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TOM SEAVER : He's Been Tom Terrific, Tom Terrible and Tom Expendable; Now, at 40, He's Mr. Consistency on Way to Win No. 300

June 12, 1985|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Tex. — Dan Evans, the man in charge of floppy discs and data banks for the high-tech Chicago White Sox, is perched high above the Arlington Stadium diamond, hacking away on his computer keyboard, charting every windup and follow-through orchestrated by Tom Seaver.

Fastball for a strike. Clack, clack, clack. Outside for a ball. Clack, clack, clack. Strike 3. Clear the screen. Next batter.

What Evans plugs into the system will be printed out and eventually transcribed into a loose-leaf notebook so big, you'd have to guess that Evans is into either reading or heavy lifting. You want a number or a statistic on a White Sox player, you come to Evans.

The notebook tells it all about Seaver. Opponents' batting average against him, 1985: .204. Home runs allowed: eight, seven of them solo. Relief appearances made: two this year, the seventh and eighth of his career. Offensive support: two runs in Seaver's first three losses.

Evans is a numbers guy. And the number that really rattles his decimals and uploads his emotions is the one that Seaver is homing in on at the moment: 300.

Three-hundred major league victories. Seaver is only six wins away.

"All year long, we've been thinking about it--Seaver's 300th win," Evans says as he watches Seaver confront another Texas Ranger hitter. "I hope we see it at home. From a longevity aspect, it's the ultimate for a pitcher."

Seaver is getting down now, getting dirty, his right knee scraping the mound as he strides into the pitch. For 19 years, that's been the telltale sign when all is right with Tom Terrific.

"A lot of guys get their 300th win when they're struggling. Early Wynn had to hang on for four years," Evans continues. "But in Seaver's case, he's not struggling, he's tough. Just ask the Kansas City Royals. He's 3-1 against them. Allowed them four earned runs in 33 innings."

Seaver has more trouble with the Rangers. Four unearned runs in the first have him behind in this one, 4-2, but he's keeping the ball out of the hands of his fielders this inning. Seaver throws another third strike for the second out.

"It's hard to keep in perspective sometimes," Evans says. "He's a 40-year-old man. Most pitchers, when they get to be 33, 34, become junkers. They throw a lot of breaking balls. Seaver, he still has good stuff."

Another fastball. Another strikeout.

"He just struck out the side," Evans says, smiling as he punches another key. "It's such a treat to watch him pitch. I'm 25, but he brings out the little kid in me. You think about all the potential Hall of Famers currently playing and two immediately come to mind. (Steve) Carlton and Seaver. Seaver just might be the best right-handed pitcher ever."

Evans pauses. "I still can't believe that he's pitching for the White Sox," he says, shaking his head.

Sometimes, neither can Tom Seaver.

In this, the 117th year of major league baseball, peculiarity and oddity abound. The summer of weirdness is upon us:

--The Dodger farm system has run dry.

--The Angel farm system has put the team atop the American League West standings.

--Hitters have forgotten how to hit in the National League, producing a league average of .243--the lowest since the dead-ball year of 1968.

--Billy Martin is managing the Yankees . . . again.

--And the game, not having learned a thing from the fallout of '81, is bracing itself for another players' strike.

Strange days indeed.

Yet, some things in baseball remain sacred. Or should.

Some things such as records.

Pete Rose, running the final lap of his race to tie--and pass--Cobb, is once again a Cincinnati Red. Hank Aaron delivered home run No. 715 as a Brave. Yaz got his 3,000th hit in Fenway. Nolan Ryan keeps setting and re-setting the all-time strikeout record down home in Texas with the Houston Astros.

And Seaver?

Well, the man who really is Mr. Met--forget that little cartoon guy with the baseball head--and who strong-armed the Amazin' Mets to history in 1969 and who spent 12 years in Shea Stadium is going to win his 300th game in a Chicago White Sox uniform, wearing that red, white and navy atrocity you wouldn't wish on your daughter's softball team.

Not a blue pinstripe or a script letter in sight.

It wasn't supposed to have worked out this way. It really wasn't.

Seaver was a New York Met in 1983, brought back from 5 1/2 years of foreign service in Cincinnati amid much trumpeting and many tabloid headlines. Those were the pre-Gooden Mets, going nowhere except last, so it figured to be good business sense to bring back the legend for his twilight years and milk those coming milestones for all they were worth.

Seaver had just endured his worst season, a strained shoulder tendon having left him with a 5-13 record and a 5.50 earned-run average. He applauded the decision. Even helped it along a bit.

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