Twenty-five years ago today, on Nov. 14, 1986, a big and important change happened to the New York Mets—they got new owners. Sort of. Perhaps it would be better to say the existing ownership group reshuffled itself. Doubleday & Co. sold its share of the Mets for $80.75 million to Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon.
There are a couple of notable features there. Let’s start with the item with less pressing interest for current times: Doubleday. Nelson Doubleday owned Doubleday & Co., so his becoming an owner was a change in name only. He became personal owner because he sold the company.
Then there’s the item with current interest: Wilpon. He purchased one percent of the company back in 1980 when Doubleday & Co. came on as owners. Doubleday got the majority share, but Wilpon served as president and CEO. In 1986, though, Wilpon moved from token owner to full partner, purchasing 50 percent. In 2002, Wilpon bought the remaining half of the team from Doubleday for $135 million to become sole owner.
It’s a weird thing because he’d been around as owner before and wouldn’t become sole owner for a while, but today is the silver anniversary of a key day in his rise to power. Or, if you’re a Mets fan, you might want to consider it a key date in the Mets fall to infamy.
Wilpon’s Mets organization didn’t have an enviable reputation. Even before Wilpon’s involvement in the Madoff scandal, it was known as a dysfunctional place. I’d even heard it referred to as the Chicago Cubs of the NL East; a deadly insult if ever there was one.
On the face of it, that assessment sounds odd because the Mets have won more than they’ve lost over the last 25 years, albeit narrowly: 2,017-1,962 (.507).
Yeah, but the Mets are a team punching under their weight. With all the potential financial resources provided by playing in New York City, shouldn’t they do better? They can’t cry poor while playing in the Big Apple. Besides, the Mets won the world title less than a month before Wilpon becoming co-owner of the team. From 1989 onward, the Mets have a losing record.
It’s even worse when you look at the years it’s been all Wilpon as they’ve posted a losing record in five of those nine years. In their four good seasons, they barely broke .500 once (83-79 in 2005), and narrowly and heart-rendingly lost out on a postseason slot in the final moments of the season twice (2007 and 2008).
That just leaves 2006, when they lost the NLCS in seven games to a St. Louis Cardinals team with a far inferior record. Even when the Mets do well under Wilpon, they haven’t delivered.
Now the whole Madoff scandal has surrounded the team. When the story broke, it sounded like Madoff was just one of the flies caught in Madoff’s spider web, but since then, reports indicate that Wilpon was more an assistant fly drawing others in.
He’ll soon be out, and I can’t imagine Mets fans will miss him. But he’s owned at least half the team for exactly 25 years now.
Aside from that, other events also celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is when an event occurs X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim the list.
2,000 days since pitcher Adam Wainwright belts a home run in his first at-bat—on the first pitch even.
2,000 days since Arizona trades Orlando Hernandez to the Mets.
3,000 days since 20-year-old Jose Reyes becomes the youngest player to homer from each side of the plate in a game. He leads the Mets to a 3-1 triumph over the Braves.
4,000 days since Turk Wendell, uniform number 99, agrees to a three-year deal with the Mets for $9,999,999.
6,000 days since Dave Stevens of the Twins becomes the third pitcher in history to allow three homers in an appearance without getting a single out.
6,000 days since Mark McGwire belts three homers in a game for the second time in his career. He hit two homers in the previous game, giving him five in two games, tying a record.
6,000 days since Phil Nevin makes his big league debut.
6,000 days since Rondell White gets six hits while hitting for the cycle as his Expos beat the Giants, 10-8, in 13 innings. The Giants led 8-4 entering the bottom of the ninth only to see the Expos score four to rally and tie it.
10,000 days since Minnesota’s Andre David gets a home run in his first major league at-bat. It’s his only major league homer.
25,000 days since Mort Cooper tosses his second consecutive one-hitter.
25,000 days since Vince DiMaggio scores from first base on a passed ball when catcher Ernie Lombardi goes slowly after it and the pitcher forgets to cover the plate. It proves to be the tying run as DiMaggio’s Pirates win, 9-8.
30,000 days since Carl Mays pitches in his last big league game.
30,000 days since Tom Zachary wins his 12th decision of the year, giving him a record of 12-0 for the season, which is the best ever for an undefeated season.
1876 Harry Howell, hard-luck pitcher, is born.
1887 The Cleveland club introduces their new uniforms, which have dark blue stripes and piping. This will lead to a new nickname: Cleveland Spiders.
1889 The Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers move from the Amercan Association to the National League.
1894 Boston purchases future Hall of Fame third baseman Jimmy Collins from the Eastern League’s Providence club for $500. Even back then, that isn’t much money.
1895 Brooklyn drafts center fielder Fielder Jones from Springfield in the Eastern League in the Rule 5 draft.
1900 The NL rejects an AL plea for equality.
1929 The Braves trades two players and cash to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles club for star centerfielder Wally Berger.
1929 Jimmy Piersall is born.
1929 Iron Man Joe McGinnity, Hall of Fame pitcher, dies.
1937 Jim Brewer, relief pitcher, is born.
1954 Willie Hernandez, 1984 Cy Young Award winner, is born.
1955 The New York Giants sign Felipe Alou as an amateur free agent.
1956 The Pirates say they might move unless a municipal stadium is built to replace Forbes Field.
1961 John Fetzer purchases the remaining third of the Tigers to become sole owner of the team.
1966 Hall of Fame executive George Weis retires as Mets president. He’ll go to his Cooperstown for his time with the Yankees, not the Mets.
1969 The Reds sign amateur free agent Joaquin Andujar.
1983 The A’s sign free agent Bruce Bochte.
1984 Montreal signs amateur free agent Larry Walker.
1985 Milwaukee releases Rollie Fingers, ending his career.
1985 St. Louis releases Darrell Porter.
1988 California names Doug Rader as its new manager.
1989 The Mets release Gary Carter.
2003 The San Francisco Giants make one of the worst trades in franchise history, sending Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to Minnesota in exchange for A.J. Pierzynski (whom they will cut after one season).
2006 The Cubs sign free agent Mark DeRosa.