Fifteen members of the 1969 Mets reconvened for the golden anniversary of their miracle season, an impressive turnout 50 years after their amazin’ run to the World Series championship.
The biggest bold-faced name from that squad was among the notables not in attendance, but Tom Seaver fittingly received a standing ovation when his children and grandchildren were introduced during a ceremony before Saturday’s game against the Braves.
Seaver, the Hall of Fame pitcher known as The Franchise, is suffering from dementia and stepped back from public life, his family announced in March.
"What hurts the most is that he isn't here," said former catcher Jerry Grote, with tears filling his eyes. “When you talk about a pitching staff of Seaver, [Jerry] Koosman and [Nolan] Ryan, you’re talking about some serious smoke. We all spent a lot of time together and just talked baseball. We all wish Tom could be here for this.”
Seaver, is the Mets’ all-time leader in wins and ERA, copping NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1967 and three Cy Young Awards before he was traded to Cincinnati in a contract dispute on June 15, 1977.
Earlier this week, the Mets changed Citi Field’s address to 41 Seaver Way and unveiled plans for a statue of Tom Terrific for outside the stadium.
“First, he said that he wasn’t going to be traveling anymore," Art Shamsky said, "and then the news came out about him not making any public appearances. I think that’s always going to be a shock when you hear that about a friend and a teammate. Tom was such a vibrant pitcher and a vibrant guy. I think with the naming of the street and the statue that’s going to happen, and all of this going on, without him here there’s always a sense there’s a missing link.
"He was the face of the franchise and obviously the face of that year’s team, although I don’t want to take anything away from the rest of the guys . . . but history will show that he’s one of the greatest pitchers to ever pitch in the major leagues, there’s no doubt about that.”
Ron Swoboda said the last time he saw Seaver was when he accompanied Shamsky and a few other former teammates visiting the former ace at his winery in northern California in 2017.
“You know if he could be here, he would be here. He’s gonna have to fight his battle,” Swoboda said. “There was talk during our visit that some days are better than other days. But he was all there. There was stuff he couldn’t remember, but he was himself in every way. He gave us a tour around his 3½ acres of Cabernet, and it was so impressive. I was completely blown away. But then we heard that he had to curtail his public life, and that’s like, ‘Oh, man.’ It’s very sad.”
Several other members of the team also were absent Saturday. Manager Gil Hodges, coaches Yogi Berra, Eddie Yost and Rube Walker and players Tommie Agee, Don Cardwell, Ed Charles, Donn Clendenon and Tug McGraw are deceased. Their families were represented in the ceremony, including Joan Hodges and Gil Hodges Jr.