet we wish he could assert his presence like he did not so long ago.

A ceremonial first pitch.

An inning of erudition in the booth.

A lordly wave of acknowledgement to the sun-soaked masses while taking his shaded seat on stage at Cooperstown.

A story shared about what it was like on the mound; in the clubhouse; in the manager’s office; out to dinner after the crowd went home from Cooperstown.

A quote here or there disapproving of contemporary pitch-counting or talking up the current grape crop in a favored columnist’s copy.

All of this was Tom in the mid-November of his public life, before we realized his immortal’s emeritus phase, which we just assumed would go on and on, was about to go dark. Tom is still with us, but he used to be with us a whole lot more.

As gratifying as it was for 2019 to be graced by a golden-anniversary celebration of the 1969 Mets, you couldn’t in your heart swear it was wholly satisfying. That’s not the fault of those who joined us to celebrate. You loved hearing from Shamsky [1], from Swoboda [2], from Gaspar [3] (every right fielder released a book this year) and from everybody else. It was a team effort, both capturing the championship and commemorating it anew. Still, you missed 41. You missed others, too. You wished everybody could have been both alive and well. You yearned for Tom most of all. You couldn’t help it. He’s Tom Seaver. Not was. Is.

He always will be. He always will be 41. Always the Opening Day starter. Always the man whose spot doesn’t get skipped because of rain. Always on call when others are taking an All-Star break. Always the one who expects to be on the mound in the eighth and ninth and the tenth if necessary. Always the one to keep himself in the game because he can handle the bat and run the bases. Always shaking his catcher’s hand for a job well done. Always atop the pitching totals in the Sunday paper. Always the one we look for this time of year, right around his birthday as it happens, to show up in the Cy Young point totals, first or darn close to it. Always a world champion among World Champions.

The greatest of pitchers. The greatest of Mets. Always. Still [4].

Happy 75th, 41. We are with you.