The Sporting News
Aug. 26, 1967
From the top of the world to the bottom of the National League in two fast years is the saga that has unfolded for Tom Seaver and Danny Frisella.
In 1965, the two hard-throwing California collegians were teammates on the Goldpanners in Fairbanks, Alaska, the northermost “big” city in the United States— not far removed from the Arctic Circle. Today Seaver and Frisella are teammates and starting pitchers for the Mets in New York, the country’s largest city.
Other than the differences they have encountered between life in Fairbanks and on the Great White Way, the two rookies have had to adjust to the winning and losing ways of the Goldpanners and the Mets. Seaver was with the Goldpanners in 1964 and ’65 and both times the team, managed by Red Boucher, won the state semi-pro championship. Frisella helped in winning the ’65 title. With the Mets, they’re doing their best to keep the team from dropping out of the bottom of the National League.
Best of the Mets
Seaver is well on his way to establishing himself — in his rookie year, no less — as the best pitcher the Mets have ever owned. He has already tied the record for most victories by a Met righthander (11) and is a virtual cinch to better Al Jackson’s 1933 record of 13 wins.
When Seaver won his 11th by beating the Braves, 5-1, on August 9 and someone kiddingly suggested to Wes Westrum that Tom might win 20, the manager turned serious. “I wouldn’t bet against it,” said Westrum “He’s got a chance. He’s going to get at least 10 or 11 more starts, maybe 12 or 13.” A reluctance to pitch Seaver more often could deprive the 22- year-old righthander of the opportunity.
The Mets have been in a habit of giving Seaver four and five days between starts. They don’t want to ruin a great prospect by rushing him.
“If he’d had a couple of years in the minors behind him, “Westrum said, “we’d pitch him more often. But this boy had only one year in Triple-A before coming up to the majors. That’s not very much experience.”
Pitching coach Harvey Haddix, who himself won 20 for the Cardinals in his first full year in the majors, says there’s a psychological aspect, too.
“You don’t want a young pitcher losing too many at the start,” said the Kitten. “It could have a bad effect on him.”
Frisella, who joined the Mets right out of the Army on July 25 after an earlier fling this year with Durham in the Carolina League, had compiled a one-win, one-loss record.
Frisella got his first victory over the Pirates, August 11, He was not around to enjoy the win, Don Shaw relieved him and Frisella was in a cab en route to Kennedy Airport for a weekend of Army training when he heard the news.
Recollections of Alaska
Seaver and Frisella recall happily their days in Alaska with the Goldpanners.
“Alaska is something else,” said Seaver. “You can’t realize what a magnificient place it is unless you have been there. And it’s a lot different than most people picture it.
“I can remember my first trip there. I expected it to be so cold I wore a sweater and a topcoat as I got off the plane. But the fellow who met me at the airport was wearing a short-sleeved sports shirt.
“The weather in July and August is ideal, it’s in the high 60s and 70s every day and no humidity, it’s the’ time of the year when they have 24 hours of sunlight and it’s pretty weird.” Seaver said getting used to 24 hours of daylight is a little difficult at first.
“I can remember waking up one night at 3 o’clock. I saw the sun coming through the windows and my first thought was that I’d overslept and blown my job.”
Frisella said Alaskans kept the light from coming in the windows by covering them from the inside with tinfoil.
“It’s playing night games without lights that’s really strange,” Frisella said. “We would start a game at 8 o’clock in July and we wouldn’t need the lights!’
The big game of the year is the “Midnight Sun” game, according to the two rookies.
The Longest Day
“That’s the longest day of the year,” Seaver related, “and they celebrate it by starting the game at 11 o’clock at night.” Both boys earned their keep while playing for the Goldpanners. Frisella drove a lumber truck.
“I was a groundskeeper,” said Seaver. “I’d cut the grass and water the infield.”
Manicuring the Fairbanks diamond proved of some value to Seaver.
As far as fielding pitchers go, no Met covers more ground than their No. 1 rookie.