Frank Cashen, who helped build the Orioles dynasty of the late 1960s and early ’70s and rebuilt the laughingstock Mets into a World Series winner in 1986, died Monday. He was 88.
Cashen spent 26 continuous years in the front office of a major league team, starting in 1966 as executive vice president with the Orioles, who that year won the first of their six American League pennants. He was promoted to general manager in October 1971 and presided over two division titles in Baltimore before resigning following the 1975 season. He remained as assistant GM in Baltimore until 1980.
When the Mets, then struggling as a last-place team with attendance figures below 800,000, were purchased by Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday in 1980, they sought to turn around the flagging franchise.
According to the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden, Cashen was recommended to Doubleday by Baltimore Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger.
Cashen told Madden he reluctantly took the Mets’ job, knowing it was an enormous task to turn around a woebegone franchise that had traded its best player, Tom Seaver, three years earlier.
But Cashen, through a series of trades, turned the Mets from a doormat into a perennial contender. Most famous was the deal on June 15, 1983 that sent Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the Cardinals for first baseman Keith Hernandez, who had fallen out of favor in St. Louis after disagreements with team management, notably Whitey Herzog.
In another deal, Cashen—who was distinguished in part for wearing bow ties—traded the popular Lee Mazzilli to Texas for two pitchers, Walt Terrell and Ron Darling. Darling became a mainstay of the Mets’ 1980s contenders, while Terrell was later traded for power-hitting switch-hitter Howard Johnson.
The Mets’ poor record also helped them get high draft choices. They drafted first overall in Cashen’s first year as GM, in 1980, and drafted Darryl Strawberry with the pick. They signed Strawberry for $210,000. They also snagged Dwight Gooden fifth overall in 1982.
Those players, along with the stunning deal Cashen pulled at the 1984 Winter Meetings for Expos all-star catcher Gary Carter, culminated in the Mets’ World Series title in 1986.
In a statement, Wilpon said Cashen “revitalized our franchise when he took over in 1980 as general manager and helped engineer us to a world championship in 1986. I dealt with Frank on a daily basis and he was a man of integrity and great passion. No one had a more diverse career than Frank. He was also a lawyer, sports writer and marketing executive. His accomplishments will always be an integral part of our team history.”