Hall of Famer Tom Seaver rallies from lyme disease

David Brown
Big League Stew

Tom Seaver had not been acting like himself for a while, columnist Bill Madden noted Friday in the New York Daily News. And alarm bells for friends and family rang loudest in June, when Seaver released a statement congratulating Johan Santana for throwing the first no-hitter in New York Mets history:

“I’ve never met Johan personally, but what I’ve heard about him is he has a big heart and is a huge competitor.”

The only problem with that was Seaver had joined Santana in a half-hour SNY TV special in spring training of 2008 in which they talked at length about pitching strategies.

“I didn’t know what was happening,” Seaver, 68, said this week.

Seaver's bizarre statement on Santana freaked some people out, and rightly so. How could he not remember meeting him? Was he being oddly arrogant or ... was he sick?

In denial afterward, it was not until he also forgot the name of a man who had worked at his vineyard for seven years that his Seaver's wife, Nancy Seaver, made him see a doctor. Comprehensive tests revealed lyme disease.

In a way, it was a relief: It wasn't dementia. He hadn't had a stroke. There wasn't a terminal illness, no brain tumor. In fact, Seaver had contracted lyme disease before, in 1991. Then, he probably was infected by deer ticks while working in his garden. This time, it probably happened in his vineyard in California, where he grows grapes for his award-winning wines.

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Seaver's recovery has been slow, but steady. Seaver says he's working 4-6 hour days again, which was impossible when he was at his worst.

“But once it gets into your blood system, it causes real problems,” Seaver said. “I’m taking 24 pills a day now, most of them vitamins, plus one penicillin pill to get my chemical balance back. It’s a cycle that kills off all the spirochetes that junk up your system. It’s been a slow process in which I’ll still feel like I have a bad case of the flu for days, but these past couple of weeks they’ve been less and less. I haven’t had a glass of wine or a beer in eight months and I don’t miss it.”

And he can remember his own life again. And what a baseball life.

Seaver's own no-hitter came with the Cincinnati Reds in 1978, and his 300th career victory came with the Chicago White Sox in 1986, but his greatest seasons came during his formative years with the Mets — the Miracle '69 club, most notably.

Now it's up to Johan Santana to make another good memory with the Mets for Seaver, so he can be properly congratulated on it.

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