To the Editor:
I read this afternoon about Tom Seaver’s health.
My favorite Seaver memory (and my favorite New York Mets memory of all … and I was at Game 6!) was going to a July game at Shea in 1969.
It was a big family deal. We got new shirts, new socks. It was sunny. It was hot. The L-I-E was going to be packed and stalled with overheating cars heading toward the beaches.
Pop was anxious about the Chrysler, starting his pacing at breakfast… its oil leak… the sticking thermostat… the way second gear hung up on an incline…
but mostly anxious about the bridge, and how if your car died there, there was no getting your family back.
Death by bridge or not, mom was decked out in new slacks and a blouse from JC Penney. She wore an odd tint of lipstick, and a kerchief over her straightened curls.
Not long before we left, my grandfather (69 at the time) and I played catch on the front lawn of his Great River home. He had an awkward submarine delivery, a throwing motion violating all the rules.
But even as he twisted, even as he dipped, even as he hid his throwing arm and the ball the way Jake on Eighth Avenue hid the Queen, he hit my glove more than I hit his.
At Shea, we had great seats — uncharacteristically fantastic seats — just a soft toss from the right field grass. Somehow our tickets had fallen off a truck on Metropolitan Avenue and landed in our pockets as if God was sorry for many things.
I mean, it was July! It was baseball! We were in box seats where you never had to get up to let some guy with a thirst or a bladder through! Vendors were everywhere, waving steamed dogs or sticks of cotton candy so close we could feel their sugary stickiness!
And the Metsies were coming alive. We were playing the Cubs. Seaver against Holtzman. Mets against the Cubs. Seaver against the Cubs. Seaver against Qualls, top ninth, one down, two outs away, and you all know what happened to the perfect game then.
They called it a clean hit, but no matter if he were a mile and a half away, no matter if he was playing
deep on the damn Tappan Zee Bridge, Jones should have dived, should have given everything to end with his face in the ground. But he didn’t.
When the crowd moaned, my grandfather stood, looked around, and applauded, not at the effort, not at Seaver’s proximation of greatness, but because he still saw a victory, a real and rare (in his world) victory. And I was there.
God speed Tom Seaver.