Did Jeff Wilpon Play Pro Ball?

You may already know that I’m a former college baseball player and coach, and therefore geeky enough to have an appreciation for listening to an interview with Moby Benedict. For those unaware, Benedict was one of the most successful college coaches of all-time, leading the University of Michigan from 1963-1979. In those 17 years, no less than 25 of his players went on to play in MLB — a fairly stunning accomplishment. After his college coaching career, Moby spent three years coaching the Jamestown Expos in the NY-Penn League (from 1982-1984).

Considering that Moby played for Michigan in the mid-1950s and managed Jamestown in the early 1980s, one would think that he’d be familiar with Fred and Jeff Wilpon. After all, Fred was supposedly a “star” pitcher in high school and college, and Jeff played for the Jamestown Expos in 1983 … or did he?

According to the biography on the Sterling Equities website:

The exact same bio appears on the Brooklyn Cyclones official website.

However, if you listen to Moby Benedict tell the story, Jeff never played for Jamestown. Per the interview:

Q: “One of the players you managed while at Jamestown, but Jeff played with you in 1983 at the Jamestown Expos … what can you tell us about Jeff?”
A: “I don’t think he did … the years I was there, and I was there three years, and I don’t recall that he played. No. No — not for me.”

Moby is not a young guy, so you might think that his memory is failing him, or that Jeff was such a poor player that he didn’t leave much of an impression on Moby. Except, you would think that Moby Benedict would remember the son of Fred Wilpon playing for him — even if it were for only five minutes. After all, Fred and Moby were teammates at the University of Michigan, and Fred was extremely helpful to Moby’s baseball program. Indeed, Benedict later mentioned, in regard to Fred Wilpon:

“… he was there at the same time as I was … in fact, I know him well — we were pretty good friends … he gave us a lot of money to re-do our baseball field … he was very, very, very generous … it’s called the Wilpon Baseball Complex … it’s really beautiful … he was very generous, and a very kind man.”

Benedict also clearly remembered that Fred came down with a sore arm while at Michigan, and therefore never pitched for them.

You can listen to the interview here (the Wilpon discussion comes in around the 3-minute mark):

Still, maybe Moby, for whatever reason, forgot that Jeff Wilpon played for him. But there doesn’t seem to be any information, anywhere, that supports the claim that Jeff played pro ball. For example, if you go to the Jeff Wilpon page on TheBaseball Cube.com, there are no stats listed. Neither is Wilpon’s name listed on the 1983 Jamestown Expos page. Baseball-Reference.com reports the same non-info on Jeff Wilpon (nothing for ’82, ’84, either).

Of course, neither of those websites can be considered “official” — so it’s possible that both of those sites have mis-reported the facts and that Moby Benedict mis-remembered his time in Jamestown.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking, but this information is bothersome to say the least. If it’s true that Jeff Wilpon never played pro ball, why does his bio claim that he did? Why would the COO of a billion-dollar company have to lie on his public resume? And what else is he, the Mets, and Sterling Equities lying about?

And for the record, I have never lobbied for the job of COO of the New York Mets. I’m not looking to tear anyone down, either — only in search of the truth.

** UPDATE **

An alert MetsToday reader pointed me to a Murray Chass article from the September 14, 2004 edition of The New York Times, which includes this tidbit:

Wilpon is the son of Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ owner. Like his father, Jeff was a baseball player as a youngster but didn’t go far. In 1983, at the request of and as a favor to Fred Wilpon, the Montreal Expos drafted Jeff, a catcher. He joined Jamestown of the New York-Penn League but apparently never played before he was released a week or so later. Jeff Wilpon’s name does not appear in the team’s statistics for that season.

So this is old news that has yet to be addressed. Or does being a bullpen catcher count as “playing”?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Ben July 29, 2009 at 11:57 am
    Also, his official bio lists nothing about college. Do we know where, or if, he went to school?
    • Steve from Norfolk August 15, 2010 at 10:52 am
      Baseball Cube lists Palm Beach Community College as Jeffy’s alma mater. A fine old institution, their tanning team always does well in the George Hamilton Invitational, and their “quarters” team is known throughout the beer-drinking world.
  2. Walnutz15 July 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’d love to see someone from the media ask him directly.

    FWD this to Adam Rubin, or better yet – Wally Matthews – and see what becomes of it.

