Mets Sign Tom Seaver in 1966

By davidfunk74
Apr. 03, 2015

On April 3, 1966, the News York Mets won the rights to sign Tom Seaver to a contract.  It was on this day that the Mets won a special lottery that also involved the Philadelphia Philles and Cleveland Indians.  The Mets name was drawn out of a hat to sign Seaver with a $50,000 signing bonus.

Seaver attended the University of Southern California where he was recruited by legendary coach Rod Dedeaux.  After a stellar sophomore season in which he went 10-2 as a starting pitcher, he was drafted in the 10th round of the first ever MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers passed on signing him after Seaver asked to be signed for $70,000 which the team declined.

So Seaver was going back for his junior year at USC.  At least so he thought.

In the free agent draft in January, Seaver was selected by the Atlanta Braves.  A month later, Atlanta's farm team in Richmond signed him after his season at USC had started though they were exhibition games that Seaver didn't appear in.  Rules stated that a player couldn't sign a pro contract after a collegiate season started.  Thus, Atlanta was forbidden from signing him for three years while the Richmond team was fined $500 for the violation after the ruling by then-Major League Baseball Commissioner William Eckert.

In turn, Seaver was also declared ineligible to play his junior year at USC because of signing a pro contract against NCAA rules.

Seaver's father would get involved.

Seaver's father threatened a lawsuit against Eckert for what he thought was an unfair ruling.  Eckert then ruled that other teams could match the Braves' offer and sign Seaver.

Only three teams(Phillies, Indians, Mets) agreed to match the Braves offer and were placed in hat to be drawn out of to win the services of Seaver.  Commissioner Eckert drew out the Mets name out of a hat and won the Seaver sweepstakes.  They signed him almost immediately to a deal.

After spending his 1966 season playing for the minor league Jacksonville Suns team, Seaver made it on to the Mets roster in 1967 and made an immediate impact.

Seaver won 16 games, struck out 170 batters, and had a 2.76 ERA to earn Rookie of the Year honors.  All this for a last place Mets team that had been a laughing stock since debuting as a club in 1962.

In fact, they had a losing season every year from 1962 to 1968 and lost100 games in five of those seasons.

The Mets made a miraculous turnaround in 1969 in large part because of Seaver.

In that 1969 season, they started with an 18-23 record before going 82-39 the rest of the way to finish with a 100-win season going 100-62.  They won the first ever NL East Division(the two leagues were split up into two divisions starting in 1969) by overcoming a nine and a half game deficit on August 13 by the then-first place Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs collapsed in September and the Mets won the division over them by eight games.

As for Seaver, he won the first of his eventual three Cy Young awards that year as he won a quarter of the Mets' games with 25 of them that year.

In the NLCS, Seaver struggled in Game 1 against the Braves -- the very team that he signed with that eventually led him to become a Met in the first place.  The Mets won the first game 9-5 as he beat Phil Neikro and New York swept the Braves on their way to the World Series.

The Mets were heavy underdogs against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series as they won 108 games that year.

Seaver lost in Game 1 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.  However, he won Game 4 pitching a complete 10 inning game to help give the Mets a 2-1 win and 3-1 series lead.  The "Miracle Mets" would clinch their first World Series championship in Game 5 at Shea Stadium.

He was Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year in 1969 for his outstanding season.

The following year, Seaver set a record in a game by striking out 10 batters in a row.  He had struck out the last 10 batters in the game and won 2-1 against the San Diego Padres.

Even though he finished second in Cy Young voting to the Cubs' Fergie Jenkins, Seaver's finest season may have been in 1971 when he went 20-10 with a career best 1.76 ERA and 289 strikeouts. 

In 1973, Seaver won his second Cy Young as he helped the Mets win the NL East again although they had the worst ever record for a division winner at the time of 82-79.  However, the team managed to win the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds and make their second World Series appearance.

They took the World Series against the Oakland Athletics to seven games before losing in the final game.

Seaver would end up with another Cy Young in 1975 and four 20-win seasons for the Mets.  He would win 22 games in 1977 as well, but was traded to the Reds during the season in which he won 14 of those games with them.

The Mets would finish in last place for the next three years after the trade that completely angered the team's fan base in the process.

With the Reds, Seaver threw his only no-hitter with them in 1978 after having thrown five one-hitters with the Mets.  He would remain with the Reds until he was traded after the end of the 1982 season.

He was traded back to the Mets and played for them in 1983 before he was selected out of a free agent compensation draft by the White Sox when left unprotected.  He would remain with the White Sox until 1986 when he was traded to the Red Sox in mid-season.  With the White Sox, he won his 300th game in New York against the Yankees in August of 1985.

Seaver retired in 1987 after poor outings in the minor leagues, and he missed out on playing in the 1986 World Series due to injury which would've been against his former Mets team.

Overall, Seaver went 311-205 with 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 ERA in his career.  He also had 61 career shutouts which was second in the Live Ball era behind Warren Spahn's 63.  He also holds the record of striking out 200 or more batters in nine consecutive seasons.

In 1992, Seaver was eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame.  And he proceeded to garner the highest percentage of votes ever appearing on 425 of 430 ballots or 98.84 percent.

"Tom Terrific" is widely regarded as one of the best pitcher's in the game's history.  He was voted No. 32 on Sporting News Top 100 Baseball Players of the Century in 1999, and was a nominee for MLB's All Century Team in the same year.

To think he helped the Mets turn-around after a turn of fate in the team's favor.  The Dodgers passed signing him because they didn't want to pay what he asked for.  The Braves violated a rule when signing him and paid for it while giving other teams a chance to get him.  And two other teams in the Indians and Phillies could've been drawn out of a hat on this April day in 1996 instead of the Mets.

Imagine if the Dodgers did agree to terms with Seaver in 1965?  How about facing Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Seaver, and Charlie Osteen?  Four eventual Hall of Fame pitchers along with Osteen, who nearly won 200 games in his career himself.  Sutton joined the Dodgers starting rotation the same year Seaver signed with the Mets.  However, Koufax would retire in 1966 and Drysdale would do the same in 1969.  Seaver, Sutton, and Osteen would've a formidable trio for awhile though.

How about the Braves?  Atlanta were already a very good team and they easily would've won the 1969 NLCS and possibly the World Series.  They wouldn't have had to worry about a "miracle" team beating them then.

Seaver ending up with the Phillies would've possibly meant they may have progressed faster to the top as an organization than they actually did by the mid-1970s.  Imagine after trading for Steve Carlton and forming him with Seaver as a 1-2 punch in the rotation?

Or he could've been a Cleveland Indian and perhaps helped to begin to turn the misfortunes around of a franchise that wouldn't see success in any form until the mid-1990s.

But none of that happened.  "Tom Terrific" became a Met and the best player ever in the history of the franchise while helping to turn around an awful team by the end of the 1960s.  Even though the Mets traded him once that angered an entire fan base and left him unprotected later only to be picked up by another team, the franchise's luck of the draw had changed entirely when the team name was drawn out of a hat on this day in 1966.