Saturday, March 9, 2019

“Tom Terrific” had his great moment w/ Chicago, no matter how some forget

Tom Seaver was one of the great ballplayers of the 1970s – a star pitcher whom some would call the best of the decade. And while he’s in the baseball Hall of Fame for his days with the New York Mets, we shouldn’t forget the stint he had with the Chicago White Sox.

Sox won't forget Seaver anytime soon
Seaver popped up back in the news this week when his family made an announcement that, at age 75, he has been diagnosed with dementia. He’s going to suffer the malady of memory loss in his old age – to the point where the Seaver family says he’s through with having a public life.

HE INTENDS TO live out his days at the vineyard he has operated in California, doing some work, but mostly trying to enjoy a retirement.

Yet thinking of Seaver brings back to mind the stint he did with the White Sox in the mid-1980s.

It was only by pure fluke, and Mets mismanagement, that he came to Chicago at all for the 1984 season. Under the rules that existed then, the Mets left Seaver unprotected on their roster – mostly figuring that at his late-30s age, no one would try to claim him.

But the White Sox had just won a division title in 1983 and came close to making a World Series appearance, and also had the fairly new ownership of Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn who were eager to try to stir up attention for the ball club.

HENCE, THE WHITE SOX made a claim to Seaver, and he wound up deciding to come to Chicago after all – leaving the Mets where he was considered something of a team legend.
The baseball logic of the move was that a veteran pitcher like Seaver could help put the White Sox over the top and make them champions. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Seaver in 1984 won 15 games – the most of any White Sox starter that season. But the rest of the team slumped to a 5th place, 74-win, 88-loss record. The previous season’s Cy Young Award winner as best American League pitcher Lamarr Hoyt finished with a losing record, and eventually was traded away for future star shortstop Ozzie Guillen.

Seaver pitched for the White Sox through early 1986, and wound up winning 33 games during his time wearing the “license plate SOX” uniforms whose design the team still loves to pay homage to on Sundays.
On receiving end of Seaver achievement

AND WHILE SOME people like to go out of their way to minimize the fact that Seaver ever pitched in Chicago, one can’t ignore the fact that one of the highlights of his overall career came during those years.

I’m referring to Aug. 4, 1985 when Seaver pitched a complete game victory against the New York Yankees – which turned out to be the 300th victory of his career. The shorthand statistic that verifies Seaver’s place as one of the best pitchers ever.

Perhaps it was only so appropriate that the White Sox played that game on the road at Yankee Stadium. Meaning so many of the Mets fans who had cheered Seaver on 
throughout his peak years got to see his great moment – and took to rooting for the White Sox to whomp the Yanks on their own home turf.

Throughout their baseball history, the White Sox have had more than their share of aging ballplayers who did a stint in a “Chicago” uniform. Take Steve Carlton – the man most often tossed up as challenging Seaver for “best pitcher” of the ‘70s.

IN 1986, CARLTON pitched for three teams, including the White Sox, for whom he won four of the nine victories he achieved that season, before the Sox let him go to.
His Hall of Fame moments outside of Sox

Carlton’s mediocrity bordering on forgettability in a White Sox uniform is more typical than that of the Seaver story – who has earned himself a place as possibly the best star ballplayer for another team to enhance Chicago.

Some, I’m sure, will argue it’s really Carlton Fisk – the one-time Boston Red Sox catcher who wound up playing for the White Sox through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. Who, by all coincidences, was the catcher in Seaver’s 300th victory.

It’s a moment that will live on in baseball highlight videos, and perhaps that’s good. Because it’s not likely Seaver himself will be able to recall much of the great baseball moment, as the passage of time and the frailty of the human body takes its toll.


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