Larger than life: Mets unveil Seaver statue at Citi Field

NEW YORK (AP) — The franchise is finally on display outside of 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 2½ hours before their opener against Arizona.

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

After an introduction by longtime Mets radio announcer Howie Rose and speeches by owner Steve Cohen and former slugger Mike Piazza, the blue curtain was pulled back 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, a 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’ famous home run apple from the old Shea Stadium in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda which serves as the main entrance to Citi Field. Fans descending from the No. 7 elevated 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 lifelong fan even before he bought the club. “He transformed the Mets, pierced New York and won the hearts of Mets fans.”

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

“They could have built him a statue on the spot,” 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), games complete (171) and departures (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 to 1986. The Mets retired his number 41 in 1988 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

“Tom Seaver is our sunshine,” Rose said, noting Friday’s fine weather. “He touched us all.”

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

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

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

“Bigger than I thought, which is good. As they say, larger than life.

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

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


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