Archive for April 13th, 2009

For Seaver and the Mets, It’s All Water Under the Bridge

April 13, 2009

Following the disappointment of Sunday’s afternoon defeat in the hands of the Florida Marlins, 2-1, the Mets will be heading off to New York in preparation for their first ever Opening Day game at Citi Field. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey has been cast as the starting pitcher for the monumental game against the San Diego Padres that is scheduled for tonight with a 7:10 p.m. start.

Prior to the start of this historical game, the Mets have asked former pitcher Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. His battery mate is none other than catcher Mike Piazza who is much beloved by Mets’ fans. Piazza has been credited as the driving force that brought the Mets back to the post-season in 1999 and 2000. Ironically, both Seaver and Piazza were also asked to close out Shea Stadium and were chosen to represent the Mets 44 years at the former ballpark. However, the former pitcher’s relationship was not always so honky-dory with the Mets organization. On June 16, 1977, the front page of the NY Daily News ran the headline, “Seaver to the Reds; Kingman to S.D.” After ten and a half years of quality service, board chairmen M. Donald Grant exercised his authority and shipped out the Mets pitcher nicknamed, “The Franchise,” in the middle of the NY night.

“There are two things Grant said to me that I’ll never forget, but illustrate the kind of person he was and the total ‘plantation’ mentality he had,” Seaver said. “During the labor negotiations, he came up to me in the clubhouse once and said: ‘What are you, some sort of Communist?’ Another time, and I’ve never told anyone this, he said to me: ‘Who do you think you are, joining the Greenwich Country Club?’ It was incomprehensible to him if you didn’t understand his feelings about your station in life.”

The mutual discontent the two men had for each other began when rumors started to surface that Seaver was unhappy with Grant for not opening up his wallet at a time when teams were signing bigger-named players. Seaver felt that if the Mets were to become competitive then they had to be able to spend a little to acquire talented players. Eventually, Grant conjured up the notion that Seaver’s demands were more self-driven and not for the betterment of the team. Leading up to the trade, the press, in particular NY Daily News columnist Dick Young, caught wind of their feud and lambasted Seaver.

“….Nolan Ryan is getting more now than Seaver,” wrote Young, “and that galls Tom because Nancy Seaver and Ruth Ryan are very friendly and Tom Seaver long has treated Nolan Ryan like a little brother.”

“That Young column was the straw that broke the back,” Seaver has said when asked to reflect on the trade years later. “Bringing your family into it with no truth whatsoever to what he wrote. I could not abide that. I had to go.”

Seaver was also quoted by Daily News Mets beat man Jack Lang as saying that “(Grant) put the onus of the trade on me. My unhappiness started with the contract negotiations a year-and-a-half ago… All of a sudden, nine years of performance for the Mets was thrown out the window… They even threatened to trade me if I didn’t sign it, so I signed.”

It has been widely known by Mets people and fans alike that it took Seaver some time to swallow what was a very bitter pill. Prior to his color commentary with Fox Sports NY and WWOR-TV, Seaver had, until recently, refused to attend any Mets-related events. He has always looked back on his time in New York as the most influential of his career and is looking forward to Monday night’s festivities.

“I’m probably more excited about this than the last pitch at Shea Stadium, because of the excitement of the new stadium,” Seaver said. “It’s a new era.”

For further reading, check out The True Story of the Midnight Massacre: How Tom Seaver was run out of town 30 years ago