A crowd of 46,687 fans crammed into Shea Stadium on April 5, 1983, for Tom Seaver’s return to the New York Mets on Opening Day. Spending six years with the Cincinnati Reds, the Hall of Famer was finally back where it all began.
Ron Gardenhire was an infielder for 17 games that season, and he got to witness the game from the dugout. He watched in awe as Seaver battled with Philadelphia Phillies starter and another eventual Hall of Famer Steve Carlton – firing six scoreless innings with three hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
Now the Detroit Tigers manager, Gardenhire, 62, considers that day one of the greatest moments in his baseball career. Seaver died Monday from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19. He was 75 years old.
“I had the opportunity, the lucky opportunity, to actually be on the baseball field when he pitched, for a very short time,” Gardenhire said Wednesday, hours after Seaver’s death was announced by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “I ended up getting sent down that year. But class act, great guy. And, obviously, a great pitcher. Really sad day.”
What makes April 5, 1983, special to Gardenhire isn’t just the historic memory of Seaver’s return to New York at 38 years old. It was the way those 46,000-plus fans reacted on Opening Day, creating an unreplicable atmosphere.
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Seaver was their hero.
[ Opinion: The greatest Met of all-time, late Tom Seaver was terrific on and off mound ]
“When he walked from the bullpen with a towel around his neck, walking toward the bullpen for his start, it was a standing ovation,” Gardenhire said. “As loud as you could ever, ever be involved in. I was fortunate.”
Gardenhire didn’t play in the game, which featured Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Mike Schmidt and Tony Perez for the Phillies. He only played in 285 major league games across five seasons.
But he is never going to forget that day.
“I didn’t have that many great moments as a player, as far as doing anything,” Gardenhire said. “But that was a great moment to be a part of – to watch Tom Seaver at Shea Stadium make the walk to start that day. That was a really cool thing.”
Seaver, a 12-time All-Star, was a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner (1969, 1973, 1975), Rookie of the Year in 1967 and helped the Mets win the 1969 World Series – the same season he finished second in NL MVP voting.
Seaver concluded his 20-year career at age 41 in 1986.
The Tigers announced on Thursday they have added three players to their 60-man player pool: right-handed pitchers Jason Foley, Alex Lange and Logan Shore and outfielder Parker Meadows.
Meadows, 20, is the No. 13 prospect in the Tigers’ system according to MLBPipeline.com. He was the Tigers’ second-round draft pick in 2018 and hit .221 with a .296 on-base percentage and a .312 slugging percentage in 126 games in Single-A West Michigan last season.
None of the pitchers are among the top 30 prospects in the organization. Foley, 24, pitched for Single-A Lakeland last season. Lange, 24, was acquired from the Cubs in the Nicholas Castellanos trade last season and finished 2019 at Double-A Erie. Shore, 25, came to the Tigers via the Mike Fiers trade in 2018. He pitched for Erie last season.