They were a team from day 1: he the beautiful world class athlete, she the beautiful blonde who was always by his side. Sometimes it was in the stands at Shea Stadium where the cameras always seemed to find Nancy Seaver. In Tom Seaver’s finest hour as a Met, on July 9, 1969, the moment after he lost his imperfect game in the ninth inning, the Channel 9 cameras captured Seaver’s lowered shoulders and cut Nancy to tears.
Sometimes it meant the cover of a magazine: McCall’s, People, Esquire. Sometimes it meant that the approved products together. They were always together. They were both 22 when they together took over the big city back in 1967.
Friday afternoon, they said one last goodbye to the city, to the franchise, to the fans. Together.
“Hi Tom,” Nancy said. “It’s so nice to have you where you belong.”
Not long after that moment, the blue tarpaulin of the statue arrived in Citi Fields parking lot, and there, for the world to see, for Mets fans to enjoy forever beginning with their descent down the 7 train platform, Tom Seaver, in the middle of delivery, was the stainless steel baseball gripped between his bronze fingertips, his right knee forever smeared in stainless steel mud as he fell and drove another fastball past the world.
In the blink of an eye there was silence, followed by a gasp. And then a roar, loud enough to be heard in all the areas of baseball New York that Tom Seaver touched while driving his team to the World Series and himself to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The Mets would certainly honor the mood of the moment, and they did, crushing the Diamondbacks 10-3, giving the kind of offensive outburst that Seaver himself could certainly have used all the times he used to lead 1-0 and 2-1 . It helps that Arizona is the closest Major League baseball to a perfect home opener, a team that lost 110 games last year and might want to use it as a base this year.
They are the perfect opponent of homecoming.
But the Mets, when they play like they did on Friday, are able to make many teams look foolish. They hit four homeruns, one from each side of Francisco Lindor. They got six strong innings from Chris Bassitt, who allowed only one earned run yet, yet saw the Mets’ ERA among their starting pitchers rise to 1.32.
For the overwhelming part of the day, it was a joyous, feel-good party among the sold-out crowd of 43,820, the ninth largest in the stadium’s history.
(There were exceptions, of course. During the statue ceremony Steve Cohen – who was greeted with a deafening roar, included in his remarks thanks to the Wilpon and Katz families, and the buo could not have been higher if he had instead announced he sold the statue to Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. And poor Sean Reid-Foley’s two-run mishap in the ninth was not exactly met with a peaceful zen by the fans still in the house.)
But fans also stood for introductions to pre-games – still certainly touched by the feel-good Seaver ceremony and tribute to the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robison, who broke the color barrier – gave Lindor a warm, extended greeting. It did not go unnoticed.
“They’re waiting to embrace you,” Buck Showalter said of New York baseball fans.
“It felt great to be welcomed by the biggest fanbase out there,” Lindor said after his 2-for-3 day with two walks and three scored races. “It felt great to hear my home crowd cheering on us and cheering on the other guys.”
There is, of course, one man who knows the shouts that understand them better than anyone else. On the dark day he was traded in 1977, he broke down crying at a press conference, where he tried to express how it felt: “I have given them a lot of tension. And they have been just as returned.”
On Friday, 55 years and three days after making his Met debut, almost 39 seasons after casting his last track as Met, they were returned again. Seaver was not there to hear them. But it was Nancy. As it should be. Once a team, always a team.