Tom Seaver, the galvanizing leader of the Miracle Mets 1969 championship team and a pitcher who personified the rise of expansion teams during an era of radical change for baseball, has died. He was 75. The Hall of Fame said Wednesday night that Seaver died Monday from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19. Seaver spent his final years in Calistoga, California.
Seaver's family announced in March 2019 he had been diagnosed with dementia and had retired from public life.
He continued working at Seaver Vineyards, founded by the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and his wife, Nancy, in 2002 on 116 acres at Diamond Mountain in the Calistoga region of Northern California.
Seaver was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1991, and it reoccurred in 2012 and led to Bell's Palsy and memory loss, the New York Daily News reported in 2013.
"He will always be the heart and soul of the Mets, the standard which all Mets aspire to," Mike Piazza, a former Mets catcher and Hall of Famer, tweeted when Seaver's dementia diagnosis was announced.
Nicknamed Tom Terrific and The Franchise, Seaver was a five-time 20-game winner and the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year. For his career, from 1967-86, he had a 311-205 record with a 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts and 61 shutouts. He became a constant on magazine covers and a media presence, calling postseason games on NBC and ABC even while still an active player.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 when he appeared on 425 of 430 ballots for a then-record 98.84%. His mark was surpassed in 2016 by Ken Griffey Jr., again in 2019 when Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection by baseball writers, and once more in 2020 when Derek Jeter fell one vote short of a clean sweep.
His plaque in Cooperstown lauds him as a "power pitcher who helped change the New York Mets from lovable losers into formidable foes." He changed not only their place in the standings but the team's stature in people's minds.
Seaver pitched for the Mets from 1967 until 1977, when he was traded to Cincinnati after a public spat with chairman M. Donald Grant over Seaver's desire for a new contract. It was a clash that inflamed baseball fans in New York.
"My biggest disappointment? Leaving the Mets the first time and the difficulties I had with the same people that led up to it," Seaver told The Associated Press ahead of his Hall induction in 1992. "But I look back at it in a positive way now. It gave me the opportunity to work in different areas of the country."
He threw his only no-hitter for the Reds in June 1978 against St. Louis and was traded back to New York after the 1982 season. But Mets general manager Frank Cashen blundered by leaving Seaver off his list of 26 protected players, and in January 1984 he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox as free agent compensation for losing pitcher Dennis Lamp to Toronto.
While pitching for the White Sox, Seaver got his 300th win at Yankee Stadium and did it in style with a six-hitter in a 4-1 victory. He finished his career with the 1986 Boston Red Sox team that lost to the Mets in the World Series.
Supremely confident — and not necessarily modest about his extraordinary acumen on the mound — Seaver was a 12-time All-Star who led the major leagues with a 25-7 record in 1969 and a 1.76 ERA in 1971. A classic power pitcher with a drop-and-drive delivery that often dirtied the right knee of his uniform pants, he won Cy Young Awards with New York in 1969, 1973 and 1975. The club retired his No. 41 in 1988, the first Mets player given the honor.
"From a team standpoint, winning the '69 world championship is something I'll remember most," Seaver said in 1992. "From an individual standpoint, my 300th win brought me the most joy."
Seaver limited his public appearances in recent years. He did not attend the Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner in 2019, where members of the 1969 Mets were honored on the 50th anniversary of what still ranks among baseball's most unexpected championships.