I picked up a 1966 Topps Ernie Bowman baseball card last week. This is an interesting card in its own right because Bowman never actually played a game for the New York Mets. In 1966, Bowman played for their minor league affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns.
What also makes Bowman particularly interesting is because of how he fits into the team’s history. What makes the Jacksonville Suns particularly interesting is the list of recognizable names from the early history of the Mets appearing on its roster including:
Bowman (along with Cisco) were the old men on the squad. Each of these players were 30 years old. Bowman was on the downside of his career; he played parts of three seasons with the San Francisco Giants (1961-1963). In his major league career, Bowman only amassed 217 plate appearances.
However, what makes Bowman of vital importance to the Mets is what Tom Seaver credits him with doing. Seaver said it was Bowman who gave him a key piece of advise. In Seaver’s book, The Art of Pitching (co-written with Lee Lowenfish) , he writes that the veteran infielder approached him on the mound one day while they were teammates and said to him, “Kid, you got a good fastball, but to keep it, you gotta throw it. Don’t save it for Christmas.”
This statement, this tidbit, this motto, stayed with Seaver throughout his Hall-of-Fame career and became a central piece of his personal philosophy and helped to shape his pitching strategy. Seaver went on to write, “Sure, batters will occasionally hit your hard one a long way, and sure, you need breaking and off-speed pitches to break a hitter’s timing. But the old number one, the fastball, remains the best way to establish your domination of the hitters.”
So, in this one brief moment, Ernie Bowman, without ever picking up a bat or putting on a glove cemented his place in New York Mets’ history.