The words seem coldly ironic now, almost 40 years later. But early on the Friday afternoon of Jan. 25, 1980, they had the desired effect. Until this moment, Fred Wilpon had been an anonymous millionaire. Now, he had a stake, and a say, in the New York Mets, the dregs of all of baseball.
Given a chance to clear his throat, he did.
“I’ll do whatever is necessary to bring the fans a winner,” the 43-year-old Wilpon said into every camera lens at the old Diamond Club, up on Shea Stadium’s press level. “We will spend whatever is necessary to see a World Series flag flying over Shea Stadium in the ’80s.”
He was only a minority partner then; it was Nelson Doubleday who’d footed 80 percent of the $21 million that bought the team from the Payson family. But Fred was the chatty one, the one with the vision and the big words — and it is only fair to point out that exactly 82 months and two days later the Mets fulfilled his grandest ambition, and flew that flag.
But it has been a long, long time since anyone viewed Fred Wilpon as a baseball gunslinger. Where once he relished the opportunity to go dollar-for-dollar with the Steinbrenners across town, he began to take…