A statue of Tom Seaver finally made his debut at Citi Field on Friday, hours before the Mets ’2022 home opener and years after it, could very well be established.
The statue depicts Seaver-who more than 50 years ago transformed the Mets from a ridiculous to world champions-in his famous drop-and-drive delivery to the home plate. It was a fast-moving move so fast that his back knee sometimes scratched the mound, producing stains on his uniform that were a testament to yet another determined performance of the best player in Mets history.
The statue, designed by sculptor William Behrends, is made of bronze and stainless structural steel. It is 10 feet tall, weighs 3,200 pounds and at first glance on Friday was almost shocking to look at. It will now greet fans who arrive at the main entrance of the stadium, some of them old enough to see the Seaver pitch and many of them not. And at least some from both groups might look gratefully at the statue and wonder if it could all have been done before, when Seaver was still alive and in relatively good health.
That question didn’t seem to matter at all at the ceremony late Friday morning, which got a huge outpouring of enthusiastic Mets fans, happy that the sun was shining, happy that they were about to see the statue, happy too. . , with the Mets off to a 5-2 start this season.
They were thrilled when the injured Jacob deGrom, perhaps the best Mets pitcher since Seaver, showed up wearing baseball pants and a Mets sweatshirt and sat in the first row to take it all out. They laughed when Queens district president, Donovan Richards, went at length in his speeches, rejoiced when Mike Piazza spoke and more or less applauded when Steven Cohen, who took over as owner of the Mets one years and a half later, got up to speak.
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And when Nancy Seaver, sometimes using a wheelchair, enjoyed being out of the script while talking about her deceased husband and ended with a “Bless you all,” the crowd shouted her name. That kind of ceremony.
The Seaver statue will undoubtedly be a pregame meeting place for fans, a role that, to date, has more or less fallen on Apple’s old Home Run. This should make for a nice upgrade.
In fact, in recent decades, many teams have erected statues outside their stadiums as a way to honor their famous players (and even some beloved broadcasters). But the Mets ’former owners, the Wilpons, chose not to, even if saluting Seaver in such a way seemed like an easy thing to do.
Things changed in June 2019, when the Wilpons announced that a statue of Seaver had been commissioned and that the address for Citi Field had been changed to 41 Seaver Way. Just a few months later, Seaver’s family revealed that he suffers from dementia and has retired from public life. He died at the end of August 2020, his death due to coronavirus and dementia, and it is hard to ignore that the statue is not yet finished.
It was scheduled to be revealed last summer, but the pandemic delayed things. And it was delayed again when the start of the 2022 season was reversed by the new labor standoff.
That the ceremony ended on April 15 – Jackie Robinson Day, when baseball each year honors Robinson’s first game in the major leagues – was a nice touch, coincidentally. As such, the Seaver statue is near the Citi Field rotunda, decorated in a grand tribute to Robinson. So the hero of Queens, No. 41, will be the Brooklyn hero, who famously wore No. 42.
The Mets will also retire No. 17 worn by Keith Hernandez at a ceremony scheduled for this summer. He led the Mets ’1986 championship team and, for some, the best player the Mets have acquired since Seaver. Like the Seaver statue, it probably took too long to honor Hernandez. Like the Seaver statue, the decision to take No. 17 out of circulation were actually made by the Wilpons, as was the decision to retire at No. 36 worn by Jerry Koosman, Seaver’s left-handed sidekick, in August.
In each of those instances, it’s better later than never. If the Wilpons could still do it, they would probably move faster. But, of course, that’s not the way things work. Instead, you make changes if you can and keep showing up.
That’s what Fred Wilpon, now 85, did on Friday. The former head of the team sat in the second row during the dedication of the statue and lingered afterwards. Asked if he wished the statue could have been unveiled years ago, he considered the question and replied: “I’m just glad it’s finished. It was a beautiful ceremony. ”