Tom Seaver: A town, a team and a miracle
No rabbit’s foot was ever luckier to a team than Seaver was to the Mets. But it was not his rabbit’s foot, but rather his right arm that made the difference.
HOF: Considering your manager was Tony La Russa, who makes strong use of a bullpen, how odd was it that your 300th victory was a complete game.
TS: Tony got thrown out of the game in like the second inning. Dave Duncan, the pitching coach, is now the acting manager. The funny part of this game is that I got into the ninth inning and Tony is in the runway and (Duncan) comes to the mound. I’ve got two runners on base. So what does he say with more than 50,000 people in the stands to a pitcher going for his 300th win back in New York? What kind of encouragement and pat on the back does he give me? What does your pitching coach give you to help you get those last couple of outs? He said, ‘If you think I’m taking you out of this game in front of all these people, you’re out of your mind.’
HOF: The Mets rotation was beset by injuries in 1987, and the team reached out to you. You agreed to give it a try, but eventually decided against it. Why?
TS: I don’t think I’ve ever told this story. The Red Sox didn’t bring me back in ’87, and the Mets called because someone got hurt. I worked out and joined them on a trip to Chicago and Montreal. We got to O’Hare Airport at one o’clock in the morning, and I’m sitting on the bus looking out at the cars on the expressway to downtown Chicago and saying to myself, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I pitched batting practice in Montreal and got hit around a little, and someone said ‘Did that make you change your mind?’ And I said, ‘No, it was that bus ride.’ I didn’t want to go back.
HOF: After more than 30 years living in Connecticut, you moved back to California and bought a vineyard to make your own wine, GTS Cabernet Sauvignon. What was behind this decision?
TS: Actually, I made the decision when I was 28 years old. My brother-in-law asked me what I was going to do when I was done as a player, knowing that I would be finished at a relatively young age, although old age from a baseball standpoint is around 40 at most. I said I was going to back to California and raise grapes. I was just getting into wine at that time, and I said it spontaneously. On the back of the label, it says, ‘I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I have enjoyed the journey bringing it to you.’ And it was just the way I felt about pitching. It was a day-to-day, month-to-month experience.
Getting to the Hall of Fame is spectacular. It is the dream of anyone who ever put on a uniform. But if you ask me in my heart which was more important, I would say it was the journey, not the destination. If I had to erase something from my mind, it would be the words ‘Hall of Famer’ and to force myself to remember what I did that got me there. Now I am re-doing the journey in another arena. Another thing now is that my commute to work is 90 seconds, on foot with my three Labrador Retrievers. I’m in the vineyard at 7 o’clock in the morning watching those babies on the vines becoming teenagers. It’s like going back to 1966 and Jacksonville, Fla., and I want this ride again.
Jack O’Connell is the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America