Mets unveil Seaver statue at Citi Field

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — The Franchise is finally on display outside Citi Field.

A long-awaited statue of pitcher Tom Seaver was unveiled Friday by the New York Mets in a 40-minute ceremony that began about 2 1/2 hours before their home opener against Arizona.

With thousands of fans gathered around, cell phones held high and craning their necks to see, the late Hall of Famer’s wife and two daughters were front and center for the festivities.

Following an introduction from longtime Mets radio announcer Howie Rose and speeches by owner Steve Cohen and former slugger Mike Piazza, the blue curtain was pulled away to reveal a striking monument that stands 10 feet tall and 13 1/2 feet long. It depicts Seaver in the middle of his classic drop-and-drive delivery, baseball in his right hand.

“Hello, Tom,” said his emotional widow Nancy, choking back tears. “It’s so nice to have you here where you belong.”

The sculpture by William Behrends – who also designed and created statues of Willie Mays in San Francisco and Tony Gwynn in San Diego – weighs 3,200 pounds (2,000 pounds of bronze and 1,200 pounds of structural stainless steel). The granite pitcher’s mound came in nine pieces that weighed 33,600 pounds and added about 3 feet in height.

“Tom Seaver is our royalty,” Piazza said.

The statue was placed next to the Mets’ popular home run apple from old Shea Stadium in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda that serves as the main entrance to Citi Field. Fans streaming off the elevated No. 7 subway train are now greeted by the Seaver memorial just beyond the foot of the steps they descend.

“When I was a kid, when I thought of the Mets, I thought of Tom Seaver,” said Cohen, a longtime fan even before he bought the club. “He transformed the Mets, transfixed New York and won the hearts of Mets fans.”

Seaver won three Cy Young Awards during 12 seasons with New York and pitched the Miracle Mets to the club’s first World Series championship in 1969 – earning him the nickname The Franchise.

“They could have built a statue for him right then and there,” Rose said.

Seaver went 198-124 with a 2.57 ERA and 2,541 strikeouts for the Mets and remains the club’s career leader in wins, ERA, strikeouts, shutouts (44), complete games (171) and starts (395). He also played for Cincinnati, the Chicago White Sox and Boston during his 20-year career, finishing with 311 wins, a 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts from 1967-86. The Mets retired his No. 41 in 1988 and he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

“Tom Seaver is our sunshine,” Rose said, noting the appropriately nice weather Friday. “He impacted us all.”

While many other major league ballparks feature statues of franchise greats, Mets fans have long clamored for one of their own at Citi Field, which opened in 2009.

Under the previous ownership of the Wilpon and Katz families, the club announced plans for a Seaver statue in June 2019, when the address of Citi Field was changed to 41 Seaver Way. The team initially hoped to unveil it during the 2021 season, but the tribute was pushed back to opening day 2022 in consultation with the pitcher’s family after the artist asked for more time given delays related to the pandemic.

“Our feelings are, it’s about time. He deserves this, and the fans deserve it, too,” said Larry Goodman, a 71-year-old Mets fan from Long Island who attended the ceremony.

“Bigger than I thought it was going to be – which is nice. As they say, larger than life.”

Seaver died at age 75 in his native California on Aug. 31, 2020.

“I refuse to speak of Tom Seaver in the past tense. I’m sure we all feel his presence right here, right now,” Rose said.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”

CANDY MAN

Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.

UP NEXT

Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

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