There Is Crying In Baseball


Tom Seaver passed away.
He was more than just a baseball player to a generation of Mets fans. He was the best baseball player and he was ours. He was young, brash, talented and good looking. He even had a beautiful, blonde wife. To a 12-year-old kid, he was a hero without a cape.
Should athletes be looked up to and revered by young kids? If they were all like Tom Seaver, the answer was a resounding yes.
When I saw the story of his passing on my Facebook feed, I was sad but not surprised. Last year, Seaver retired from “public” life due to his struggles with dementia. His pride would not allow him to be seen in a compromising position. Seaver also battled Lyme disease for a long time. He was 75 when he died.

It wasn’t until I turned to the Mets sports channel, SNY, and saw the vibrant 25-year-old Seaver again, that I realized I was weeping. I became that 12-year-old kid again, living and dying with the 1969 Mets. I was back in the schoolyard, playing ball with my friends and all we could talk about was baseball and the Mets. I was suddenly watching a baseball game again with my father. Huddled around our black-and-white TV, we watched in horror as Jimmy Qualls dropped a base hit off Seaver with one out in the ninth inning, ruining his bid for a perfect game. I still remember how we howled with disgust, causing, and my mother to admonish us for being so emotional over a “stupid” baseball game.

Did Tom Seaver have any direct effect on my life? Other than trying to emulate his iconic delivery off the mound every time I threw a pitch in Whiffle Ball, no. You didn’t live your life to “be” Tom Seaver, but you certainly had a Mets shirt with his number on it.
I read somewhere that there are a few signs of getting older that men begin to notice as they age. First, the playboy centerfolds are younger than you. The others revolve around your sports heroes as they progress through their careers. They retire, then get elected into the Hall of Fame and finally get their number retired. Of course, they eventually die.

Tom Seaver was my first sports hero, and you always remember your first. The fact that he was one of the greatest pitchers of all time was a bonus, but not the reason he was my hero. After years of futility as the “lovable loser” Mets, Seaver was not having any of that. He wasn’t happy just being a part of the Mets. Seaver wanted the Mets to be winners, just like the fans did. He led by example in his preparation, his performance, and, of course, his results.
There’s a great scene in the baseball movie The Sandlot, where one of the kids has a dream about being visited by Babe Ruth. Ruth told him, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” I’ll never forget what Tom Seaver meant to me as a kid growing up and his legendary status as one of the greatest baseball players will never die.

The ironic thing is that just last week, I needed to change my password at work. You can never reuse a password, so trying to come up with something unique every 90 days or so is getting more and more difficult for old-timers like me. I had just changed it to “Seaver41”. It wasn’t until I went to log on this morning that I realized how difficult it was to type that password. So, I immediately changed it to honor my baseball hero.

Now, like his uniform number, Seaver41 has been retired.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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