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Elephant Rumblings: Tom Seaver, Hall of Fame pitcher, dies at 75

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Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks in 10 innings. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

Major League Baseball lost an inner-circle legend this week, with news that Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver died on Monday at the age of 75.

Seaver passed away “peacefully at his home in Calistoga, California, from complications from Lyme disease, [Lewy body] dementia and COVID-19,” reports Bill Madden of Newsday. He had stepped back from public life in 2019 due to his battle with dementia.

For an idea of what Seaver meant to baseball, look no further than his nicknames, which included The Franchise as a nod to his still-active place as by far the best player in New York Mets history. When superstar NFL quarterback Tom Brady attempted to trademark the moniker Tom Terrific in 2019, the patent office said no because everyone knows that refers to Seaver.

The right-hander pitched 20 years in the majors, mostly for the Mets but also the Reds, White Sox, and briefly the Red Sox. He racked up 311 wins, a 2.86 ERA (127 ERA+), 106 bWAR, 92 fWAR, a no-hitter in 1978, and a total of 3,640 strikeouts that still ranks sixth on the all-time career list. He’s one of only 10 pitchers ever to win three Cy Young awards, and he added 12 All-Star berths. In 1969, at age 24, he led the Miracle Mets to one of the unlikeliest World Series titles in history, and finished runner-up for the NL MVP.

Among his notable records, Seaver once struck out 10 batters in a row, giving him 19 for that day’s contest overall (the 19 total were also a record at the time, but have of course been broken since then). What’s more, his streak only stopped at 10 because the game ended.

The Oakland A’s got a chance to face Seaver, in the days before regular season interleague play. When the A’s won their second straight championship in 1973, their opponent in the World Series was the Mets, and Seaver pitched twice — both strong efforts, but resulting in a loss and a no-decision when his teammates couldn’t score to support him.

One of those teammates in ‘73 was Willie Mays, who played for the Mets at the end of his own storied career.

The Baseball Hall of Fame accepted Seaver on his first ballot with 98.8% of the vote, which was tied with Nolan Ryan for the highest percentage ever until it was recently surpassed by Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Ken Griffey Jr, thanks in part to significant changes in the voting process itself. The HOF offers some memorable quotes about Seaver, including this one from legendary catcher and Reds teammates Johnny Bench:

“I never knew a pitcher with such great knowledge of pitching. He had such a great mind, he could out-think the hitters.”

And from Seaver himself:

“I loved what I did. I loved 60 feet, six inches.”

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