December 9, 2019

A Book as “Terrific” as Its Subject

January 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Like the “The Little Engine that Could,” Tom Seaver began a steep climb saying “I think I can. I think I can.” Seaver’s mom, Betty, grafted the story into her son’s DNA by reading it to him as a child. Seaver always thought he could do whatever he set out to do, and usually he did.

Read Steven Travers’ “The Last Icon” because:

1. Tom started his training to be “Tom Terrific” in his youth.

Seaver’s father, Charles, clinched the United States’ Walker Cup golf title in 1932. His mother played high school hoops. “I’ve got my mother’s hands and fingers and my father’s legs and butt,” Tom said (2, Last.) The future Mets hurler was the last of four children and learned to work for everything that came his way. “He was the runt of our crowd,” a childhood friend said (8.) Seaver developed impressive abilities on the mound early on. Pinpoint accuracy came hand in hand with those storybook lessons because, although he was not allowed to cross the street, he could play catch with his neighbor across the street if he threw it just right.  Nevertheless his body took time to catch up with his brain, and scouts never did seem to find him. Tom Lasorda twice passed on the budding hurler. Thus Seaver was nearly a finished product when he joined the Mets, a team constantly under construction.

2. Travers argues that Seaver represented the end of an era of “doing things the right way.”

Seaver put in the work. He refused to make light of losing, read classic literature because he enjoyed it, not for show. Besides the impact of his parents’ values, Seaver recalled watching Stan Musial’s twilight when he was a boy. Musial, one of the greatest ever, still hustled on a groundball at near 40 years old. Seaver earned respect from Mets teammate Bud Harrelson in one of his first batting practice sessions. Seaver threw the hitters what they wanted without any funny business.

3. You don’t want to miss your chance to immerse yourself in one of baseball’s most improbable stories.

July 8, 1969. The Mets opened what the media dubbed the first important series in team history. Chicago led New York by five games when the Cubs arrived at Shea Stadium. Somehow the home team scored three runs in the ninth to beat Fergie Jenkins in the first game. With Seaver going in game two, normally momentum would increase, but Seaver’s shoulder wasn’t quite right. Add Tom Terrific to the list of athletes who came through when hurt. No.41 went eight perfect innings and settled for a one-hitter. “Seav-uh, Seav-uh” was the rage. When he came back to Earth, teammates picked him up. Seaver gave up five runs in game one of the National League Championship Series against Atlanta. The Mets responded with nine of their own to back their starter. New York went on to sweep the series, setting up a match against the Orioles. Baltimore captured the Series in ’66 and was still stacked. They had been there and done that, but you wouldn’t know it after the Birds took game one in ’69 WS. “After we lost the first game, I remembered here were these big, bad Orioles jumping up and down in celebration,” Seaver said. “Donn Clendenon came walking toward me, put his arm around me walking toward the clubhouse, and said, ‘We’re going to beat these guys (100).'” The Mets won the next four games. Tom Terrific was a title-winner.

The quality of this book matches its subject. Make sure not to miss it.

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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