By Ed Odeven
True story: The first MLB game I ever attended in person featured two Hall of Fame starting pitchers, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. Opening Day 1983, New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. April 5.
It was my ninth birthday. What a treat! And I didn’t have to go to school that day, either.
My dad, paternal grandfather and younger brother joined me in celebrating my birthday at the ballpark.
The game featured several all-time greats. Pete Rose batted leadoff for the Phillies. Joe Morgan was their No. 2 hitter, Mike Schmidt hit cleanup and Tony Perez fifth.
The Mets gave the starting nod to Mike Howard, a third-year big leaguer, in right field that day. It turned to be his final MLB appearance. A guy named Darryl Strawberry, a rookie right fielder, soon became a fixture in the lineup.
New York’s 2-0 victory was, of course, overshadowed by Seaver’s return to the Big Apple after many years pitching for the Cincinnati Reds. The 1969 World Series champions’ pitching ace still had a great presence on the mound, though he didn’t have a great year in 1983, going 9-14 for the woeful Mets.
On Opening Day, Seaver and Carlton thrilled this young baseball fanatic. They combined to strike out 14 batters in a classic pitchers’ duel. Seaver left after six scoreless innings. He allowed only three hits and fanned five.
New York Governor Mario Cuomo and New York City Mayor were on hand for the festivities at the park.
After the game, Seaver appeared on “Kiner’s Korner.”
All these years later, the collective excitement of seeing big moments and fundamental plays stick with me from that game. Strikeouts, double plays, solid defense, good base running, for instance.
Seaver’s pitching smarts made an impression on me, too, with a few comments sprinkled in by my Dad and Grandpa when they saw something that he did that sunny afternoon that reminded them of his greatest feats from years past in a Mets uniform.
Tom Seaver passed away a few days ago at age 75. A remarkable pitcher and a true gentleman. It’s still a thrill to know that I got to see him pitch.