Mets honor Seaver with salute, jersey and dirt-smudged knee

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Tom Seaver's No. 41 jersey hangs in the New York Mets dugout before the start of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Citi Field, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in New York. Seaver died on Aug. 31. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK – Far too young to remember Tom Seaver’s glory days, Pete Alonso and the New York Mets found a perfect way to pay tribute to the greatest player in franchise history.

Starting pitcher Robert Gsellman, his right knee already dirtied, led the Mets from the dugout onto the diamond at Citi Field on Thursday to face the Yankees. Every teammate who followed him had a smidge of dirt in the same spot along the right knee.

What better symbol to honor Seaver, the Mets icon and Hall of Famer whose classic, drop-and-drive power pitcher delivery was imitated by thousands of Little Leaguers in the 1960s and 1970s?

Seaver, known for decades simply as “The Franchise,” died Monday at the age of 75 due to complications from Lewy body dementia and the coronavirus. His death was announced Wednesday night, a few hours after New York beat the Baltimore Orioles - the team Tom Terrific and the Miracle Mets toppled in the 1969 World Series.

“He turned the organization around from a laughing stock ballclub into a complete team instantly,” said Ed Kranepool, who spent his entire 18-year career with the Mets. “You knew every time out, you were going to be a competitive team.”

“It’s a sad day in Metsville,” he said. “We lost our star and our leader.”

Hours later, Alonso hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning that lifted the Mets over the Yankees 9-7.

“I think that this is a really special win not just for us, but for anybody who knows about the Mets or knows about Tom Seaver," said Alonso, the NL Rookie of the Year last season. "This is a really meaningful and special day. Really, really happy that we could get it done in the way that we did.”