This Day in Baseball History: February 24th, 1966

So what makes Andy Oliver so special?

On February 24, 1966:

The Braves sign Tom Seaver out of the University of Southern California.

Originally a member of the baseball team at the University of Southern California, Tom Seaver would have an interesting and gut-wrenching first experience with Major League Baseball. At first, the Trojans weren’t sure he was worth a scholarship, but after a sparkling 1964 season with the Alaska Goldpanners, the Trojans decided that he, indeed, was worth a scholarship. After a sparkling season in SoCal, Seaver would enter the draft. The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him, but when Seaver demanded $70,000, the Dodgers decided to forego the young pitcher.

So, Seaver went back in the hat for 1966. The Atlanta Braves drafted him with the first pick, and they quickly signed him to a contract for the $70,000. However, Commissioner William Eckert had other ideas. USC’s season had already begun because they had played two exhibition games. Under league rules, the teams couldn’t sign a player still playing for his college team, so Eckert refused to allow the contract. Not able to play professionally, Seaver tried to go back to USC, but the NCAA had other ideas. Because he had signed a professional contract, Seaver was not allowed back on USC’s team. Seaver was stuck with nowhere to go.

Seaver’s father, however, was having no part of it. He went to Eckert, complained about the situation, and threatened a lawsuit. In a bad position, Eckert ruled that teams could match the Braves’ offer of $70,000. The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Cleveland Indians all put in their bids. During a special lottery, the Mets won the rights to Seaver. Just in case you haven’t heard, Seaver ended up being a very good pitcher, and I’m slightly bitter.

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