The two-month effort that led to the creation of Tom Seaver Lane came to a rousing end late Friday afternoon, and the baseball Hall-of-Famer made the final pitch himself.
More than 100 fans, friends and students gathered in front of Fresno High School to officially dedicate the honorary renaming of a portion of Echo Avenue after the school's most famous graduate.
Fresno High "was a very, very important stop in my journey," said Seaver, a 1962 graduate.
Seaver won 311 games in a 20-year Major League baseball career and earned three Cy Young awards as the National League's best pitcher. The first of those awards came in 1969 when Seaver won 25 games and led the "amazin'" New York Mets, once the laughing stock of sports, to a World Series title.
Seaver was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.84% of the vote, the biggest percentage ever.
Reggie Jackson, also a Hall of Famer, once said of Seaver: "Blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch."
Yet Seaver's hometown over the decades had never found a way to honor its favorite son with a geographical place name. That was rectified in September when the Fresno City Council unanimously approved a resolution signifying the quarter-mile stretch of Echo in front of the school as Tom Seaver Lane.
Street signs featuring a photo of Seaver in his Mets uniform now trumpet this connection between school and athletic greatness.
Dick Ellsworth (also a Fresno High graduate and standout major-league pitcher in the 1960s), Tom Sommers and the late Pete Mehas (both longtime officials with the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame) pushed hardest at City Hall for the name change.
Three themes prevailed at Friday's ceremony. The first was joy.
Seaver and his wife, Nancy, arrived about 20 minutes before the scheduled 4 p.m. start. Seaver was quickly surrounded by friends, classmates, autograph seekers and reporters.
"Hi, Dick," Seaver said to Ellsworth.
"You got all dressed up," Ellsworth said. "I hardly recognize you."
"You know how it is -- you live in New York for awhile."
Chris Terrence taped a brief interview for the next Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame event. Seaver said the street-name honor is "terrific -- pardon the pun." Seaver in his playing days was nicknamed Tom Terrific.
Seaver tested well-wishers on baseball lore. Those who didn't know that "HOF" stands for Hall of Fame got a bit of the clubhouse needle.
A second theme was the unmistakable whiff of mortality.
Mehas, a Fresno High graduate and longtime local educator, died the day after he spoke to the City Council on Seaver's behalf. Council President Blong Xiong early in his remarks asked for a moment of silence in Mehas' memory.
Seaver looks like he could still make a catcher's mitt pop. Yet, he turns 69 next month. He acknowledged to the audience that he's battling Lyme disease.
The third theme was the future.
Seaver and his wife, Nancy, live in Northern California. He said he doesn't travel much anymore. He looked with pleasure at the majestic front of Fresno High, but shed no tears of nostalgia.
Life moves on, and Seaver made it clear that he always relished the risk that goes with opportunity. The Marine Corps, college, baseball -- Seaver said he pursued them all with gusto.
Hard work, Seaver told the young people in the audience, is their ticket to achievement.
Seaver paused before concluding his remarks.
"I'm damn proud to be here."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his City Beat blog at news.fresnobeehive.com/city-beat.