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Sports Heroes Who Served: Baseball Legend Served During Vietnam

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Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

George Thomas "Tom" Seaver, born Nov. 17, 1944 in Fresno, California, credits the discipline and focus he learned in boot camp as major contributors to his legendary career. 

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Tom Seaver
Tom Seaver poses for a photo in his New York Mets uniform in 1971.
Photo By: Courtesy of the New York Mets
VIRIN: 710316-O-D0439-001

Perhaps the most momentous occasion of his baseball career was when his team, the New York Mets, won the 1969 World Series over the Baltimore Orioles. As the Mets star pitcher, he significantly contributed to that win.

Most of Seaver's career was with the Mets (1967-1977 ' and again in 1983). But he also played with other Major League Baseball teams: Cincinnati Reds (1977-1982), Chicago White Sox (1984-1986), and the Boston Red Sox (1986).

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Seaver and the Mets
Tom Seaver with the New York Mets poses for a photo at Shea Stadium, New York, in 1974.
Photo By: Courtesy of the New York Mets
VIRIN: 740316-O-D0439-001

Seaver amassed some amazing awards, statistics and career highlights. Among them:

  • Win-loss record: 311-205
  • Earned run average: 2.86
  • Strikeouts: 3,640
  • Twelve-time All-Star: 1967-1973, 1975-1978, 1981
  • Three-time National League Cy Young Award winner: 1969, 1973, 1975
  • NL Rookie of the Year: 1967
  • Three-time NL wins leader: 1969, 1975, 1981
  • Three-time NL ERA leader: 1970, 1971, 1973
  • Five-time NL strikeout leader: 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976
  • Pitched a no-hitter June 16, 1978

In 1992, Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage of votes ever recorded at the time. Seaver is also a member of the New York Mets Hall of Fame and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

While Seaver was a baseball legend, he also served during the Vietnam era. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1962 as a 17-year-old in Fresno, California.

His contract with the Marines was for eight years as a basic supply man. 

A man dressed in street clothes throws a baseball from the pitcher's mound.
First Pitch
Tom Seaver throws the ceremonial first pitch before the final game at Shea Stadium in New York, Sept. 28, 2008.
Photo By: Courtesy of the New York Mets
VIRIN: 080928-O-D0439-001C

Basic training took place at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. In an interview with the New York Post in 2003, he said that the intensity of the drill instructors shocked him. 

"I didn 't know if it was tough or not," he told the Post. "All I knew was I had someone yelling at me ― and I hadn 't even done anything, yet. I went, ‘Oh, this is what my dad 's been talking about. ' I can remember saying that to myself ― to this day."

Seaver said that getting through boot camp left him with a sense of accomplishment. "The things that I've learned, and especially learned to integrate into when I was a pitcher in the big leagues … the discipline and the focus and respect for uniform, etc. were an extremely important part of my career."

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Hall of Fame
Tom Seaver is shown July 23, 2011 at his Baseball Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame
VIRIN: 110723-O-D0439-001

While in the Marine Corps, Seaver was assigned to the 2nd Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion, based in Fresno, California, the 4th Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion in Pasadena, California, and the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion in Tampa, Florida.

He was also assigned to Headquarters Company, 6th Communication Battalion, at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx, New York.

Seaver earned the expert rifle badge, and, in June 1970, he received an honorable discharge as a private first class.

Seaver died of COVID-19 at the age of 75, Aug. 31, 2020, in Calistoga, California.

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VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903

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