Tom Terrific. The Franchise.
Memories of No. 41 filled Citi Field on Friday as a sculpture of Tom Seaver was unveiled to fans, friends and family prior to the New York Mets’ home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Weighing 3,200 pounds, the steel work of art stands at the gate of the stadium near the 7 Train exit.
Under bright blue skies on a breezy morning, Mets owner Steve Cohen introduced the Seaver family, with Tom’s widow Nancy holding back tears while thanking Mets fans.
“Hello Tom,” Nancy Seaver said before the statue’s unveiling. “It’s so nice to have you here.”
She recalled arriving to New York with her husband from California as young 22-year-olds starting their lives together.
“After we arrived here, we felt embraced by the fans, by the public. That made me feel right at home,” she said.
George Thomas Seaver joined the New York Mets in 1967 and was instrumental in the “Miracle Mets” victory in the 1969 World Series over the Baltimore Orioles.
With the Mets, Seaver won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1967, and three National League Cy Young awards as the league’s best pitcher.
Seaver passed away in August 2020.
Cohen recalled how Seaver almost didn’t come to New York.
“Do you know that Tom Seaver almost wasn’t a Met,” Cohen told the crowd. “In 1966, there was a lottery for his rights. Three teams had a shot at Tom – the Phillies, Cleveland and the Mets. Thank goodness we won that lottery.”
But in a move known to fans as “the Midnight Massacre,” Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, June 15, 1977, for pitcher Pat Zachry, outfielder Steve Henderson, infielder Doug Flynn, and outfielder Dan Norman.
That trade broke Rockaway fan Jerry Lyness’ heart. He recalls crying when he learned the news.
On Friday, Lyness was with his son Patrick, who lives in Parsipanny. They arrived before 9 a.m. to see the Seaver statue unveiling.
“He’s everything to me, my childhood. The greatest,” Jerry said, adding that the day Seaver was traded was the saddest day in Mets history.
Patrick, 27, grew up on the game, watching the Mets with his dad. Going to ballgames is their father-son activity.
Jim and Teresa Cinnamond of Mountain Lakes were eager to see the statue as they recalled Seaver’s prowess as a Met.
“In 1969, I was 9 years old, playing Little League, the Mets were my team,” said Jim Cinnamond, 63.
Tapping into nostalgia is a good move for the Mets to honor some of the team’s best players, Cinnamond said. He believes Seaver is the Mets’ equivalent of the Dodgers’ southpaw Sandy Koufax.
Mike Piazza and Keith Hernandez, two of the all-time Mets greats, attended the unveiling, with Piazza calling Seaver “the greatest Met ever.”
“He’s Mr. Met,” Hernandez said after the statue unveiling. “There’s only one Tom. There should only be one statue.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tom Seaver is the reason he’s a Mets fan.
“I remember seeing Tom Seaver for the first time when I was 7 years old,” Christie said. “He is my baseball hero.”
Sculptor William Behrends created the statue in Seaver’s likeness with a bronze exterior and stainless steel interior. Behrends said he studied Seaver and created several small statues before embarking on the statue that now stands at Citi Field.
The unveiling of the Seaver sculpture is an event that Hawthorne resident Michael Carson, 51, could not miss. He road his bicycle to the Hawthorne train station and took three trains to the stadium to get an early look.
“He means a lot to me,” said Carson, 51. “I like how he sticks up for his teammates.”
Mary Chao 趙 慶 華 covers the Asian community and real estate for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news out of North Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism