New York Mets Team Picture 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 29, 2017


Ever see a family picture or some image of a friend after a brutal divorce? Maybe it is the first Christmas with a spouse no longer in the picture. Or perhaps a Facebook post of the first time one of the parents has the kids for the weekend.

Everyone is smiling. Everyone is putting on their best face. But there is an underlying bit of sadness mixed with the happiness and no small amount of resolve.

“Yeah, we know this happened. Yeah, we know the picture is different. But we are still here. We are still going to do the same things we used to do. There just won’t be the one face you were used to seeing.”

That is THIS team picture with the Mets. Because it is the 1978 series, the team picture is of the 1977 Mets. And Tom Seaver, for the first time since before the 1967 season, is not there.

And it was not an amicable divorce. It was not a “Hey, it has been wonderful. Maybe we should leave on good terms and start a new life.” It was a War of the Roses all out knock down drag out break up played through the press, the front office and ultimately the wife of Tom Seaver.

In a turbulent year in New York, including the Son of Sam, a bonkers Mayor election and George, Billy, Thurman and Reggie turning the Yankees into the Bronx Zoo, the lowly Mets only made headlines with the single worst decision in team history.

Contract disputes and clashing egos put Tom Seaver, by far the biggest figure in Mets history and still one of the elite pitchers in the National League, in conflict with the Mets front office and powerful sports writers.

Manager Joe Frazier was dumped 45 games into the season and Joe Torre, who was a player on the team, walked into the managerial office, not realizing it was a buzzsaw.

Eventually, the Mets cut off their nose to spite their face and traded Seaver to the two time defending World Champion Cincinnati Reds. They did get back Rookie of the Year Pat Zachary and other talented players. But it devastated the team and the fanbase.

To make matters worse, on that same day, June 15, the Mets also dumped popular slugger Dave Kingman to the Padres.

The Mets spiraled right afterwards. Between June 17 and July 7, the Mets lost 16 of 20 games. They went on a 6 game losing streak and a 9 game losing streak in that time.

Things didn’t get much better later. They lost 12 of 14 games in late August and finished the season narrowly avoiding 100 losses, 37 games out of first place.

Joe Torre’s first season as manager was a catastrophe. Perhaps this is why people labeled Joe “Clueless Joe” when he took over the Yankees in 1996. First impressions are tough to shake.

But they sat for the picture and smiled. They know that WE know what happened. Everyone knows that beloved Tom is not in the picture. But life goes on.

Pat Zachary 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 14, 2017


Pat Zachary reminds me of how I look at the universe and what we control and what we can not control.

Trust me, I am being serious.

Zachary had ups and downs in the early part of his career, as many players do, managed to survive for a while, made some adjustments and played a decade in the majors.

And circumstances he had no control over put him front and center in glories for all time and having his name be cursed by a city from this day forth.

The Texas native was a 19th round pick by the Reds in 1970. 19th round picks are not supposed to make it to the major leagues, let alone have any success. 19th round picks were supposed to fill out minor league rosters and maybe have an outside shot at the proverbial “Cup of Coffee” in the majors.

But the 19 year old Zachary won 12 games and posted a decent 3.21 ERA for the Reds Single A Tampa team in 1971. As the Big Red Machine was having success without a solid ace, Zachary was moving up the minor league chain.

In 1974 and 1975, he was having success with the AAA Indianapolis team. But the Reds teams were so dense that there was no chance for a call up.

Here is an example of Zachary not having control of his circumstances. He pitched well. He did well enough to play on the big league level. If he was with San Diego or Atlanta, he would have been in the starting rotation in 1974 and 1975. But he was drafted by Cincinnati, therefore he was a minor leaguer.

In 1976, he earned a spot on the big league team and made the most of it. He won 14 games, put together a 2.74 ERA over 204 innings pitched. He had pitched well enough to be a major league for the previous 2 seasons and now was showing it.

Because it was his debut MLB season, the 24 year old was a Rookie. He and Padres reliever Butch Metzger tied for the Rookie of the Year. Unlike Metzger, Zachary’s season extended into October. He wasn’t called up to the Padres. He was part of the Big Red Machine.

Zachary was supported by Perez, Rose, Morgan, Bench, Foster, Concepcion, Geromino and Griffey. He had the deepest bullpen in the game saving his starts. Zachary started Game 2 of the 1976 NLCS. He pitched 5 innings and was hardly dominant. But the Reds lineup scored 6 runs off of the Phillies and Pedro Borbon saved it and he got the win.

Zachary pitched into the 7th for the Game 3 win in the World Series and a day later, the Reds were the World Champs again.

Pat Zachary was a young World Champion. Part of that was by his work. He pitched well up through the Reds farm system and did the job well. Part was because of circumstances beyond his control. He was drafted into a team that was already an All Time great squad.

That is similar to how we live our lives. Part of our success or failures are based upon our work and effort and some is based upon factors beyond out control.

In 1977, Zachary got off to a rough start, losing 7 of 10 decisions and seeing his ERA soar to 5.04. But then he was sucked into a vortex of circumstances beyond his control.

