When the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds in June of 1977, about the only consolation Mets fans had was that they wouldn’t have to see their Franchise in a Reds uniform on cardboard until the next spring.

And that 1977 Topps card or Seaver, which turned out to be his last with the Mets (for awhile), was a doozy, a true classic in the hobby.

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The 1978 Topps Seaver?

Well, it’s not quite as dramatic, but Reds fans loved it and still do.

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Even today, though, if you post a picture of that card showing Seaver in his Reds road uniform staring down the pipe of the camera, you’re sure to get a few Mets fans who chime in with how the whole thing just looks “wrong.”

After a successful five-year run with the Reds, though Tom Terrific headed back to the Flushing, courtesy of a December 1982 trade that netted Cincinnati a return of Jason Felice, Lloyd McClendon and Charlie Puleo.

There was much rejoicing among Mets faithful, who welcomed Seaver home with open arms, even though, at 38, his best days on the mound were behind him.

Now, the 1983 Mets team weren’t very good, finishing 68-94, and Seaver got hit with some of the shrapnel from all the drubbings, going just 9-14 despite a pretty decent 3.55 ERA.

To make matters worse, the collectors among Mets followers had to look at not one but three 1983 Seaver cards showing him in a Reds uniform all summer long. It wasn’t until the 1983 Topps Traded Set debuted in November that the world saw the first widely available cardboard of Tom the Met, Take Two.

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Things were looking up, though, because the Mets not only fielded National League Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry, they also had a stocked farm system that would soon yield wunderkind Dwight Gooden and other promising youngsters like Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Wally Backman, and Ron Darling.

Why, how awesome would it be if Seaver could provide veteran, legendary leadership for a young rotation and team, and celebrate a World Series championship with them?

Pretty darn awesome.

Ah, but things are never quite that simple, are they?

In January of 1984, reliever Dennis Lamp bolted the Chicago White Sox and signed a free agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

So what, right? What’s that doing here in the middle of a run-on monologue about Tom Seaver?

Well …

Back in those days, Major League Baseball held a yearly “free agent compensation draft,” which is pretty much what it sounds like — lose a “Type A” free agent, and you get to draft another player from among a pool of available major leaguers.

Each team could protect 26 players to keep them out of that pool, but everyone else was fair game.

So …

When Mets GM Frank Kashen built his protected list that winter, he left out Tom Seaver.

No one would draft a 39-year-old pitcher with a heavy salary … right?


The Sox apparently thought Lamp-for-Seaver was a pretty decent outcome, so they nabbed Tom Terrific on January 20.

The franchise icon was gone again.

The indignities grew from there for Mets fans, too, as Seaver when 31-22 with a 3.56 ERA the next two seasons for the ChiSox and won his 300th game wearing a Chicago uniform.

Things were rough on the cardboard front, too.

Because, although Seaver was a Met on all three 1984 base cards, the official changeover came much quicker than it had in 1977-78.

And it came twice — Seaver appeared in both the 1984 Topps Traded set and the inaugural Fleer Update issue, wearing White Sox pajamas on both cards.

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No winter of denial, no dreams that it was all just a bad dream.

Just cold, hard cardboard reality, and the hope that somehow, Tom Terrific might find his way home one more time.

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Hobby Wow!

Seaver was (obviously) an all-time great who has been the subject of all sorts of cool memorabilia over the years … take your pick! Here is one nifty item with a whiff of those early Mets days …

That’s a National League baseball signed by 26 members of the 1969 World Series Champions, the Miracle Mets.

Seaver is right there with Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, and many others of the now-famous names that made that team so great.

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