Thursday , October 6 2022

Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson – NY Mets Honor Two of Baseball’s Greatest Players!

Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson – NY Mets Honor Two of Baseball’s Greatest Players on Friday at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. It was as if the baseball gods deemed it to be a perfect day. The sky was high blue with hardly a cloud to be seen, and the unveiling of Seaver’s new statue honoring him happened to fall not only on opening day but also Jackie Robinson Day as well. Thank you, gods of baseball.

To say I am lucky enough to have seen Tom Seaver pitch in person is to say that I have been blessed. Not just one of the Mets’ greatest pitchers, Seaver was one of baseball’s greatest of all time. There was something that fans and Mets players felt each time he was going to start – there was a very good chance for the team to win today. 

SEAVER’S LEGACY

Think about how Tom Seaver came to the Mets as a rookie in 1967. He immediately became the best player on the team. Fans wanted to see him pitch, and Seaver’s greatness wore off on the other players. The Mets were deemed lovable losers – just as the Brooklyn Dodgers before them were affectionately know as “Dem Bumbs,” but Tom wouldn’t accept that. He wanted to be the best player he could be, and he wanted every other player on the team to think of themselves as winners.

In his rookie year Tom went to the All Star Game, was in the running for Most Valuable Player, and was crowned Rookie of the Year. While his 16-13 record and 2.76 ERA may not seem so impressive at first, we have to realize that he was pitching for the Mets when they had yet to make the big turn to winning baseball. The team finished in 10th place with a record of 61-101. We have to realize that Seaver’s season was even more remarkable considering the team batting average was .238, and they hit a paltry 83 home runs. It’s a testament to Seaver’s sheer willpower that he overcame these issues and won games anyway.  

As a kid, I finally saw a player on my team that was a MLB caliber player. My friends and all the other kids out there who were Mets fans had found their Met knight in shining armor. Tom also had an amazing sense of humor, keen intelligence, and a sharp wit. He was quite capable of dealing with the New York press in a way that endeared him so much to the writers covering the team that they would end up dubbing him The Franchise. 

In only his third season in baseball (1969), manager Gil Hodges and Tom led the team to win the World Series. Mets fans who had their hearts broken so many times over the years were rewarded for their loyalty, and Tom Seaver won the Cy Young Award as well. Mets fans would never forget that it was he who led us all out of the baseball darkness into the shining light of victory.

SEAVER’S STATUE

While Tom Seaver has been honored before by the Mets organization, the statue was long overdue for a player who was so well loved and admired. Sculptor William Behrends loving rendered the familiar dropped right knee and arched left leg, the armed reared back, and face full of determination in this creation that weighs over 3,000 pounds and is more than twice as big as the life-sized pitching great. 

During the ceremony prior to unveiling of the statue, another Mets great named Mike Piazza talked about being an eight year old Philly fan and how his father wanted him to skip school to take him to the game the following day because “Tom Terrific” was pitching. Piazza gushed about getting to know Tom later in life, and it was a touching moment.

Tom’s wife Nancy and her daughters were there and spoke. Although it was a beautiful day, it was quite windy, and the conditions challenged Nancy a bit as she tried to read her prepared remarks. She did get to express how much the fans meant to Tom and their family, and she knew Tom loved the fans as much as they loved him.

Now the statue, which stands next to the old Mets Home Run Apple outside Citi Field, will forever greet fans as they come across the parking lot and head into the beautiful ball park that is home to the Mets. Tom Seaver, the greatest Met of them all, is now forever its stunning sentinel to baseball greatness and glory.

Jackie Robinson was a dynamic player beloved by Brooklyn fans.

JACKIE ROBINSON HONORED

Jackie once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” These amazing words are inscribed in the magnificent Jackie Robinson Rotunda that is the first thing fans see when they come to a game at Citi Field. The rotunda honors Jackie’s life and legacy, and those words sum up what Jackie did for not just baseball but all sports and American society. 

To say that Jackie had an “impact” is an understatement; Jackie was a juggernaut that shattered the oppressive white ceiling that kept Black (and other players of color) out of Major League Baseball. Being first at anything is never easy, but it took a man of Jackie’s caliber and a player with his innate abilities to be the one to successfully chart the course for other players. 

BROOKLYN DODGERS FANS

My family on my mother’s side were huge Brooklyn Dodgers fans, and it was very fitting that Jackie came to the majors in New York City. Mom was a young girl when Jackie was to play his first MLB game on April 15, 1947, and most of the time they couldn’t get the money together to buy tickets, but she and her sisters and cousins and friends could sometimes watch games through holes in the outfield fence. They and other kids called themselves the Knothole Gang, and there was also a TV show named after those kids who in Brooklyn and all over the country tried see games through holes in wooden fences to watch their heroes play. 

Mom said that at first some fans were angry that the team brought up Jackie, but many fans were quickly won over by his personality and talent on the field. Jackie also was a fierce competitor, and Dodgers fans really respected that about him.  Jackie also shared another thing with the fans: he hated the New York Giants and the New York Yankees as much as they did.  

JACKIE’S IMPACT

Jackie Robinson shattered the white ceiling. He became the first Black player, and this ended the racial segregation of baseball. His style of play, his intelligence, and being a fierce competitor endeared him to the fans and led to players from the “Negro Leagues” not having to be confined to playing in them. 

Having to be the first makes Jackie a hero to all players of color in all team sports  in America. Jackie withstood racism, questions about his abilities, and underlying societal structures to overcome and thrive on and off the field. He became the first African-American inducted into MLB Hall of Fame, and stands today as a role model for all people as a person of integrity, courage, and honor who made a difference that lasts until today.

The magnificent Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the entrance to Citi Field, Flushing, NY

MLB HONORS JACKIE ROBINSON

On April 15, 2022, MLB honored the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s first appearance for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players all around the league wore Jackie’s number 42, and there was an outpouring of love and gratitude for a man who made a difference at a time when it was needed most. 

When Jackie’s wife Rachel first saw the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field, she was shaken by its magnificence and beauty. During the dedication, Rachel said, “I’m speechless.” She was mostly taken back because she said, “Jack was a humble man.” She felt he would think that he didn’t deserve such an honor, but she knew that he did.

The Mets and MLB honor Jackie’s memory every year on April 15th, and the Mets honor him during every home game by having the Jackie Robinson Rotunda be the first thing fans see. This is fitting for a man that was not only an amazing player, but who was responsible for changing baseball and American society forever.

TOM AND JACKIE

Two baseball legends were honored on April 15, 2022, and Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson more than deserved it. They were both agents of change for the better. Tom changed the Mets organization with his refreshing and winning attitude; the team would never be the same. Jackie changed MLB forever, and his impact also broke in waves across America and changed it forever as well. 

Now, Tom’s statue rests outside majestic Citi Field, in front of the entrance to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Two legends, emblazoned on the hearts of Mets fans, inextricably linked forevermore. 

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. His newest books 'The Stranger from the Sea' and 'Love in the Time of the Coronavirus' are available as e-books and in print. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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