This Week in 1960s Baseball
(February 24, 1966) The Atlanta Braves today signed a college pitching phenom to a bonus contract.
He would someday be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he would never wear a Braves uniform.
The pitcher was Tom Seaver, a member of the pitching staff for the University of Southern California. The year before, Seaver had been selected in the June draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. But Seaver insisted on a $70,000 signing bonus, and the Dodgers balked.
The next year, the Braves selected Seaver and signed him to a contract. However, Baseball Commissioner William Eckert voided the contract because of two exhibition games that Southern Cal had played (although Seaver hadn’t participated in either game).
With his Braves contract no longer in effect, Seaver intended to finish the college season. But the NCAA ruled that his having signed the contract had cost him his amateur status and ruled him ineligible, even if the contract were no longer valid.
The threat of a lawsuit caused Eckert to rule that other teams could have the opportunity to match the Braves’ offer.
Little did anyone know at the time that the Mets, perhaps the worst major league team ever, were only about three years from becoming “amazin’.”