It certainly didn’t work out for the Mets. Seaver shined for the Reds and without him, attendance at Shea Stadium plummeted for the Mets, who finished in last place three seasons in a row and didn’t win as many as 70 games until 1984.
George Thomas Seaver was born in Fresno, Calif., on Nov. 17, 1944, the youngest of four children. His parents were both athletes. His father, Charles, who worked as an executive for the Bonner Packing Company, a producer and marketer of dried fruit, played football and basketball at Stanford and was an accomplished amateur golfer. His mother, Betty Lee, an excellent golfer herself, played basketball in high school.
Tom played basketball and baseball in high school, though he did not make the varsity baseball team until his senior year. He was not yet a power pitcher; he threw mostly off-speed pitches and breaking balls.
After high school, he worked for his father’s company, lifting crates of raisins onto warehouse loading platforms, and after six months he enlisted in the Marines.
By the fall of 1963, he was in a Marine Reserve unit and attending Fresno City College; he had grown two inches, and wrangling raisins and boot camp had put 30 pounds on his frame. So when he went out to pitch for the school team, he was throwing 90-mile-per-hour fastballs.
In the summer of 1964, he played in an Alaskan collegiate league for the Alaska Goldpanners in Fairbanks, where his teammates included several future major leaguers including Rick Monday, Graig Nettles and the pitcher Ken Holtzman, who would twice defeat the Mets in the 1973 World Series. He did well enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Southern California, whose coach, Rod Dedeaux, was known for sending ballplayers to the big leagues. But his path to the Mets was convoluted and serendipitous.
Seaver, who was studying dentistry, was the best pitcher on U.S.C.’s roster, and he was drafted by the Dodgers in 1965. In a much recounted story, the scout, Tommy Lasorda, later the Dodgers manager, offered him a $2,000 signing bonus, and in response Seaver asked for $50,000.