COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Today he is the face of the Mets franchise, the man most associated with the 1969 miracle and the only Hall of Famer with a Mets logo on his plaque cap.But 44 years ago this week, Tom Seaver began his big league journey as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Seaver grabbed the attention of big league scouts after going 10-2 as a sophomore at the University of Southern California in 1965. He was drafted in the 10th round of the very first Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft that year by the Dodgers, but could not come to an agreement with the team.Less than a year later, on Feb. 24, 1966, Seaver signed a $40,000 contract with the Braves. But just six days after Seaver signed, Commissioner William "Spike" Eckert ruled that the Braves' contract was void because USC's baseball season was still in progress. Suddenly, Seaver was a man without a team.“So now to the professionals I’m an amateur and to the amateurs I’m a pro, and I’m stuck,” Seaver said. “My dad got in the middle of it. There was going to be some legal action somewhere because I wasn’t going to be thrown in the street. I lost my scholarship and everything.”Eckert quickly came up with a solution. He invited all the other big league clubs to match the Braves' $40,000 offer, and the Phillies, Indians and Mets each lined up to sign Seaver. Eckert then held a lottery among the four teams, with the Mets winning the right to sign Seaver.After one season in the minors at Triple-A Jacksonville, Fla., Seaver made the Mets out of spring training in 1967 and went on to win National League Rookie of the Year honors based on a 16-13 record, 2.76 earned run average and 18 complete games in 34 starts for a team that lost 101 games. Two years later, Seaver won the National League Cy Young Award after going 25-7 and leading the Miracle Mets to the World Series championship.Seaver went on to win two more Cy Young Awards with the Mets before being traded to the Reds during the 1977 season. He returned to the Mets for one more season in 1983 and finished his 20-year big league career with 311 wins and 12 All-Star Game selections. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.84 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote -- the highest percentage any player has ever received.Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum