After a road trip that was worse than usual, calamitous rather than merely disastrous, the 10th-place New York Mets returned last week to Shea Stadium where two of their nutty fans displayed a banner suggesting the hiring of Israel's General Moshe Dayan. A fine idea, except that the first opponent on the home stand was league-leading Cincinnati, and the closest any of the Reds had been to Egypt was Cairo, Ill.
The series started with a twi-night doubleheader, and Cincy easily won the first game behind the five-hit, shutout pitching of rookie Gary Nolan.
But in the second game the Mets produced their own special rookie pitcher, Tom Seaver, who beat the Reds 7-3 and showed a sample of his exceptional poise in the sixth inning. With runners on second and third and no outs, he forced Floyd Robinson to pop up and struck out Vada Pinson and Pete Rose. He tired in the ninth and lost his shutout, but the job was typical of what Seaver has been doing for the Mets in his second season of pro ball.
Against the Cubs he pitched a four-hitter over 10 innings and scored the winning run himself. Against Atlanta he lost a 4-3 game but hit two doubles and a single, stole a base and had two RBIs. He beat the Dodgers with a five-hitter and stole another base. Through last weekend Tom had a 5-4 record, praiseworthy on a basement team, and if his performance was un-Metlike, it was hardly unexpected by another team to which he happens to belong—the sharpshooting, par-busting, raisin-packing Seaver family out of Fresno, Calif. and points east.
The patriarch is Tom's father, Charles Seaver Sr., a fine amateur golfer. He was a two-handicapper at age 15, the same as he is today at the Sunnyside Country Club in Fresno. He was the Stanford University champion in 1932, beating Lawson Little, and the same year was on the Walker Cup team captained by Francis Ouimet. The elder Seaver also played football and basketball at Stanford, came within a hole of making the final round in the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1930 and a chance to meet Bobby Jones in his last match as an amateur, and, with Pro Mike Fetchick, won the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in 1964.
"He and Fetchick play together every year at the Crosby," said a veteran golf writer. "He's a great competitor, one of the few amateurs who can handle Pebble Beach, because he's so powerful. When there's wind and rain, Charles will be out there playing just as well as Fetchick."
Tom's mother is also a good golfer and a regular at Sunnyside. His Aunt Katie, friends remember, had no trouble lugging an old-fashioned 75-pound surfboard around the beaches of Hawaii. Another Katie, his oldest sister, was a good swimmer and volleyball player at Stanford and was famous around school for flattening a guy who got fresh with her one day at a campus pub. Brother Charles Jr., now a Brooklyn social worker who brings a batch of underprivileged kids to each home game Tom pitches, swam one year for the Cal varsity. Sister Carol was a physical education major at UCLA and spent two years in Nigeria with her husband, a Peace Corps official. It was no shock when Tom, the baby of the family, turned out to be a fine athlete.
He is also a soft-spoken gentleman of the Sandy Koufax school, autographing photographs, answering repetitious questions and accepting the wisecracks of his teammates, all without complaint. He is working toward a college degree in public relations and it shows. "Poised" is the adjective most often stuck on him.
"I don't find myself jumping up and down," he says. "I smile, but that's as far as I let my emotions carry me."
He recently joined a couple of his teammates in visiting the prisoners at Sing Sing, and on his first day off after coming home from the horrible road trip he went to a Bronx hospital and made a tape recording for the Bedside Network, a veterans' organization. He may be doing such things because he is a rookie and does not know how to turn people down, but more likely it is the same unostentatious idealism his brothers and sisters picked up somewhere in their Fresno upbringing.