Dennis Lyons

Tom Seaver. Bob Gibson. Whitey Ford. Lou Brock. Joe Morgan.

Anyone who followed baseball in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s would have taken those five players on their team without a moment’s hesitation.

Three Hall of Fame pitchers, a Hall of Fame outfielder and base stealer and a Hall of Fame second baseman who is arguably the best all-time at that position.

Sady, starting with Seaver on Aug. 31, all five have passed away in the last two months.

Regular readers know I’m a lifelong Mets fan and a huge baseball fan overall. With everything else that’s been going on in the world, it’s been hard to find time to deviate from writing about the election and the pandemic. 

I decided today to call time out and do just that. 

I did write about Seaver and his near-perfect game in 1969 after the all-time greatest Met died. But as we learned of the passing of more of baseball’s greats in recent weeks, I couldn’t help but think about how much I enjoyed watching each of them.

Like many baseball fans, I have specific memories of most of these players, three of whom — Brock, Gibson and Morgan — had many a big day against my Mets. 

I’ll start with Ford, who never pitched against my team, but was one of my Yankee fan Dad’s favorites. Whitey was well past his prime in 1965, as were the Yankees. But for some reason, I still remember hanging out with my friend Michael watching a July afternoon game he pitched against the Chicago White Sox that year. Ford struck out 10 that day — I remember us getting very pumped and high-fiving when he got that 10th K in a 3-1 victory.

That was probably one of the least memorable of Ford’s amazing career total of 236 victories. But he hurled a complete game and even though I was already rooting for the Mets, I’d seen a slice of what my Dad was always talking about.  

My favorite Gibson memory is a lot more famous. It was during the 1968 World Series. Pitching as always for the St. Louis Cardinals, he struck out 17 Detroit Tigers — throwing an incredible 143 pitches to set a record that still stands for strikeouts in a Series game. Of course, it was a complete game shutout.

My Brock memory is from an otherwise nondescript August 1970 game, oddly enough with Seaver on the mound in St. Louis. Brock led off the game with a double — Brock always led off and usually stole a base shortly thereafter. He was on third with two outs, and he and some other Cardinal on first base whose name I don’t remember initiated a double steal. The catcher — I think it was Jerry Grote — tried to get the guy at second and Brock took off for home and stole it easily.

For the record, of all the bases Brock stole in his career — 938, second all-time only to Ricky Henderson — he only stole home twice.

As for Morgan, I don’t really have one special memory. But I will always remember thinking he was the most dangerous of all the hitters in the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” lineup, and can still see the veins in his arms pumping as he stood menacingly at the plate.

It’s sad they are gone, but wow, could those guys play!

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