Tom Seaver, who starred at Fresno City College, was inducted into the CCCAA Hall of Fame in 1986. Read his HOF bio here.)
By Woody Wilk
Fresno City College
FRESNO - His life and baseball legacy was as vintage as the cabernet sauvignon grapes he grew in the Seaver Family Vineyards of Calistoga, Calif.
George Thomas Seaver, 75, died in his sleep on Aug. 31, 2020 due to complications from Lewy Body Dementia and COVID-19.
A 1962 graduate of Fresno High School and a self described “junk-baller,” Tom Seaver had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and served his first six months of active duty at Twenty-Nine Palms MC Air Station. He returned to Fresno shortly before the Fall, 1963 semester. Upon seeing a new, taller and muscular Seaver, his future legendary Fresno City College baseball coach, Len Bourdet, observed, “he had left as a boy and came back a man.” Seaver’s baseball legacy was underway.
Pitching for the FCC Rams in the spring of 1964, Seaver compiled a fabulous line: W-L, 11-2; ERA 1.58; 132 strikeouts in 114 innings; 25 walks; 64 hits; 10 complete games and three shutouts in 13 starts. In a critical double header against College of the Sequoias on May 7, he won the first game 3-2 and pitched a shut-down final inning in a 4-3 win which clinched the Rams sixth consecutive Valley Conference championship.
Following a 9-3 loss at Sacramento City College on March 28, Seaver (4-2), a quick learner, proceeded to go 7-0 the rest of the season. Larry Bowa (yes, that Larry Bowa), and his Sac City teammates had lit him up for 8 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He had 4 Ks, 3 BB.
Seaver won a semi-final NorCal playoff game 2-1 against San Jose CC on May 22, but the Rams quest for a fourth straight state championship ended the next day, 7-6 against College of Vallejo. The opposing pitcher who denied the Rams another best-of-three state title series was another future New York Met: Tug McGraw.
After FCC, Seaver went on to pitch for the University of Southern California before signing with the Mets in 1966. What followed was a Hall of Fame 20-year career with the Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. The line: 311 wins, a 2.86 career ERA, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts and Cy Young Awards in 1969, 1973 and 1975. His nickname “Tom Terrific” came from his masterful and artistic performances in leading the Mets to the 1969 World Series championship. He is regarded as “the greatest Met of all.”
The same can be said for his 1964 performances at FCC as echoed by current Rams head coach Ron Scott. “Tom Seaver is the greatest player that ever put on a FCC baseball uniform. When opposing teams have walked into our park and seen the names on the wall, they always said, ‘Wow, Tom Seaver played here!”
Tom Sommers, a Fresno area baseball expert and former executive with the California Angels, saw Seaver’s early potential. “He had that great delivery as a little kid. It enabled him to avoid injury and to pitch every fourth day when he became a strong and confident guy.”
“None of us wanted anything more from him except friendship all of our lives,” he added.
Tom Seaver’s legacy as a man is: a class act; a baseball Hall of Famer; a shared love and mutual loyalty with his widow, Nancy; a proud father and grandfather; a tight group of friends who date to youthful days in Fresno; as a great teammate and a connoisseur of fine wine. That vintage legacy, like fine wine, will age well for many years to come. RIP “Tom Terrific!”
(Woody Wilk was longtime Sports Information Director at Fresno City)