This summer, the New York Mets will unveil a new statue, at Citi Field, built to honor the hurler known as “The Franchise.”
His real name is Tom Seaver, and he is my all-time favorite baseball player. There is one monumental problem that any true fan of the Orange and Blue cannot deny about this whole so-called honor, and that is that it comes too late.
The greatest pitcher to wear a Mets uniform passed away Aug. 31, 2020. Contrary to whatever claims a certain NFL quarterback wants to make, the only authentic “Tom Terrific” deserved to be alive to see this day.
He should have been given the chance to experience the adulation from his devoted fans, like me. It is much more than just a shame that the Mets organization waited too long for what should have done years ago.
There is no excuse, other than management was foolish in putting its priorities towards other ideas. I have no hesitation sharing that the Wilpon family could have done something when the Mets left Shea Stadium and opened their new home. The Mets brass should be embarrassed in how they botched this opportunity in every way possible.
Seaver was my childhood hero because he was a man of excellence and integrity, both on and off the field. I wanted to be number 41 in almost every way, which is why I wear his number every time a uniform is available with it.
Seaver was a thinking man who taught me that my mental contribution played as big a role as anything I might be able to pull off physically. I also learned that he was not afraid of bragging about his wife and daughters in the limelight.
I got the picture clearly from this pitcher that being a loyal family man was something I wanted to aspire to be. I just wish that the team I have rooted for since 1967 took better care of its own.
I should know better by now. I am 61 years old and still want to believe that justice isn’t a fairy tale, but I have seen too many great men and women never receive their due diligence for being loyal, honest and hard-working individuals.
After giving the best years of their lives to performing their tasks above the call of duty, once the time on the corporate clock runs out, they are given some token gift of bland appreciation and sent off into the sunset, paving the way for the new kid in town. Our country has forgotten how to honor its elderly and celebrate its history properly. Long gone are the days when the youth would listen to stories of how its greatest generation got tasks done.
The nation’s heritage has been reduced to putting social media's spotlight upon those who have been deemed newsworthy of its 15 minutes of fame. How can we learn if we have abandoned the value of being teachable?
After leading the Mets to the World Series twice and winning three Cy Young Awards, the team did the unthinkable when they traded the one we thought was untouchable.
Without acknowledgement, Seaver was shopped, in 1977 for several ballplayers that lacked any star quality because its chief executive officer was a cheapskate who misread the situation, and our fans paid for that ignorance. All Seaver wanted was to be treated with dignity and respect, and M. Donald Grant chose to use a New York Post writer to bare propaganda that backfired if he thought we would believe such nonsense.
However, the infamous Dick Young wrote one article too far when he attacked Seaver's wife, Nancy, in his daily diatribe.
The next day, Seaver was a Cincinnati Red, and Shea Stadium became dubbed “Grant’s Tomb.” In 1983, under new ownership, Seaver came home, where he belonged. Unfortunately, because those in the front office miscalculated the facts, after only one season, Tom was gone yet again.
The Chicago White Sox plucked him away, and we were forced to see our pitcher win his 300th game at Yankee Stadium instead of Shea.
In 1986, while the Mets were on their way to winning their only other championship, Frank Cashen had a chance to bring Seaver back in time to be part of the fanfare. He had already brought back Lee Mazzilli, who was one of the few shining stars in the lean years of Flushing. Seaver wanted to come home, and then Mets manager Davey Johnson vetoed that deal from taking place.
What was Johnson’s issue? I claim it was his fear, pride and insecurity that allowed another chance at redemption to pass.
Seaver pitched his last game as a Boston Red Sox, and as history would toss in its most ironic of twists, he was in the losing dugout when he could have easily been in the right one.
The knock over the years is that the Mets don’t do a great job of acknowledging their history and taking care of their stars. Seaver's biggest slap was when the Wilpons gave us Citi Field.
Fred Wilpon, a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, built the Mets' current home as a shrine to Ebbets Field. An immense portion of the park was dedicated to Jackie Robinson, but he never played for the Mets.
Seaver came and noticed there was not even a hint of '69 or '73 Mets anywhere and, of course, no appreciation for him.
A few years ago, the Mets learned that Lyme’s disease forced Seaver to retire from public life. It was only then that the Mets began to do what they had failed to accomplish when it could have meant something.
Why do people take so much for granted? Why do we not go overboard by making sure our loved ones know they are genuinely loved? Why is this Seaver statue being unveiled now instead of when he was breathing? Why buy expensive flowers for a cemetery when they might mean more on the dinner table?
I am so sorry, Nancy, Sarah and Annie, that your husband and father was left at the altar when his fans know there would be no joy without him.
I am grateful for my life's memories including Seaver. What the Mets failed to do, I will. I keep number 41 around me constantly because of how he makes me who I am today, and the fact that as a Christian, everything I do, I do for One.
I do it for the Lord, so who needs words of affirmation, today? Who needs an act of service done for them? Who needs to receive a special gift? Who could use a healthy hug, kiss or appreciation?
The sunrise can be missed, even if the glare is before your eyes, but you do not have to, and if you see a great deed left undone, do it. I will not allow appreciation to be left on the stove if the one I love is hungry tonight.
The fans are Tom Seaver's, statues, wins, and even though those with the influence struck out by not saying this, we know that you know when I linger back in times to those summer days of yesteryear, you will always be there.
I do not need mortar and stone because God has constructed a monument of memories in my heart.
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.