Tom Seaver, who passed away Monday at the age of 75, gained great fame as a fireballing starting pitcher who was nicknamed “Tom Terrific” and “The Franchise.”
He was a five-time 20-game winner and the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year. He led the New York Mets to its first World Series championship in 1969. He went 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts and 61 shutouts during an illustrious career that lasted from 1967–86. He became a constant on magazine covers and a media presence, calling postseason games on NBC and ABC even while still an active player.
Though it’s been widely reported that before he was a Met, he was a Marine, during his life, Seaver often credited his military service for his success.
So what exactly did he do while in uniform?
Marine Corps Times obtained his service records.
As a young man, long before he would earn praise as the “greatest Met ever,” Seaver moved through life aimlessly.
But that all changed when he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1962 as a 17-year-old in Fresno, California.
The future Hall of Fame pitcher signed an eight-year reserve contract as a basic supply man, records from the Marine’s time in the Corps show.
In January 1963, the Marine shipped off to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where the intensity of the drill instructors shocked him.
“I didn’t know if it was tough or not,” Seaver told the New York Post back in 2003. “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.”
At boot camp like many young recruits, Seaver grew up from an aimless boy into a man, learning traits that he carried with him everyday as a professional baseball player.
Boot camp, Seaver told writer Nick Diunte in 2011, left lasting lessons.
“Just boot camp, you get through it and you feel like you’ve accomplished so much,” he said.
“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.”
According to his service records: After leaving boot camp Seaver spent time at the 2nd Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion, based out of Fresno, California, the 4th Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion out of Pasadena, California, and the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion based out of Tampa, Florida.
During his time in New York playing for the Mets the Marine was assigned to Headquarters Company, 6th Communication Battalion, based out of Fort Schuyler, the Bronx, New York.
As a pitcher, Seaver had a reputation for pinpoint accuracy, striking out three times as many batters as he walked during his time with the Mets and more than 2.5 times as many over his 20-year career. A harbinger of his accuracy was was evident during his time in the Corps.
As a Marine Seaver earned the expert rifle badge, his records showed.
The Met left the Marine Corps in June 1970 as a private first class, according to the records.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.