Remembering Tom Seaver and his Canadian connections

It seems fitting to show a Canadian Tom Seaver card today — this is a 1979 O-Pee-Chee card made in London, Ont.

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has passed away at the age of 75.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame shared the news of his death in a press release last night.

The Hall’s release indicates that Seaver died “peacefully in his sleep of complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19” on Monday.

Born in Fresno, Calif., Seaver enjoyed a 20-season big league career from 1967 to 1986, capturing National League Rookie of the Year honours with the New York Mets in 1967. Two years later, he snagged his first of three Cy Young Awards and helped the underdog “Miracle Mets” to an improbable World Series win.

Thanks to pinpoint control with his fastball and slider, Seaver was selected to 12 All-Star games, registered 311 wins (18th all-time), tossed 61 shutouts (seventh all-time) and notched 3,640 strikeouts (sixth all-time) during his two decades in the majors in which he also pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

For his efforts, he was a near unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Seaver was listed on 98.8 per cent of writers’ ballots, which was a record at the time for the highest percentage ever received by a candidate.

Tributes for Seaver poured in from the baseball community after the announcement of his death, including one from fellow Hall of Famer and pitching contemporary Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.).

Not surprisingly, with such a strong resume, Seaver had some memorable games in Montreal and Toronto during his big league career.

Here’s a rundown of some of his performances against the Expos, the Blue Jays, as well as some of his other Canadian connections:

– Seaver started his first major league game on April 13, 1967 at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Facing a lineup that boasted future Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski, the 22-year-old Seaver allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5-1/3 innings and left the game when it was tied 2-2. Mets right-hander Chuck Estrada took over for Seaver and during his 2-2/3 innings of work, the Mets scored a run to take the lead. Toronto native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Taylor pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn a save and preserve the Mets’ 3-2 win.

– In 49 games (48 starts) against the Expos, Seaver was 22-12 with a 2.65 ERA. He fanned 279 Expos in 346-1/3 innings. But the stocky right-hander experienced some hard luck at Jarry Park – his record there was sub .500 (5-6), despite a strong 2.65 ERA. In 12 starts at Olympic Stadium, Seaver was 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA.

– Seaver didn’t pitch in Toronto until near the end of his career, but the legendary hurler lost all three games he started at Exhibition Stadium and posted a 3.63 ERA. In fact, the final big league game that Seaver pitched was at The Ex on September 19, 1986. Matched up against Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Stieb, Seaver, then with the Red Sox, permitted three runs in four innings before a pulled calf muscle forced him to leave the game. The Blue Jays won 6-4.

– Seaver belted 12 home runs during his MLB career and the first two came against the Expos. The first was a solo homer in the fourth inning off lefty Rich Nye in a Mets’ 7-1 win at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1970. The second was a solo blast in the eighth inning off right-hander Bill Stoneman at Jarry Park in a Mets’ 2-1 victory on June 24, 1971. In both of those contests, Seaver pitched a complete game.

– Few Chicago Cubs fans will ever forget the “black cat” game on September 9, 1969. The Cubs were three games ahead of the Mets in the standings heading into that showdown at Shea Stadium. In the first inning, a black cat emerged from the stands and walked around Cubs third baseman Ron Santo in the on-deck circle and then allegedly hissed at Cubs manager Leo Durocher. Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) was on the mound for the Cubs that day pitching against Seaver. The black cat was a bad omen for the Cubs. The normally reliable Jenkins proceeded to allow seven runs in seven innings, while Seaver tossed a complete game in the Mets’ 7-1 victory. It was the Cubs’ sixth loss in a row and they would also drop five of their next six games and eventually be overtaken by the Mets in the standings.

– Speaking of Jenkins and Seaver, Seaver finished second to Jenkins in the 1971 National League Cy Young Award voting. Jenkins posted a 24-13 record and a 2.77 ERA for the Cubs and pitched 30 complete games. However, some have argued that Seaver should’ve won the award because of his 1.76 ERA, though he had fewer wins (20) and complete games (21) than Jenkins.

– Jenkins and Seaver were teammates on three National League All-Star teams (1967, 1971 and 1972).

– By my count, Seaver had three Canadian teammates during his career (hometown, team, years played with Seaver): Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont., New York Mets, 1967 to 1971), Brian Ostrosser (Hamilton, Ont., New York Mets, 1973) and Sheldon Burnside (Toronto, Ont., Cincinnati Reds, 1980). It should be noted that Burnside was born in South Bend, Ind., but was raised in Toronto.

– If there was one player that “owned” Seaver over the course of his career, it was Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Puhl. The Melville, Sask., native, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues with the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals from 1977 to 1991, was 20-for-45 against “Tom Terrific” for a .444 batting average. Puhl also slugged his first major league home run off Seaver on April 6, 1978 (Opening Day) in Cincinnati. Batting leadoff for the Astros, Puhl socked the third pitch from Seaver over the right field wall at Riverfront Stadium.

– The only other Canadian big leaguers to walk to the plate against Seaver were pitchers. Swift Current, Sask., native Reggie Cleveland registered two singles in four at bats against Seaver, while Jenkins was 1-for-8 – his only hit, however, was a solo home run on April 25, 1969 at Shea Stadium.

Published by cooperstownersincanada

Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.

15 thoughts on “Remembering Tom Seaver and his Canadian connections

  1. Seaver was indeed a machine, and no doubt was a key part of my obsession with complete games and one-run games. Who didn’t pretend they were Tom Seaver when throwing a ball against a wall when they were a kid? Kevin, the “Can Con” you dug up on him with such short notice was yet another masterpiece! I don’t know how you do it so quickly and so completely. Sad news indeed, but thank you for weaving Canadian fabric to the legend, “Tom Terrific”!

  2. Thank you for your comment and your support, Tom. I didn’t get to see Seaver in his prime, only in the twilight of his great career. But I’ve read enough about him to know that he was something special to watch. Thanks again.

  3. Another Canadian connection – Seaver’s first game as a member of the Cincinnati Reds was against the Expos in Montreal (June 1977). He pitched a three-hit shutout.

  4. I would argue that another significant Canadian connection was that he was the NBC analyst for both playoff series the Expos played in 1981. I am not a big fan of active players broadcasting, as I wonder about their ability to be candid. But Seaver was great with Dick Enberg, providing excellent insight. In fact, I watched Games 1 and 2 of the Phillies series recently, and indeed, Seaver said he hated pitching at Jarry Park. Your stats show why that would have been. Must have had some tough luck.
    Later, when I lived in Connecticut for two years in the late 90s, he was broadcasting for the Mets. He only did the weekend games, but I was sure never to miss any. Loved hearing him tell stories, he and Ralph Kiner were hilarious together. RIP Tom Terrific.

  5. Great summary of his career Kevin. Thank you for doing that.
    Pitcher Reggie Cleveland had 3 hits against him eh! That’s cool.

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