The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection offers the rare opportunity to view and bid on baseball memorabilia from the former owner of New York’s beloved National League Mets. Doubleday, Jr. and partner Fred Wilpon were at the head of a group that purchased the Mets in January of 1980 for an astounding $21 million, the highest amount paid to that point for a baseball franchise. Doubleday bought the team from the family of its original owner, Joan Whitney Payson, under whose ownership the team had won the 1969 World Series and earned the nicknames the Amazin’s and the Miracle Mets. But in 1979 the team came in dead last in the National League East, with a dismal record of 63 wins and 99 losses. Doubleday had his work cut out for him.
In that first off-season, the team used their number 1 pick to draft 18-year-old Darryl Strawberry; the following off-season they smartly drafted the scrappy Lenny Dykstra in the 19th round; and in 1982 the Mets drafted 19-year-old pitching phenom Dwight Gooden. Davey Johnson was hired as manager. The team was shaping up, and in both 1984 and 1985 they finished second in the NL East.
Then 1986 happened.
The team, strengthened by the addition of Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Tim Teufel, Mookie Wilson, Lee Mazzilli, Bobby Ojeda and Wally Backman was a force to be reckoned with. They finished the season 108–54, a franchise record, handily winning the division and then the playoff round against the Houston Astros. Doubleday’s Mets were in the World Series. They faced a formidable opponent in the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Mets in a nail biter in game 1 and a 9-1 routing in game two. The Mets responded winning games 3 and 4 but lost game 5. Down 3-2 in the best of 7 series, the Mets faced a must-win on the night of October 25, 1986 in front of a packed Shea Stadium crowd of over 57,000 fans. It was a tight game that pitted Red Sox ace Roger Clemens against the Mets Bobby Ojeda, and tied at 3-3 at the end of 9, game 6 went into extra-innings. The Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the 10th, and when the Mets took the plate in the bottom of the tenth with the score 5-3 their first two batters were quickly retired. With two outs, it seemed the Red Sox had it, and a disheartened Keith Hernandez went to the locker room and cracked a beer. But then two singles and a run – the score was 5-4. The stadium came to life. The Red Sox changed pitchers to face speedster Mookie Wilson and with the count at 2-2 the Mets were down to their last pitch when a wild pitch got away from the Red Sox catcher and the Mets scored their runner on third – the score was now 5-5. The stadium was electric. As Ray Knight stood at second base ready to pounce, Wilson fouled off several pitches then hit the little dribbler up the first base line that made baseball history and turned the team into the Miracle Mets again. Vin Scully had the call: “little roller up along first... behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it! If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words, but more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Mets are not only alive, they are well, and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow!”
To New York fans, it was a gift from heaven. The Mets went on to win game seven. Doubleday’s team had done it – they won the World Series. The city was ecstatic.
The Nelson Doubleday, Jr. Collection contains a Lucite slabbed ticket to game 7 of the 1986 series; it contains Doubleday’s embroidered Mets travel garment bag; a baseball signed by most of the players mentioned above; a sterling silver baseball gifted to Doubleday from current Mets owner Fred Wilpon; and a fitted Mets cap with a note inside reporting it sized for Keith Hernandez. It contains Mets ties, pins, cufflinks and unissued tickets to the 1988 World Series. Most importantly, and deserving of its own article, the collection contains Doubleday’s National League Championship ring, engraved for him as owner, from the fabled Subway Series of 2000 when the Mets were defeated by their crosstown rival Yankees, certainly a rare baseball collectible.
The spirit of Nelson Doubleday, Jr. and his beloved team is palpable in this landmark auction, and every baseball fan is invited to come view this material at Doyle during the public exhibition this weekend.