In case Seaver needs relief at the official Cooperstown induction ceremonies Aug. 2, he'll get it from Rollie Fingers, baseball's all-time save leader who became a Hall of Famer in his second year of eligibility. Fingers, who reached stardom with the champion Oakland A's teams of the early to mid-' 70s, got 349 votes (81.2 percent). A year ago, he missed by 42 votes.
Nobody else came close in this year's balloting. Orlando Cepeda (246 votes) and Tony Perez (215 votes in his first year of eligibility) fell far short of the 323 needed for election.
Fingers' luck was due to change. A seven-time all-star who won both the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in 1981, Fingers filed for bankruptcy three years ago. He had earned, he figured, about $4 million in his 17-year big-league career, including $1.1 million with the Brewers in 1985, his final season. But bad investments - one of them an Arabian horse he got talked into purchasing for $225,000 - left him broke.
"I lost all my horses, lost my house, lost my cars. I basically lost everything. It was just like starting over from scratch," the man who saved 341 games said two winters ago when he pitched in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association.
Now that Fingers is in the Hall of Fame, his earning power at baseball-card shows and the like should soar.
As overwhelming as Seaver's support was, it would have been even greater if not for the blank ballots returned by three writers to protest Pete Rose's exclusion from the ballot. Rose also set a record of sorts - 41 write-in votes, although he has been declared ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration.
Before Seaver, only three pitchers - Bob Feller (93.8 percent in '62), Jim Palmer (92.5 percent in '90) and Christy Mathewson (90.7 percent in '36) - topped 90 percent. Former Reds catcher Johnny Bench still holds the record for the most votes, 431 of 447 cast in '89.
Seaver, often compared to Phillies' Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, entered the big leagues with a flourish in 1967. After only one season in the minors, the man who became known as "Tom Terrific" went 16-13 to earn Rookie of the Year honors with a Mets team that lost 101 games.
Two years later, Seaver led the long-shot Mets to the world championship, going 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA in the regular season and adding a pair of postseason victories.
Seaver went on to post four more 20-win seasons, but his performance in '69 remained the highlight of a brilliant career. Although he pitched his only no-hitter while wearing a Cincinnati uniform in 1978, Seaver's finest game may have been a mid-summer outing against the Cubs in the midst of the '69 pennant race. The overpowering righthander retired the first 25 batters he faced before Jimmy Qualls ruined his bid for a perfect game with a clean single to left-center. Seaver retired the next two batters to wrap up a 4-0 victory in what he has called "a game I'll never forget."
Also high on his list of unforgettable games was a 1970 outing in which he struck out 19, matching Steve Carlton's National League record.
Fittingly enough, his 300th victory came in New York - against the Yankees - on Aug. 4, 1985.
But last night's victory was the most impressive of all.
430 votes cast; 323 needed for election.
Tom Seaver, 425; Rollie Fingers, 349; Orlando Cepeda, 246; Tony Perez, 215; z-Bill Mazerozki, 182; Tony Oliva, 175; Ron Santo, 136; Jim Kaat, 114; z-Maury Wills, 110; Ken Boyer, 71; Dick Allen, 69.
Minnie Minoso, 69; Joe Torre, 62; Luis Tiant, 50; Mickey Lolich, 45; Curt Flood, 42; Bobby Bonds, 40; Vada Pinson, 36; Thurman Munson, 32; Rusty Staub, 26; George Foster, 24; Vida Blue, 23.
x-Bobby Grich, 11; x-Dusty Baker, 4; x-Dave Kingman, 3; x-Bill Russell, 3; x-Cesar Cedeno, 2; x-Steve Yeager, 2; x-Toby Harrah, 1; x-Dennis Leonard, 1.
y-John Denny; y-Ken Forsch; y-Garry Maddox; y-Ben Oglivie; y-Gorman Thomas; y-Pete Vukovich.
NOTE: Pete Rose received 41 write-in votes, but he is ineligible for election because he is on the permanently ineligible list.
x-did not receive required 5 percent of vote to remain on ballot.
y-did not receive any votes.
z-15th and final year of eligibility.