M. Donald Grant, the former chairman of the New York Mets who traded away Tom Seaver in 1977 during a contract dispute, died Saturday at his home following a long illness. He was 94.
Under Joan Payson, the Mets' founding owner, Grant was chairman of the board from the team's inception in 1962 until he was forced out after the 1978 season.
Grant, a Wall Street stockbroker for Fahnestock & Co., assumed a more visible role in the operation of the team following Payson's death in 1975. His most memorable move came on July 15, 1977, when Seaver, perhaps the most beloved player in Mets history, was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds.
"M. Donald grant cheated me," Seaver said in 1981, still angry at the way he was treated. He later returned to the Mets for the 1983 season.
Grant traded Dave Kingman, also in a contract feud, to San Diego the same night and was vilified for what New York tabloids called a "Midnight Massacre."
"The press made such a martyr of Seaver that it killed me," Grant said the day his departure was announced. "I did a good job for a long time. We won two pennants and one World Series. Now people say I ran the attendance down, but they also forget that I ran it up to 2.7 million."
After the Mets' second consecutive last-place finish, the team's eight-man board pushed Grant aside on Nov. 8, 1978, announcing he was stepping down as of Jan. 1 to allow Payson's daughter, Lorinda de Roulet, to run the team.
"Don Grant's not happy about stepping down as chairman of the board," she said, "but it's an amicable agreement. It just seemed like the time to do it."
Grant remained as a Mets director and stockholder until January 1980, when Doubleday & Co. and Fred Wilpon bought the franchise from Payson's heirs.
Grant also had a run-in with Cleon Jones in 1975 after the outfielder was arrested with a woman in van in Florida and charged with indecent exposure -- a charge that later was dropped. Grant first suspended Jones, then forced him to publicly apologize.
And he was blamed by New York City officials for the New York Jets' departure from Shea Stadium to East Rutherford, N.., for the 1984 season. Until an agreement that followed a court fight in 1977, Grant angered Jets owner Leon Hess by refusing to let the Jets play at Shea Stadium until after the Mets completed their season.
Before the Mets existed, Grant was a director of the New York Giants. On Aug. 19, 1957, he was the lone vote in opposition when the team's board, led by Horace Stoneham, voted to move the team from the Polo Grounds to San Francisco for the 1958 season.
"It just tears my heart to see them go," he said then. "I've been a Giant rooter all my life. Then, too, as a businessman, I think they would do better staying here. I would rather have a National League franchise here than any other city."
Grant is survived by his wife, Alice, sons Michael Jr. and Tim, daughter Patsy Warner and nine grandchildren.
Funeral services will be in Florida and will be private.
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