|Book Review: The Last Icon|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on December 17, 2011
His name is mentioned with the greats, and some say he was the greatest ever, but some dismiss him based on statistics. Â Everyone, however, knows the name Tom Seaver. Â He's the only player inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a New York Mets cap.Â But Seaver wasn't just a Met.Â He was THE Met.
He was the franchise player.Â The greatest name in team history, and while a handful of others have earned honorable mentions, there is no discussion of the greatest Met that doesn't begin, and usually end, with Tom Terrific.
It wasn't the media who dubbed him Tom Terrific, but his teammates.Â Part of that was because of Seaver's work ethic.Â Part of it was his professionalism and how he dedicated himself to improving every time out, even when he was at the top of his game.Â He learned hitters and his limitations.Â He worked hard to be the best pitcher Tom Seaver could be.
That was good enough to propel the Mets to their first World Series title in 1969, and good enough to take them back to the Series again in '73.Â He carried the team, game after game, being the stopper, the motivator, even a cheerleader in making sure that the team kept on believing.
And part of what made Seaver special was his moral compass.Â In a time when the sixties were roaring along, antiwar protests were raging, the drug culture was in full swing, he was an idol, a role model who was seemingly untouched by the moral shortfalls of others.Â He didn't cheat on his wife, he valued his family, he was clean cut, honest and gave the best of himself every day.
He never asked his teammates to be paragons of virtue.Â All he asked was that they give the best of themselves game after game.Â For many teammates that was inspiring as some even adopted his moral habits, at least partially during the season.Â But if Seaver could do it, they didn't feel they could give less.
Steven Travers tried very hard to capture the essence of George Thomas Seaver in this book.Â Certainly he managed to capture a segment of the man.Â The book well portrays the public image, the impressions of many who interacted with Seaver, and his on-field accomplishments.Â It explains how Seaver became larger than life, a true icon in the New York sports scene, which until that time only revered names like Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, Snyder and Mantle -- all symbols of a bygone era.
And while it was the magical sports year of 1969 in which the Jets and the Mets both won titles that Seaver laid his first claim to icon status, his legend was not built on a single season, but on being the best, year in and year out.
Travers captures that and the book is a good read -- one that anyone who grew up admiring Tom Terrific will enjoy reading.Â Clearly New Yorkers and Mets fans will get the most out of this book, but anyone who has ever debated just who the best pitcher in baseball's long history will find grist for the mill within the pages.
What this book lacks, albeit not from fault of the author, are the insights of Seaver himself.Â Seaver has avoided books and projects on himself for all these years.Â Until he relents this might be one of the best books written on a pitcher who was sometimes thought too mercenary, sometimes thought a bit plastic, but always thought of as one of the best the game has ever produced.
AHP Rating: Give this one 3 balls for the Seaver fans and a solid 2 for everyone else.
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