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The Man Is Terrific:

 TOM SEAVER

         

   Tom Seaver was one of the greatest power pitchers in the history of baseball. In the last few years, however, when age has eroded some of that power, Seaver has become a finesse pitcher - an artistic hurler who uses years of experience to continue to excel.

 

   In Seaver's opinion, the transition from power to finesse is not something that happens overnight. Even early in his career he began thinking of not relying solely on his great fastball. As he explained, "It is an overall preparation through your entire career when you experiment with different pitches, different grips, and different ways to move the ball. It has been a gradual transition.'

 

He has also become the ultimate thinking man's pitcher. He knows exactly how he will pitch to each hitter, then he does it.

 

"It's just a matter of odds," Seaver said, "where I feel my best odds are to get out of an inning. The decision process is probably the most enjoyable, regardless of what the decision is. It's intriguing - the understanding and the evaluation that lead to the solution of the problem."

 

At times he pitches like he's in the midst of a card game. Take, for instance, a game in 1981 against the San Francisco Giants. The game was scoreless in the bottom of the ninth, and the Giants had runners on first and third. Seaver suggested to Reds manager John McNamara that he make the somewhat unorthodox move of walking Milt May. Cold calculation told Seaver that Johnnie LeMaster was the out he was looking for.

"That ninth inning was like playing bridge," Seaver said after he won the game, 1-0, in the 10th inning. "How are you going to play it? Where do your best chances lie? It was fun. It was the kind of thing that's rewarding for me as a pitcher."

 

Seaver did not lose that time, nor has he lost often in a remarkable career that probably will lead him to a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame a few years hence.

   Seaver spent the early part of his career with the New York Mets. He won three Cy Young Awards and was generally recognized as the best pitcher in baseball. But on June 15, 1977, in a blockbuster trade, the Reds acquired him for four players.

Since joining the Reds, Seaver has reached several memorable milestones.

 

The first came a year and a day after the trade. It was a no-hitter. Three times previously Seaver had taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning only to come away empty. This time, against the St. Louis Cardinals, he prevailed.

 

He did it without much of a fastball, but his curve was brilliant. "I always felt that if I ever pitched a no-hitter," Seaver said, "that it would come on a night like this, on a night when I wasn't over-powering."

 

The 1981 season saw Seaver overcome two more barriers, two which few pitchers have even come close to.

 

    First came his 3,000th strikeout.

 

    On April 18, St. Louis' Keith Hernandez swung and missed a high slider, and Seaver became only the fifth player in history to reach 3,000.

 

Then on May 20 in Chicago, Seaver joined the exclusive 250-victory club. Before the season was finished, he raised his total to 259, 28th on the all-time list.

 

Seaver had one of his poorest seasons ever in 1980, winning only 10 and losing eight. His ERA ballooned to 3.64. His shoulder was bothering him. Finally, for the first time in his career, he went on the disabled list with a serious arm problem.

 

Rest sometimes does magical things to pitching arms. When Seaver returned late in the season, he won six of seven decisions. Add that to a 14-2 record in 1981, and Seaver posted a 20-3 record following his trip to the DL.

 

How long can Tom Terrific pitch? Probably long enough to get 300 victories. Remember Warren Spahn? His fastball was washed up when he was 41 years old, but he won 21 games. Tom Seaver appears capable of doing the same.

  

         
       

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