Tom Seaver’s former Mets teammates knew the Hall of Fame pitcher was ailing, and they expressed sadness when his family announced Thursday through officials in Cooperstown that Seaver, 74, recently was diagnosed with dementia and is retiring from public life.
Seaver’s family said in a statement that he will continue to work at his vineyard in Calistoga, California.
“The family is deeply appreciative of those who have supported Tom throughout his career, on and off the field, and who do so now by honoring his request for privacy. We join Tom in sending warmest regards to everyone,” the statement said.
Seaver will not attend June’s 50th anniversary of the 1969 world champion Mets.
“We’ve been in contact with the Seaver family and are aware of his health situation,’’ Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “Although he’s unable to attend the ’69 anniversary, we are planning to honor him in special ways and have included his family in our plans. Our thoughts are with Tom, Nancy and the entire Seaver family.”
Hauppauge resident Bud Harrelson roomed with Seaver in their early years with the Mets and remained a close friend. “Bud has such deep love for Tom as a teammate, as a man, and feels very deeply saddened by this,’’ said Kim Battaglia, Harrelson’s former wife.
Harrelson — who now is battling Alzheimer’s disease — and several former teammates visited Seaver in 2017. It was then that Seaver told them he was experiencing memory loss and attributed it to the recurring effects of Lyme disease.
“It’s sad,’’ said former Met Art Shamsky, who disclosed Seaver’s health challenges in his forthcoming book “After the Miracle.’’
“When we were out there, he basically told us he wasn’t going to be traveling anymore.” Shamsky said. “That was his wish at the time. We were hoping it would not be the case because, obviously, we got this reunion this year.
“When you hear about it, it’s hard to believe, because he was such a terrific pitcher and a strong guy and these things that you think about when you think about him. We know when we sat out there and talked to him that his memory wasn’t great. He was in and out with certain facts. But it was great for us to be out there and spend time with him. He loved talking about 1969 and how important that year was to his life.’’
Jerry Koosman, who also visited Seaver, said from Osceola, Wisconsin: “It’s certainly never good to get bad news. Especially someone that you were so close to for so many years. Gosh, I don’t know what to say. Not that anyone deserves it, but he certainly doesn’t.’’
Seaver remains an iconic figure to the current Mets.
“To have such a special baseball player, such a special pitcher, a legend of the game of baseball, be a Met, is a tremendous honor for our organization,’’ Mickey Callaway said. “You can’t ask for a better pitcher to lead your ‘best pitcher ever’ in your organization, so our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I never got to meet him, but I’ve heard many, many stories, and just the legacy around the Mets’ clubhouse, around the Mets’ organization, is unbelievable.”
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo added, “I really didn’t get a chance to interact with him, but anybody struggling with that, I just wish the best for him. He’s a part of the Mets family and will always be a part of the Mets family. I know he’ll be helped immensely and I’ll be praying for him.”
Ron Swoboda, another ’69 Met, said Seaver left an indelible mark on the world champions. “There are a couple of people on that roster you don’t wear a ring without them being there,’’ Swoboda said from New Orleans. “The ace of the pitching staff is number one on that list. That’s what he meant to all of us. He had the confidence and the ability to know what he wanted to do from day one. I’ve never seen anybody like that.’’
Seaver had a 311-205 record and 2.86 ERA in 20 seasons. He won 198 games, all three of his National League Cy Young Awards (1969, 1973 and 1975) and the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year award in 11 seasons with the Mets. He was traded to the Reds on June 15, 1977.
Seaver was elected to Cooperstown on Jan. 7, 1992, with 98.84 percent of the vote, the highest percentage of any inductee at that time. The Mets retired Seaver’s No. 41 in a ceremony at Shea Stadium on June 24, 1988.
With Anthony Rieber
MLB seasons: 20
MLB teams: Mets, Reds, White Sox, Red Sox
Record: 311-205 (.603)
231 complete games
3,640 K in 4,783 innings
Awards: NL Rookie of Year (1967), NL Cy Young (1969, 1973, 1975), World Series champion (1969), Hall of Fame (1992)
Seaver in 1969
INNINGS: 273 1/3: IP
NL Cy Young Award winner
Runner-up (to Willie McCovey) for NL MVP Award
MLB’s winningest pitcher
Came within two outs of a perfect game, July 9 vs. Cubs
Winning pitcher NLCS Game 1 vs. Braves
Winning pitcher World Series Game 4 vs. Orioles
Awarded Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year
Named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated