October 5, 2022
Fly Back: I Got To Fly “The Franchise”

Fly Back: I Got To Fly “The Franchise”

Growing up on Long Island, New York in the 1960s & ‘70s I was a huge NY Yankee Fan. Somewhat of an anomaly as most kids on “the Island” were NY Mets Fans, especially after the 1969 “Miracle Mets” went from worst to first and defeated the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series.

The star pitcher of that Amazin’ Mets Team was, of course, George Thomas “Tom” Seaver who went on to a long MLB Hall of Fame career.

Fast forward to spring, 1990 and New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) where I am now a very young and very junior Eastern Air Lines (EAL) Boeing 727 Captain.

Boeing 727 Captain Bill Sablesak

I have been assigned an LGA to West Palm Beach (PBI) morning flight. Unfortunately, there are a few of the normal airline issues preparing for departure and we end up pushing off the gate about twenty-five minutes or so behind schedule.

Of course, I fly the airplane a little faster than planned and we fortuitously get a couple of Air Traffic Control shortcuts and end up landing in PBI right on schedule.

The Boeing 727 was a three-Pilot aircraft, so after blocking in at the gate, I opened the Flight Deck door to say goodbye and “thanks” to the customers as my First and Second Officers completed the parking checklist.

And, as I opened that Flight Deck door, still sitting right in front of me in First Class aisle seat 1B was none other than “The Franchise,” hero of the 1969 Mets, George Thomas “Tom” Seaver”.

I instantly recognized him and without thinking immediately exclaimed “Tommy Seaver!!” He bounded up out of his seat, vigorously shook my hand, and said “Thank You for busting it. We’re here on schedule. Great job.”

Then immediately walked out the now open aircraft door into the PBI Jetway. No bags, no carry-ons, just “The Franchise,” headed to NY Mets Spring Training in nearby Port St. Lucie, Florida, for his retirement job as a Spring Training Instructor and/or Announcer.

Then, as the rest of the customers left the aircraft, I asked the two young Flight Attendants why they hadn’t previously told me that Tom Seaver was aboard our flight.

They both responded, “Tom who”?

When I told them that they had just served an MLB Hall of Famer, Star of the 1969 Amazin Miracle Mets, and one of my boyhood heroes, they both explained that they weren’t even born until 1970!

Sadly, the two other young Flight Attendants working in the back of my airplane had similar birthdays!

To top it off, when I returned to the Flight Deck and excitedly told my First and Second Officers that we had just flown Tom Seaver to Spring Training, they too sadly had no idea who I was talking about.

I couldn’t believe it. I had just flown “The Franchise” and had no one to share it with. Amazin’, but true.

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