A public contract dispute between Tom Seaver and the Mets management in 1977 got ugly and the most popular player in franchise history was traded out of spite.

The Reds, off to a let down of a start after back to back titles, tried to get a boost for their team with a new superstar. So Tom Seaver became a Red. The key part of the trade for the Mets, beyond venom, was bringing in defending Rookie of the Year Pat Zachary.

Zachary did not pitch badly over the second half of 1977 and actually was named to the 1978 All Star Game. But injuries an ineffectiveness hurt him in 1979.

But his decent pitching did not matter. He was NOT Tom Seaver, who continued to dominate with Cincinnati. As the Reds won the Division in 1979, Zachary played only 7 games. Zachary became a symbol of Mets mismanagement and the loss of their beloved player.

Eventually Zachary became a Dodger and pitched well out of the bullpen for the 1983 NL West champs as Tom Seaver returned to the Mets for one season.

But in a way, Zachary shows how the universe unfolds. Somethings we control, others we can’t. Some parts of the perception people have of us are based on effort and others are based on factors that have nothing to do with us.

Zachary was a World Champion and a pariah, all the while having a nice career that he could not totally control.

Tom Seaver 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 23, 2017


Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets?

I actually asked that out loud once. For me as a kid, my first introduction to Tom Seaver was as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

Now stop and think about this for a second. As a kid being introduced to baseball, I thought of Tom Seaver as a Red but had trouble picturing Tony Perez with the Reds.

1978 was the first year I was collecting baseball cards and getting familiar with the players and where the stars aligned in baseball. The stats on those cards went to 1977. So the first time I saw Seaver, he was a Red.

I associated him with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and the greatest Red of all, George Foster. (Remember, I was being introduced to baseball with 1977 stats.)

My cousin Dave is a big Mets fan and I remember either in 1978 or 1979 spending part of the summer with him. He mentioned Tom Seaver as his favorite player and I think maybe that was the time I said “Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets?”

For some Met fans that would be the same as me saying “I mainly think of Michael Jordan with the Wizards.”

Now if you have read the first 200 words I have typed for this blog post, which you clearly already have, then you do not need me to write a long biography on Tom Seaver. You know who the hell Tom Seaver is. For a long time he was the closest thing we had to a unanimous Hall of Fame selection.

But one thing over the years, stepping back and seeing baseball as a continuous and evolving storyline that goes back to the past, lives in the present and moves on to the future, it is clear what Tom Seaver represented to New York.

He was more than a great pitcher. New Yorkers have seen many great pitchers but you can argue that Seaver was the greatest pitcher to ever wear a New York uniform. (Before you throw Christy Mathewson in my face, Matty deserves discussion but I am always slow to praise players from a preintegrated game.)

He was more than a charismatic star, one who arrived at the same time as Joe Namath but had many more brilliant seasons.

He was actually even more than a franchise player, even though he would almost certainly be a unanimous choice for the title “Greatest Met of All Time.”

Tom Seaver was the third act of redemption for a great baseball tragedy in New York. Baseball fans who grew up loving the Giants and the Dodgers had a glorious middle of the 1950’s. Each won a World Series and each had the greatest teams and most beloved players in their history.

And then a few years later, before the decade was up, the teams were taken away from them and sent to California. And it was a kid from California who turned the story around.

The formation of the Mets in 1962 gave National League fans in New York a fresh start and a team to root for. Once they moved to Shea, the team had a neutral site for the Giants and Dodgers fans. Dodger fans no longer had to call the Polo Grounds their home field.

With the Mets terrible and the Yankees fading, New York needed a baseball savior. Seaver was the Rookie of the Year in 1967 and solid in 1968, but the Mets remained terrible.

Then 1969 happened. Seaver dominated in every way. Seaver won the Cy Young. He pitched 10 innings in the Mets critical World Series Game 4 win. And was one of the first on the field when the Mets won it all.

Listing stats and individual games won’t do justice for what the title meant. 12 years after the Dodgers and Giants were taken from them, their fans, rivals joined together, had a World Series championship and a New York superstar to call their own.

It was a team of the present and the future to heal the wound of the past. A decade that began with no NL team in New York and the prospect of rooting for the Yankees or following a team in California ended with a fan base on top of the World.

It was Tom Seaver who delivered that. It was Tom Seaver who, in his own way, helped heal the wounds caused by the move of the Giants and Dodgers. And using the rule of 7, anyone born after the Giants and Dodgers move had a team and a title of their own.

Seaver went on of course to win 3 Cy Youngs, win 311 games and has the 6th most strikeouts of any pitcher in MLB history. He was dealt to the Reds in one of the stupidest moves in baseball history.

Oddly he last appeared in uniform as a member of the Red Sox watching the Mets win their first World Series since 1969. Later he became one of the best foils for Phil Rizzuto on Yankee games.

George Thomas Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He was also one of the biggest and most significant sports figures in New York history.

So naturally my first memory of him was as a Red.

Turns out he was a Met.