Thirty-three years ago today, Fred Wilpon — much vilified in recent years for the Mets' financial woes and subsequent lack of competitiveness — was being hailed as one of its saviors. On January 22, 1980, a group of investors headed by Wilpon and publishing magnate Nelson Doubleday bought the New York Mets from the DeRoulet family. Doubleday’s company reportedly put up about 80 percent of the then-unheard-of price of $21.1 million (about what the team still owes Jason Bay).
Doubleday and Wilpon, who assumed the posts of chairman of the board and president/COO, respectively, wasted little time bringing a real game-changer on board in GM Frank Cashen. It would take four more losing seasons before things turned around, but those of us who lived through the Midnight Massacre, (M. Donald) Grant’s Tomb, and Mettle the Mule were willing to be patient, even as a number of early personnel moves backfired.
Doubleday and Wilpon would buy the team from the Doubleday company in 1986 and preside over its last World Championship to date. In 2002, Nelson Doubleday sold his stake in the Mets to Wilpon. One can’t help but wonder what the current state of the Mets would be if that last transaction had gone the other way.
It’s the big 4-0 today for Mike Glavine, who made his major league debut on September 14, 2003, pinch-hitting for his big brother Tom. On September 25 they realized their dream of playing together, with Tom on the mound and Mike manning first base. The first defensive play of the game was a pickoff/caught stealing, with both Glavines getting an assist, and there would be three 1-3s before the brothers departed after five innings. We’re glad Mike Glavine had his moment in the sun, but we weren’t devastated when he returned to the minors for good.
Five starts into his big league career in 1979 it was clear that Neil Allen, who turns 55 today, was destined for the bullpen. For the better part of four seasons he was the Mets' hard-throwing, hard-drinking, hard-on-the-nerves closer. Allen didn’t start another game until May of 1983 when the Mets were showcasing him for potential trade partners. The Cardinals bit, taking him and Rick Ownbey in exchange for Keith Hernandez. In two of his first three starts for St. Louis, Allen beat his old teammates, giving up only one run over 15 innings. Also in those two games, Hernandez went 0-8 with four strikeouts.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
The late, great game show impresario Mark Goodson was born on this date in 1915. Among his most successful series was “What’s My Line?” It was on the September 13, 1959, broadcast of that show that “Mystery Guest” Branch Rickey revealed details about the Continental League, a ploy that ultimately led to the creation of the Mets and three other expansion teams.
The April 19, 1964, show featured Sydney Ann Zatzkin, an usher at Shea Stadium, which had just opened two days earlier. She happily reported that the Mets had won 6-0 that afternoon, their first victory in the new park.
Six Sundays later the “What’s My Line?” personnel were reportedly glued to a TV set watching the Mets’ 23-inning game against the Giants right up until air time (the show was broadcast live). Panelist Bennett Cerf told the viewing audience how he had been watching “the most fantastic baseball game” he had ever seen, and, so the story goes, the game show’s New York ratings took a hit that night as viewers apparently switched over in droves to watch the Mets game on Channel 9.
On a later edition of the series, Jerry Grote would sign in as a “Mystery Guest.”