mostly moribund Mets loss north of the border in Toronto was sort of shoved aside by the news that broke just as the game was coming to a close of the passing of Nelson Doubleday.
Nelson Doubleday, of course, was never the face of anything during his 22-year tenure as co-owner of the Mets. It could be said that he probably didn't want to own the team at all. But he was cajoled, partially by his friend John Pickett, who owned the Islanders, and also by an opportunistic ninny named Fred Wilpon, to be the muscle in a group of investors that bought the Mets in 1980.
In that period of time, to call the Mets a laughingstock would have been kind.
Nelson was never the rah-rah type and he never wanted to be. All he did was put the right personnel in place to set the team up to succeed. By bringing in someone with the savvy of Frank Cashen to rebuild the team from the ashes and giving him the proper financial backing, the Mets got it back together, built up their farm system, produced players like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling and Len Dykstra, shrewdly traded parts away to acquire flashy, established stars like Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, and by 1986 they were winners once again.
Of the two heads at the top, it was always Nelson who was more focused on ensuring that there was a winning team on the field, much more than Wilpon, the schmuck, who seemed more concerned with image. This created plenty of friction between the two. When the Mets were going through a down period in 1998, Fred Wilpon's focus was on building his dream stadium, an Ebbets Field replica, in the Shea Stadium parking lot. Nelson was interested in acquiring an All Star Catcher named Mike Piazza who had suddenly become available. Nelson got his way and two seasons later, the Mets won a pennant.
Ultimately, Nelson would be bought out by Wilpon in 2002, in a rather contentious divorce that in retrospect might be where things started to go haywire for the Mets. Again, Nelson wanted to keep a winning team on the field regardless of cost. Wilpon seemed to be more interested in shoving his rubber-faced weasel of a son in our faces to talk about all the great pet projects they had going, like the new stadium and the Minor League team in Brooklyn. Shea Stadium closed down in 2008, the Wilpons got duped by Bernie Madoff and the Mets still haven't recovered. And even when that does happen, you can't help but think that the team's success is and will be in spite of the Wilpons, not because of them. When Nelson was around, you always had the feeling that the team was succeeding for him just as much as they did for the rest of us.
It makes you think...What if Nelson had stayed? Surely, the sting of the Madoff case would have been far less damaging. Surely, the Mets wouldn't have gone through 6 seasons of abject hell in an era bad enough to rival the late 1970s. Would Citi Field have been so reviled and anti-Mets history when it opened? Would it have been built at all?
We should all be thankful that we had Nelson in charge of our team when we did. He was at the top when the Mets were the kings in this town and he did everything he could to keep it that way.
Tip your caps for Nelson. He took good care of us.