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BC-BBO--Seaver-Dementia,1st Ld-Writethru

March 7, 2019
AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, the star of the Miracle Mets 1969 World Series championship team, has been diagnosed with dementia at age 74.

His family made the announcement Thursday through the Hall and said Seaver has retired from public life and will continue to work at Seaver Vineyards, founded by the retired player and wife Nancy in 1998 on 116 acres at Diamond Mountain in the Calistoga region of California.

Seaver has limited his public appearances in recent years. He didn’t attend the Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in January where members of the 1969 team were honored on the 50th anniversary of what still ranks among baseball’s most unexpected title winners.

A three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year, Seaver was 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts and 61 shutouts from 1967-86. A five-time 20-game winner nicknamed Tom Terrific, Seaver was elected to the Hall in 1992 with a then-record 98.94 percent of the ballots, appearing on 425 of 430. His mark was surpassed in 2016 by Ken Griffey Jr. and this year by Mariano Rivera, the first unanimous selection.

Seaver pitched for the Mets from 1967 until 1977, when he was traded to Cincinnati after a public spat with Mets chairman M. Donald Grant.

“My biggest disappointment? Leaving the Mets the first time and the difficulties I had with the same people that led up to it,” Seaver told The Associated Press ahead of his Hall induction in 1992. “But even that I look back at in a positive way now. It gave me the opportunity to work in different areas of the country.”

He pitched his only no-hitter for the Reds in June 1978 against St. Louis and was traded back to New York after the 1982 season. But Mets general manager Frank Cashen blundered by leaving Seaver unprotected, and in January 1984 Seaver was claimed by the Chicago White Sox as free agent compensation.

While pitching for the White Sox, Seaver got his 300th win at Yankee Stadium, and he did it in style with a six-hitter in a 4-1 victory. He finished his career with Boston in 1986. He was a 12-time All-Star and led the major leagues with a 25-7 record in 1969 and with a 1.76 ERA in 1971.

“From a team standpoint, winning the ’69 world championship is something I’ll remember most,” Seaver said in 1992. “From an individual standpoint, my 300th win brought me the most joy.”

Among baseball’s worst teams from their expansion season in 1962, the Mets lost more than 100 games in five of their first six seasons and had never won more than 73 games in their first seven years. With cherished Brooklyn Dodgers star Gil Hodges as their manager, a young corps of pitchers led by Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and a still-wild Nolan Ryan, and an offense that included Cleon Jones and Tommy Agee, the Mets overtook the Chicago Cubs to win the NL East with a 100-62 record.

They swept Atlanta in the first NL Championship Series to reach the World Series against highly favored Baltimore, which had gone 109-53. Seaver lost the opener 4-1 in a matchup with Mike Cuellar, then pitched a 10-inning six-hitter to win Game 4, and the Mets won the title the following afternoon.

His most memorable moment on the mound was at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1969, when he retired his first 25 batters against the Chicago Cubs. Pinch-hitter Jimmy Qualls had a one-out single to left-center in the ninth before Seaver retired Willie Smith on a foulout and Don Kessinger on a flyout.

“I had every hitter doing what I wanted,” Seaver recalled in 1992. “Afterward, my wife was in tears and I remember saying to her: ‘Hey, I pitched a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. What more could I ask for?’”

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