MLB: What Happened After Tom Seaver Vetoed His Trade to the Cincinnati Reds?

Harold FriendChief Writer IOctober 14, 2011

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24:  Hall of Famer Tom Seaver is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011 in Cooperstown, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It's fascinating that when discussing the greatest Cincinnati Reds players in the team's history, Tom Seaver is rarely mentioned. In New York, it's as if the New York Mets were his only team.

On June 13, 1977, Seaver told the New York Times that he would give his approval to a trade to the Reds. When asked if he would feel all right remaining with the Mets, he said he would, but he emphasized that his relationship with the team would never be the same as it had been.

The Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates were other teams Seaver would approve being traded to. Imagine Seaver and Steve Carlton in the same rotation.

Bob Howsam, the Reds general manager, wouldn't comment on a potential trade for Seaver. "We never comment on trade rumors," Howsam told the media.

The Mets attempted to paint Seaver as the villain. M. Donald Grant, who ran the Mets and made Jack Benny appear to be a spendthrift, saying:

"...We wish to announce we do not and never have wanted to trade him. However, Tom now wishes to renegotiate his contract that he was so happy with a year ago.

"Our Board of Directors voted unanimously against renegotiation. The contract is the fundamental cornerstone in our country and baseball as well."

On June 15, the Reds acquired Seaver for a quartet of players that many in the media considered far from equal value. How can one receive equal value for a Tom Seaver?

Right-hander Pat Zachary, infielder Doug Flynn and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman were sent to Mets.

It was later revealed that the night before the trade that Seaver had second thoughts and told the Mets that he would veto being sent to the Reds. Upon reflection, he decided that he wanted out. He called the Mets to tell them that they had his approval.

The Reds and their fans were ecstatic. It was now believed that the Reds could overtake the first place Los Angeles Dodgers to win their third consecutive World Championship with Seaver.

Manager Sparky Anderson didn't hide his enthusiasm.

"This gives us the premier pitcher in baseball," he exulted. "Seaver just keeps climbing, and he may be the all-time all-timer before he is through."

Davey Lopes of the Dodgers was far from pleased.

"This has to be one of the biggest steals since the Babe Ruth trade. A trade is supposed to help both teams. But I don't think the Mets are as good a club as they were before."

Seaver, who had been 7-3 with the Mets, was 14-3 with a 2.34 ERA and a 169 ERA+ with the Reds, but it was to no avail. The Reds won only 88 games to finish a distant second to the Dodgers.

The Reds lacked the pitching to win. Fred Norman, a journeyman left-hander, was the only starter besides Seaver to have an ERA less that four. Jack Billingham, Paul Moskau, Doug Capilla and Woody Fryman needed bullpen help too often.

One cannot help but wonder where the Reds would have finished if they hadn't stolen Seaver from the Mets.


'If a trade happens, I'd O.K. it': Seaver. (1977, Jun 14). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 50. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/123368567?accountid=46260

Mets trade Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman. (1977, Jun 16). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/123466885?accountid=46260