Hosting All-Star Game uplifting for Wilpon
NEW YORK -- Mets chairman and chief executive officer Fred Wilpon had a big smile on his face when he arrived at City Hall for the news conference on Wednesday, announcing that the 2013 All-Star Game will be played on July 16 next year at Citi Field.Wilpon, 75 years old and in his 33rd season as an owner of the Mets, is a survivor. On the day Major League Baseball formally bestowed one of its top honors to the Mets, Wilpon was a man in fine form. "I know Major League Baseball believes in the Wilpons and the Mets," he said as a gaggle of reporters peppered him with question in the lobby of City Hall after the news conference. "I've been around a long time, and I have some great friendships in baseball. And you don't get those friendships because of your name. You get those friendships because you earn them. It's not always what's good for the Mets. It's what's good for the game." Going back to New York for the All-Star Game is always a major event for MLB. It will be the second time in five years and the ninth time overall that the big game, which has morphed into a big event, will be played in the Big Apple. The other four New York baseball facilities that hosted it are long gone, which tells you all you need to know about the history of baseball in the metropolitan area. It goes back. Way back. The Mets, after all, were christened the Metropolitans as a National League expansion team in 1962, five years after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants bolted west. They haven't hosted an All-Star Game since 1964, when Shea Stadium was in its inaugural season. Wilpon said he was not at that game, the last to end on what is now called a "walk-off" home run. Wilpon joined Nelson Doubleday as the second owners of the franchise when they bought it from the founding Payson family in 1980. Wilpon bought out Doubleday in 2002. Along the way, Wilpon presided over the 1986 Mets that defeated the Red Sox in their unlikely seven-game World Series victory, coming after Mookie Wilson's grounder bounded through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner to end Game 6. Wilpon's 2000 Mets lost to the crosstown Yankees in five World Series games. The Mets have been back to the playoffs just once since. Wilpon was only half joking when he wistfully said that he was proud to host the All-Star Game, but rather would've been bestowed the World Series. Wilpon was flanked at the podium by his son Jeff, Commissioner Bud Selig, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mr. Met. "If I knew how easy this was, I would've asked the Mayor and Commissioner if [they] could've arranged for us to have the World Series this year," Wilpon said. "But I don't think that would be possible." Anything is possible, acknowledged Wilpon, who only two weeks ago underwent left hip replacement surgery. He has emerged from nearly two years of financial turmoil promulgated by the financial scandal that landed Bernard Madoff in prison. Wilpon only recently settled on a payback figure that was acceptable to his group and the court. Selig said he never had any doubt about his close friend. "I had great faith in the Wilpons and the family," Selig said during the media conference. "I was very confident that they would work things out. And they have. So my confidence was rewarded." As part of the restructuring, Wilpon also sold off minority shares of the Mets to raise capital, and now, he is even considering signing free-agent-to-be David Wright to a long-term extension. "I think he's playing like a superstar right now," Wilpon said about his third baseman. "This is a great young man. If I had another daughter, I'd love her to marry a David Wright." But that's for another time and another place. Wilpon was asked if earning an All-Star Game was an elixir to all that had recently befallen him. "It is," he said. "It's very meaningful to me. After all, I know how this thing goes. I know we're not going to get another one in my tenure. And so it's exciting. It's exciting for New York. It's exciting for all of the city. What distinguished New York? Its museums, its culture." The All-Star Game. There's a new meaning to life, Wilpon philosophically imparted. "I said to Bud on the way over here in the car, 'Now that this case is over, there are no challenges in life for me,'" Wilpon said. "It was very painful, and I don't want to get into any of that. It's in the rear-view mirror now. But I can take any challenge. There's where I'm at right now."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.