Braves Sign Seaver … But Can’t Hold Him


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.

As a pitcher for the University of Southern California, Tom Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers and signed by the Braves, but his rights were eventually awarded to the New York Mets as the result of a lottery drawing.

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With his Braves contract no longer in effect, Seaver intended to finish the college season.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that his having signed the contract had cost him his amateur status and ruled him ineligible, even if the contract were no longer valid.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.

Three did.

The New York Mets were subsequently awarded Seaver’s signing rights in a lottery drawing among the three teams (the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians being the other two).

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’.”


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    • It does make you scratch your head. Sorry Mets fans, but I just wish the Indians had won the lottery. It would have been nice to see Seaver and McDowell in the same rotation. On the other hand, the Indians probably would have traded Seaver to the Mets for Harry Chiti.

  1. Too bad Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was so tight with a dollar. The local college star would have been a great fit for them. He could have helped fill the void left by the retirement of Sandy Koufax and maybe helped them bring a championship or two to LA in the 70s.

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