BILOXI - For J. Con Maloney baseball is about memories. Maloney still cherishes the memories as owner of the Jackson Mets and the Jackson Generals.
Maloney told the audience at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Friday he did not intend to own a minor league baseball team, but two things changed his mind.
First, the New Mets AA team, the Victoria (TX) Toros won the Texas League pennant in 1973, but only drew 49,000 fans for the season. Second, the Mets were looking for local ownership for their teams. Maloney got a call from the Mets seeing if he was interested in purchasing the Toros and moving the team to Jackson. After telling the Mets no, he was told to make an offer for the team.
"I tried to get out of buying the team," he said. "They told me, 'We want you.' I made them a crazy offer, and they took it."
Maloney didn't disclose what he offered the Mets, but said it was significantly lower than the value of the franchise.
"Today, I wonder why I waited so long to make a decision," he said.
Maloney sold the Generals in 1990 to an ownership group led by Nolan Ryan, who moved the club to Round Rock, located near Austin (TX). Ryan purchased a Canadian AAA team and also moved it to Round Rock. The Express moved to Corpus Christi, which the former Jackson Mets are now the Corpus Christi Hooks.
Maloney sold the Generals due to declining attendance. However, today, the state of Mississippi has two Minor League teams: the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers.
"The status of Minor League baseball in Mississippi is good," Maloney said. "Minor League teams allow fans to come a lot closer to the players, where they feel they are a part of the game. The fans feel the players are a lot more accessible."
Maloney feels if there was a book written about owning a Minor League team, the author could write about him.
"Whatever I did, I was wrong," he joked.
Maloney told the audience he frequently traveled on the team bus to games as far away as El Paso.
Maloney also had a general manager who told the Mets he knew how to manage a team, but called team management asking, "What do I do about the owner?' Mets' management told him to "live with it."
"I was a hands-on owner," Maloney said. "Most owners are smarter than that. Most players felt I was one of them."
Other memories Maloney shared-- future Mets star Mookie Wilson marrying Rosa Gilbert at home plate-- and talking Kevin Mitchell out of quitting baseball.
Maloney also spoke about Billy Beane, then the future general manager of the Oakland A's sneaking in at night to take advantage of his hot tub.
Next week: Gary Sarnoff, who wrote a book about the 1933 Washington Senators, who conducted their Spring training in Biloxi before reaching the World Series that year.