Long before NFL negotiations created the franchise player, the Mets had The Franchise. And The Franchise was a player, a pitcher of such prowess and distinction that he exceeded the boundaries of the team and assumed as high a profile as the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club itself. Tom Seaver was The Franchise. And now some 23 years after his final pitch for Mets, the identity sticks.
Seaver was the face of the franchise in 1969 when the Mets morphed from doormats to World Series champions. He remains the most accomplished player in the 45-year history of the club, a 300-game winner, and 3,000-strikeout force. Not only is he the only player whose election to the Hall of Fame is based primarily on his achievements with the Mets, but his election in 1992 was the result of the highest percentile vote in HOF history, 98.84.
And now, to the surprise of few, George Thomas Seaver, the kid from Fresno, Calif., and USC, is the winner of the Major League Baseball Hometown Heroes promotion for the Mets franchise, as presented by DHL.
DHL Presents Major League Baseball Hometown Heroes represents the culmination of a fan-participation promotion, of the same name, presented by DHL, the "Official Express Delivery and Logistics Provider" of Major League Baseball and MLB.com, to celebrate a player -- past or present -- from each of the 30 franchises.
From July 18-Sept. 17, nearly 17 million votes were cast by fans using a special ballot containing five nominees from each franchise whose combination of on-field contributions, character and leadership made them candidates for the franchise-by-franchise elections.
Seaver, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and recognized leader of the Miracle Mets team of '69, was elected from a group of five Mets that included two relievers, his contemporary Tug McGraw and John Franco, and two sluggers, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza.
Fans voted in all ballparks; online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball; via cell phone; and at any of the 1,600 participating DHL Authorized Shipping Centers around the country.
Known as Spanky by his earliest big-league teammates, Seaver still holds the Mets career records for starts (395), complete games (171), victories (198), shutouts (44), ERA (2.57), strikeouts (2,541) and innings (3,045). He also holds the club record for victories in a season -- 25 in 1969. His uniform number, 41, is one of four retired by the Mets, and the only one retired for a Mets player.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.