Atlanta Braves History: Braves Sign Tom Seaver
Tom Seaver became a star with the New York Mets, but they were not his first team. On this day in 1966, he signed with the Atlanta Braves.
The New York Mets had been a hapless franchise until Tom Seaver came along. Literally from the moment he set foot on the mound, Seaver was the staff ace that the Mets desperately needed. A key part of their resurgence, he was the leader of the 1969 Miracle Mets, and perhaps the greatest pitcher in team history.
However, that almost never happened. Seaver was originally property of the Atlanta Braves, who had signed him on this day in 1966. A pitcher with the University of Sourther California, the Braves inked Seaver to a deal with the Richmond Braves. Seaver would have received $40,000 in the deal, while becoming one of the crown jewels of their system.
Seaver would never appear for the Braves, or in their system. As the contract broke the rules governing college players at the time, MLB Commissioner William Eckart nullified the deal. As Seaver had been declared ineligible by USC, he was made available to any team willing to match the Braves contract, although Atlanta itself was ineligible for retaining his services.
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In the end, three teams agreed to meet that price. The Indians, Mets, and Phillies were all willing to meet the Braves contract, leading to a three team drawing for Seaver. The Mets ended up winning that drawing, and signed the young pitcher to a contract with the Jacksonville Suns, and a $50,000 bonus.
That decision worked out well for the Mets. Seaver, in his 12 years in New York, posted a 196-124 record with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.076 WHiP. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1967, made ten All Star Games during his time with the Mets, and won the Cy Young award three times. He threw five one hitters, and lost two no hitters with two out in the ninth. Seaver finally got his no hitter, but that occurred with the Reds.
It is interesting to think of how much the fortunes of those other franchises would have changed with Seaver on board. The Mets had built a solid farm system and had some excellent pitching prospects, but Seaver was far beyond what the Mets had. Would those other teams have had the same sort of success that the Mets would in that time?
Tom Seaver changed the course of Mets history. However, he was almost the property of the Atlanta Braves, having signed there first before his contract was voided.