  3. CatchDog July 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm
    Maybe Jeffy was the Waterboy. He appears to be qualified as the head schlep for some fine quality H20.
  4. Metshawk July 29, 2009 at 3:37 pm
    Laugh if you want – I wish I was as successful in business/life/etc as the Wilpons. As a “waterboy” his probably making a lot more than you, Catchdog.
  5. joejanish July 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm
    It’s not difficult to be “successful” when you have a boatload of old money supporting you.
  6. kenny July 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm
    if you are going to call jeffy successful, please define success. even with boatloads of money, he has never succeeded at anything.
  7. Sherlock Tandy July 29, 2009 at 4:57 pm
    I’m sure Fred Wilpon couldn’t do the “Triple-Lindy”, so this is indeed a plain case of “I’m gonna tell my dad and he’s gonna take your field away”. Nice piece of sleuthing, my good man.
  8. CatchDog July 29, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    First off; the subject is Jeff Wilpon, not the Wilpons.

    Secondly; it sounds like you’re a tad bitter because you’re not a member of the lucky sperm club or you’ve had trouble breaking the minimum wage barrier.

    Thirdly; the last time I threw a opening pitch out at Shea, Jeffy asked for MY autograph. Enough said.

  9. kenny July 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm
    maybe fred COULD do the triple lindy. his son is obviously an excellent swimmer.
  10. mic July 30, 2009 at 7:01 am
    Good Morning,

    Sorry I stayed away from the big discussion but no more. This morning ther ESPN scroll says quoting Jeff Wilpon: ‘Omar is this close to being out of baseball’

    – does nt that sound like EXACTLY the quote Bernazzard was characterized for?

    Given the above post i think YOU are on the right track..Jeff Wilpon must go!

    – Mike Lupica penned a great story pointing to Omar’s body of work. Instead of a circus with SP ans Dan Duquette Omar has brought 4 yrs of teams averaging 90 wins. Let us remind the blogsphere that Omar, Steve Phillips chief lieutenant was recruited to oversee the contraction of the ownerless Expos between 2002-2004. EVERY year the expos finished above the Mets, not counting the last yr (2004).

    While Omar was gone Art Howe was hired and virtually no premium FA would sign with the Mets. Jason Bay was traded for John Thomson,
    and NO significant trade worked out for the Mets.

    -Back to Wilpon. It has been posted for well over a year that Wilpon had close ties to others particularly Tony B. and resented Willie Randolph indeed we characterized an ‘undemining’ in the organization we attributed to Tony. Also Jeff has had several quotes (someone high up in the organization?) letting the press no of alternate views in the Mets office in particular with Willies extension, non firing , then firing…what role did JW really have?

    -Omar was hired EXPRESSLY with assurance that HE would be boss….that is not happening not since 2005-2006.
    – We have villified Omar for non trades in 2007 &2008 yet it has been widely reported Jeff (and Dad) would not increase payroll.

    Lastly. I recall Theo going thru something similar…nly to quit then be rehired on his terms. I opine that the Organization will have lean years if Omar is canned. Instead i think JW needs to walled off from team affairs…..instead maybe make a new President of Baseball affairs …WHO? i would ask Bobby Valentine to do that job.

    -just my 2 cents.



  11. […] Joe Janish, who is never shy about criticizing the Mets, wrote an interesting piece over at Mets Today. Not sure what to make about the fact that Jeff Wilpon might be exaggerating his […]
  12. Murph July 31, 2009 at 2:38 am
    Wilpon, you are SNAGGED!
  13. Happy Jack July 31, 2009 at 2:14 pm
    A man you can trust, the spokesman of the NY Mets. Jeff Wilpon lied on the resume he used to get hired by his father. Says a lot.
  14. JB August 3, 2009 at 10:46 am
    I’m not a Wilpon fan, but please.

    This boils down to one word, “played” in a line in his resume that comes somewhere after his involvement with being on the board at his son’s private school. This is hardly scandalous resume puffery.

    I have many bones to pick with the Wilpons and their lack of pride in the Mets. This, personally, would not be the battle I would pick with them.

  15. joejanish August 3, 2009 at 10:55 am
    JB, thanks for visiting.

    No worries, you personally won’t have to pick this battle, as others are handling it.

    Maybe if the Mets organization wasn’t in such a waffling disarray we’d have more interesting things to research.

  16. Hondo Hess October 19, 2009 at 4:25 pm
    I played for the Jamestown Expos in 1983 and Wilpon did not play in a game. I recall him being drafted as a favor to his father, and participating in minor league spring training for a very limited time.
  17. joejanish October 19, 2009 at 10:33 pm
    Hondo, thanks for the info!

    Any chance he might have caught you in a bullpen session or something? Many of us are very eager to hear all the details about his professional baseball experience.

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