The last time Pat Jordan saw Tom Seaver it was 2013. After a long day including breakfast in Calistoga, a walk through Seaver’s vineyard and some baseball banter, the writer and the Hall of Fame pitcher shake hands and say goodbye. Seaver leans into the driver’s side window and looks into Jordan’s eyes and says, “You know, I can still see every pitch.”
Little did either man know at the time that it would be the last goodbye; the end of a 40+ year friendship.
From their first face-to-face meeting in 1971 to the last in 2013, Jordan reveals what he saw as the driving factors that made Tom Seaver a Hall of Fame pitcher. The most-written words in the book are disciple, hard work and intelligence.
It was discipline and hard work that mattered, not grace and beauty. Tom’s motion was a conscious construction that was hard earned. That’s why I admired him so much.
Seaver knew his limitations and focused on being the best he could in areas he understood, the rest he labeled “unimportant.” He had a keen sense of personal awareness. He knew tuned into what his strengths and weaknesses were – and exploited his strengths and didn’t test his weaknesses. It worked, for Seaver at least. He won 311 career games. Rookie of the Year (1967). Three Cy Young Awards (1969, 1973 and 1975). Voted to 12 National League All-Star teams. Recorded 3,640 career strikeouts. Pitched a no-hitter (1978). World Series champion (1969).
But Seaver would be the first one to tell you that, he wasn’t always the most talented athlete on the field, but no one outworked him. No one put more time and effort into the art of pitching.
As he matured, Seaver’s definition of “success” had evolved beyond winning and losing. Jordan captured who Seaver ‘s character and competiveness in a single quote:
“I used to think you could reach a point where success would be boring. But as I’m refining my pitching, I’m refining the pleasure I get from it. A victory used to give me pleasure. Then a well-pitched inning. Now I get satisfaction from one or two pitches a game. I get in a situation where I have to apply everything I know, mentally and physically. on just one pitch. I think about what I should do and then make my body do it. That’s a beautiful point to reach for an athlete. A light goes on in your head and you realize everything you’ve done in your life has been for this moment. There’s no doubt in your mind that at this moment you can achieve perfection. It’s a great thrill for me. Not a jubilant type of thrill, just a comforting satisfaction this is what you’ve devoted your life to.”
Before pursuing a career as a sports writer, Jordan pitched in the Milwaukee Braves organization. He won 12 professional games over three seasons and called it quits in 1961, retiring at age 20. Jordan has written for Sports Illustrated and has had his freelance sports work published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, N.Y. Times, L.A. Times and the The Sporting News.
Listen to the latest Mets Rewind podcast with Pat Jordan below. Note: There is some language that is NSFW.