Mets and Marines Share a Day
I can't help but love the fact that my favorite baseball team shares a tight bond with military veterans, and the Marine Corps in particular. The story linked above ran in the NY Times last week, describing the most recent day at Citi Field (it still seems very weird to not say "Shea") to honor military service, and in particular, tremendous sacrifice. It's worth a read.
I had the opportunity to chat with Mets owner Fred Wilpon for a few minutes before a game in 2008, as the Mets recognized the election of Gil Hodges to the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. While baseball was on my mind, meeting the needs of veterans was on his, and we spoke about his vision for doing more. I may have plenty of gripes about Mr. Wilpon as an owner -- as any fan of a suffering franchise with high expectations would -- but as a gentleman who cares for the nation's wounded warriors, he could not be more sincere.
Some of the Mets' most legendary figures had a connection to the Marines, but none more so than original Met player and famed manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Gil Hodges. Every player from that team speaks with utter reverence about the man's legendary leadership abilities, forged in the Pacific battles of World War II before he found fame as a Brooklyn Dodgers great. None speak more respectfully of him than 'The Franchise', Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. A Marine himself, like late teammate Tug McGraw, Seaver credits so much of his success to the guidance of Hodges, and the discipline of the Marines...
The linked blog post below from 2009 shared one anecdote from Tom Terrific's USMC service...
Seaver said that his service in the United States Marine Corps Reserves — which began when he was 17 at the strong suggestion of his father — imposed discipline on his pitching.
“It helped me focus,” he said. “It applies to whatever you do and to pitching in front of 45,000 or 50,000 people or to 3,000 or 5,000. The discipline helped me to enhance an art form.”
In 1967, his rookie year, he was fulfilling his reserve duty at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx. One day, he told an officer, “`I’m pitching Sunday. I work for the New York Mets.’ He said, ‘What time do you have to be there?’ I said, ‘1:30.’ And he said, ‘I’ll let you off at 12 o’clock.’ I thanked him and drove over the Throgs Neck Bridge.”
That game appears to have been the back end of a Fathers’ Day doubleheader against the Cubs when The New York Times reported that Seaver reached Shea during the first game. He pitched a complete game for the fifth of his 16 wins that season.
Seaver Has Perfect Memory of Nearly Perfect Game