To appreciate what Frank Cashen meant to the New York Mets, you had to be around here in the late 1970’s. You think it’s bad now? Not even close to 1978 and 1979. That was rock bottom for the Mets and Mets fans. Back in those days I had season tickets to the NY Rangers, one night I wore my Mets cap to a Rangers game, first guy from my row I see greets with “what the fuck you doin’ wearin’ that stupid cap”? It was rock bottom.
Little by little the Amazin’ Mets started to crumble. We lost out heart and soul, our general Gil Hodges right before opening day in 1972. Then in 1975 our beloved Joan Whitney Payson left us and that’s when things really went downhill.
Mrs. Payson daughter Lorinda de Roulet took over the team after her mother’s death and was assisted in running the club by M. Donald Grant. To best describe Grant was he had the look and demeanor of an undertaker but without the sense of humor. As bad as we feel about the ownership of our beloved Mets are today they are nowhere near to me as hated as M. Donald Grant. He was Satan in a Brooks Brother suit.
After the trade of Tom Seaver, the franchise was on the brink of disaster. Joe Frazier, who may be the most underrated of all Mets managers, was replaced by Brooklyn’s own Joe Torre. Back then Torre was best known for being a solid 3rd baseman for the Braves and Cardinals and for finally after years of the subject of trade rumors a Met, in fact Torre was the Mets Player/Manager in 1977. Even the allure of Torre and matinee idol Lee Mazzilli couldn’t help this bunch of awful Mets.
After what I would say is the worst season in the history of the franchise, 1979, the team went 63-99 but more importantly drew less than 800,000 fans to dilapidated Shea Stadium, Ms. de Roulet and her father Charles Payson knew it was time to get out of the baseball business. The team was sold to Doubleday & Company along with some other investors including one Mr. Fred Wilpon. Wilpon took over as President of the NY Mets right after the sale was approved.
Look for advice on how to revive this floundering franchise, Doubleday and Wilpon reached out to Jerry Hoffberger owner of the Baltimore Orioles who led them to Frank Cashen. Under Cashen things started to change in Flushing. There was hope at last.
Little by little the Mets fans started to comeback to Shea. The 1984 season was when the Mets renaissance really began. Frank Cashen was putting together a team we could get excited about. Keith Hernandez came over in ’83, Ron Darling and Walt Terrell were sent here from Texas for Lee Mazzilli. At the time Maz was as big as any Met, Mazzilli was the face of the franchise but Cashen could not have cared less and by trading Maz he not only received a great pitcher in Ron Darling but he then flipped Walt Terrell to the Tigers for Howard Johnson. That is some great general managing.
Frank Cashen will always be remembered by me and many Mets fans as the man who brought us back from the dead. He gave the Mets organization and Mets fans back their self-esteem. No longer would anyone ask me why I was wearing that “stupid fucking hat”.
Frank Cashen gave us 1984, the year Mets knew something great was about to happen and of course 1986. The walk up crowds at Shea on game day to buy tickets were just waves of Mets fan humanity. Games where Dwight Gooden pitched were must be at games. We weren’t there to eat overpriced food or drink some bullshit fancy boy beer, we were there for baseball, we cheered for a bunch of “we don’t give a flyin’ fuck about anyone” baseball team that was built by a man whose personality and demeanor and brilliance was the complete opposite of the team he constructed. That was the genius of Frank Cashen.
Rest in Peace Frank and thank you for one of the greatest rides a baseball fan could ever have.