Tom Seaver: A Terrific Life
By Bill Madden. (Simon and Schuster, 291 pages, $28.)
More than half a century has passed since the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969, owing mostly to pluck, clutch hitting and the strong right arm of pitcher George Thomas Seaver, an articulate 24-year-old Californian who joined the famously inept team in 1967 but didn't think that losing was all that funny. This book by longtime New York sportswriter Bill Madden, published shortly after Seaver died at 75 last year of complications of dementia and COVID-19, tells the story of how "Tom Terrific" rose from the Fresno sandlots to collegiate success at the University of Southern California and then stardom with the Mets, who won the rights to sign him in a lottery.
After 10 years with the Mets, which included two World Series and three Cy Young awards, the fastballer pitched five winning seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and closed his career in the American League with stints in Chicago and Boston, where he relied more on his smarts and his changeup to top off his 311 career victories; he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first try in 1992 with nearly 99% of the votes.
It's a classic baseball story, but it must be said that this book by Madden — who was close to Seaver and reported on his post-baseball career as a winemaker and his sad physical decline due to Lyme disease — reads more like a hurried-into-print primer than the great biography that the Hall of Famer warrants. I've played hooky from work only once, when Seaver was on the mound for the White Sox against the Twins in 1984, but I didn't care if I got caught. After all, would you pass on the chance to watch Monet paint?