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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Constant Gardener: Walking the Vineyards with Mets great Tom Seaver

A portrait of the artist as an old man

Tom and I have known one another for 40 years, over many stories I have written about him. He’s 69 years old now; I’m 73. We used to see each other once in a while in our 30s at the Greenwich (Conn.) YMCA, bump into each other in our 40s and 50s at Mets or Yankees games, call each other now and then. I asked him once to send my grandson his autograph, and he sent him a laminated photograph of himself as a Met. Tom had scrawled at the bottom, From Tom Seaver, your Grandfather’s friend, to Adam, and then something about my having been a terrific pitcher too, something he had never admitted to my face. I figured it was embarrassing for him to admit to me that Pat Jordan, a minor-league washout after three years, had had a better fastball than Tom Seaver, a five-time 20-game winner in the majors. Whenever I reminded him of my superior fastball, he’d get apoplectic and scream out, “In your ####### dreams, Jordan!” I forgave him, chalking it up to envy.


We liked that about each other, an almost insanely blind competitiveness. Tom also liked that he could talk to a writer who, as an ex-pitcher, understood the fine details of his pitching mechanics, philosophy and psyche. And me, what did I see in Tom Seaver? The major leaguer I should have been and never was. Why? What did this man know that I never knew about pitching, and (as I would learn over the years) many other things? Why him, and not me?

ajnrules Posted: December 13, 2013 at 01:43 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tom seaver

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   1. depletion Posted: December 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4617328)
Thanks for posting this. I've never gotten this good of a picture of Seaver.
   2. Wilson Posted: December 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4617467)
Great read. Pat Jordan is one of the best sports feature writers out there. Anyone who hasn't read his A False Spring should.
   3. JoeC Posted: December 13, 2013 at 05:15 PM (#4617695)
Ooh, that was fun to read. Such a good evocation of two irascible old friends needling each other, and some insightful character studies from Jordan, not to mention good anecdotes.

Sadly, it doesn't look like Seaver ever struck out McCovey with the bases loaded, let alone on a 3-2 count or in the late innings. He did strike him out on a 3-2 count with runners on 2nd and 3rd on 6/30/79, though that was in the first inning (and McCovey was 41). I still get a kick out of trying to find games that match old players' memories - not to point fingers at them if something's misremembered, but for the thrill of the times when they're exactly right and you get to relive the drama through the play-by-play.
   4. Steve Treder Posted: December 13, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4617710)
Pat Jordan is one of the best sports feature writers out there. Anyone who hasn't read his A False Spring should.

   5. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: December 13, 2013 at 06:11 PM (#4617713)
That was great.
   6. base ball chick Posted: December 13, 2013 at 06:15 PM (#4617717)

no matter HOW old Yew Peeple get, youse always talk the same way to each other
they sound like mah daddy and his brother
like mah husband and mah brother
like mah kidsss and they friends

   7. Steve Treder Posted: December 13, 2013 at 06:20 PM (#4617719)

Men are just boys who need a shave.
   8. depletion Posted: December 13, 2013 at 09:40 PM (#4617758)
Tom pointed to an Andy Warhol painting of himself as a young pitcher.

Not only does he have an Andy Warhol, it's of him. Is that cool, or what?
   9. Brian Posted: December 13, 2013 at 11:57 PM (#4617793)
Holy ####, was that good.
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 14, 2013 at 12:18 AM (#4617805)
Tom pointed to an Andy Warhol painting of himself as a young pitcher.

Not only does he have an Andy Warhol, it's of him. Is that cool, or what?

need the pic
   11. GregD Posted: December 14, 2013 at 12:30 AM (#4617809)
I hope Jordan didn't just finger him for the theft!
   12. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: December 14, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4617884)
I had forgotten that McCovey was still in a Giants uni in 1979-80. My guess is that he wanted to hold on long enough to be able to tell his grandkids that he was a teammate of Bob Tufts. Alas, he fell one season short.
   13. Swoboda is freedom Posted: December 14, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4617920)
I couldn't tell in the picture if Seaver's right knee was dirty.

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