I happened to be one of the 51,054 fans in attendance for Mets Opening Day at Shea Stadium on April 5th, 1983. Truth be told, I’m a Yankees fan but when you have dear friends who are Mets fans, you tend to frequent Flushing a lot so going to Mets Opening Day was something I did quite often. It’s always special to attend an Opening Day for any team, especially a team you root for, but that day was quite extraordinary and you didn’t have to be a Met fan to get excited.
That was the day that Tom Seaver returned to the Mets.
As “Tom Terrific” walked in from the Mets bullpen in right field, the crowd erupted and the noise grew higher and higher as he made his way to the mound to begin warmups after the Mets had taken the field. As one of my friends pointed out in the top of the first inning, all was well in Mets Land again because you could see the dirt on leg of “The Franchise” as a result of his delivery towards the plate.
Regardless of who you root for, and it doesn’t have to be the Mets or Yankees, Tom Seaver is not just a New York BASEBALL icon but he is one of the biggest New York SPORTS icons to ever grace a field, court, or ice in this area. That’s why the news that broke on Thursday about Seaver suffering from dementia is really hitting me hard. I’m 51 years old and I watched Seaver pitch growing up and then enjoyed him when he was a voice on Yankees telecasts.
If it’s having this affect on me, imagine what it’s doing to Mets fans of all ages and judging by reactions on social media, it’s hitting a lot of people very hard…and that’s okay because while I’ve always felt that parents, family members, police officers, fire fighters and teachers should be the best possible role models, it’s okay for kids and adults to feel that way to a certain extent about athletes.
In some ways, athletes are heroes to their fans and when you hear people talk about Seaver that way, you can understand why.
I’m fortunate that I’ve had the chance to meet some of my sports heroes like former Islanders right wing Mike Bossy who is without a doubt my favorite athlete of all time. I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to interview him and also have him sign a couple of jerseys including the first Islanders jersey that my parents ever bought for me with “BOSSY 22” on the back. It’s pretty special when you get a chance to meet something that gave you so many thrills and I wasn’t afraid to share my feelings about that with him.
My favorite Jets player of all time is former tight end Mickey Shuler who I had a chance to interview over the phone when I used to work on the Jets’ radio broadcasts but I also had the chance a few years ago to meet him in person. I also was lucky enough to meet former Cosmos star Giorgio Chinaglia before he passed away but never had the chance to meet my favorite baseball player former Yankees catcher Thurman Munson who passed away in a plane crash in 1979.
I think it’s important to have favorite athletes and while playing sports is not the end all be all when it comes to the makeup of a person, in many cases sports stars can have a meaningful impact on one’s life.
I see it now through the eyes of my sons who have been a little spoiled when it comes to meeting players, including a recent opportunity to meet Islanders captain Anders Lee. Bradley and Jared have also had up close meetings with players from the Mets and Yankees and it’s really cool to see them feel the same way about athletes like I did. It should also be noted that my wife Sheryl has enjoyed meeting some of her favorite athletes as well so I can speak from family experience that the reaction about Tom Seaver the last couple of days is justified.
It’s a shame that Seaver won’t be a part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the 1969 World Champion Mets, but the team has said they will still honor him. Here’s how they should do it and do it right now. They should finally put a Tom Seaver statue in front of Citi Field. It’s long overdue.
My thoughts and prayers to out to Tom Seaver and his family. He should know that he has so many people rooting for him and thinking about him..and not just Mets fans.