Seaver is pitching today, Bench. Aren't you sick or something?
- Sparky Anderson
Veteran Reds fans remember well the day Tom Seaver came to Cincinnati. On June 15, 1977, hours before the trade deadline, the Reds sent pitcher Pat Zachry, infielder Doug Flynn and minor league outfielders Dan Norman and Steve Henderson to the New York Mets for Seaver, arguably the game's best pitcher. It was incredible. The two-time defending World Champion Reds just got better. The 6 1/2 game deficit the Reds were facing in the division standings at the time suddenly looked a great deal smaller. The division-leading Dodgers suddenly seemed much more vulnerable. Tom Seaver was a Red!
For the Reds, Seaver represented the best option for a team beset with pitching problems but that boasted one of the game's best lineups and gold glove-caliber defense at virtually every position. Off to a sluggish start due largely to the ineffectiveness of the pitching staff, the Reds needed significant help if they hoped to catch the strong Dodger in front of them.
To say that Seaver had the credentials to cure many of the Reds' pitching ills would be a gross understatement. By June of 1977, "Tom Terrific" had earned three Cy Young awards, struck out 200 batters in a record-tying nine consecutive seasons, posted four twenty-win seasons and paced the league in ERA three times. In addition, he had been named to nine National League All-Star teams, won the Rookie of the Year award and had led the Mets to two pennants and a World Championship. An intelligent and durable pitcher, Seaver was known for his impeccable control and possessed one of the game's best fastballs. In the minds of many Reds fans, the arrival of Seaver all but guaranteed another title.
Seaver compiled a 14-3 record in his twenty starts for the Reds. Included in that record were fourteen complete games, four of them shutouts. Along the way, Seaver was selected to play in the All-Star game a tenth time and, on September 15th, notched the 200th win of his career, beating the Dodgers, 3-2. Unfortunately, his excellence on the mound could not overcome the Reds otherwise pedestrian pitching staff and the club ended up finishing a distant second to the Dodgers in the division.
In 1978, Tom Seaver made history with a 4-0 no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals that was both the first no-hitter of Seaver's career and also the first no-hitter pitched by a Red at Riverfront Stadium. The milestone game occurred amidst one of the most frustrating seasons of Seaver's career as the Reds' once productive offense failed him in many starts, conjuring recollections of the light hitting Mets lineups that so bedeviled Seaver during the first decade of his career. He would end the year with an uninspiring 16-14 record despite posting a 2.88 ERA. Of greater significance was the Reds' failure to reach the post-season for a second consecutive year.
In 1979, Seaver reeled off eleven consecutive victories and finished with wins in fourteen of his last fifteen decisions helping the Reds to their first division title since 1976. The Reds met the Pirates in the NLCS. Seaver pitched eight strong innings in the opening game and left with the score knotted at 2-2. The Pirates went on to win Game 1 in eleven innings and proceeded to take the next two games and the pennant. Seaver's Game 1 start was his only postseason appearance in a Reds uniform.
The Reds would flirt with contention in 1980 but Seaver would struggle through the worst statistical year of his career that also included his first visit to the disabled list. The previously durable righthander finished with a 10-8 record and what was, for him, an inflated 3.64 ERA. It marked the first time in his career that his ERA was higher than the league average. Nonetheless, Seaver remained determined in his pursuit of two of pitching's most hallowed numbers: 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts.
The 1981 players' strike delayed Seaver's quest for 300 wins but did find him recording his 3000th strikeout on April 18th. The strike lasted for fifty days and had the duel effect of denying the Reds a playoff berth (despite posting the game's best record) and interrupting what might have become the very best season of Seaver's career. At the conclusion of the abbreviated season, Seaver's record stood at 14-2. His win total and winning percentage led the National League and his winning percentage (.875) was the highest of his career. The phenomenal season of Dodger rookie Fernando Valenzuela was all that prevented Seaver from winning his fourth Cy Young Award. It was an altogether remarkable season that earned Seaver a Comeback Player of the Year award.
Seaver was dealt back to the Mets following the Reds' disastrous 101-loss season in 1982; a year in which Seaver managed only a 5-13 record. He resurrected his career in his return stint in New York and moved on to solid seasons with the White Sox and Red Sox before retiring after the 1986 season. He reached 300 victories while pitching for Chicago on August 4, 1985. He joined the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1988 and entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame with what was the highest percentage of votes (98.5 percent percent) in the Hall's history up to that point.
In 2006, Reds fans voted Tom Seaver into the Reds Hall of Fame. On July 16 of that year, Seaver joined Tom Browning and Lee May in the Hall of Fame's 2006 induction class.