"It's not time yet," was his reply.
"I really don't think he had any idea who I was," Mrs. Payson told a friend later.
It was fairly common knowledge both inside and outside the Mets organization that Mrs. Payson was eager to have at least one or two prominent National League players on her team, particularly ones who had previously made a reputation in New York. Among these was Gil Hodges, the once-great Dodger first baseman, and the Mets did acquire him for the draft price of $75,000. Another was Johnny Antonelli, who had helped pitch the Giants to their 1954 world championship. Antonelli was drafted from the Milwaukee Braves, but having suffered through several dismal seasons he finally decided to abandon his baseball career. Mrs. Payson was very impressed during last year's World Series by the flashy performance of Elio Chacon, the young Cincinnati second baseman, and he, too, was drafted for the team. Otherwise Mrs. Payson has kept her opinions to herself and left the decisions to George Weiss, the Mets' president. "He'd shoot me if I interfered," Mrs. Payson has said with conviction.
Just after last year's World Series Weiss offered the job of field manager to a reluctant Casey Stengel, who had spent the previous year in semiretirement, and Mrs. Payson helped talk Stengel into signing on. "Thank God you didn't take his no," Mrs. Stengel later told Mrs. Payson. "He's been miserable without baseball."
Mrs. Payson tells this only to point out that it was one of the few times she has really done anything herself to assist in the formation of her baseball team. In her own mind, Mrs. Payson is just a typical bridge-playing New York matron, albeit one who can afford certain hobbies and luxuries that are out of the reach of most. Her major concern is her family—three married daughters in their 30s, a 21-year-old son who likes racing cars, and eight grandchildren. (Her firstborn child, Daniel Carroll Payson, died an infantry hero's death during the Battle of the Bulge when he was only 18.)
To fill up her spare time, Mrs. Payson is a partner in galleries for contemporary art on Long Island and in Palm Beach and serves on the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. She is also a founder and partner in the firm of Payson and Trask, which invests capital in promising new enterprises around the country.
As if this were not enough to occupy her mind, Mrs. Payson is also one of the most awesomely generous philanthropists in the world today. In recognition of the support she has given to so many New York charities, particularly hospitals, Hofstra College has awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Mrs. Payson is so conscientious about helping others that some years back she approached a friend of modest means and said, "You must run into people from time to time who are badly in need of some financial help. If you ever do, please let me know, and maybe I can do something for them."
Home to Mrs. Payson is the large, comfortable house in Manhasset that she and her husband built in 1928, alongside Greentree. In the summertime she always moves her household to a spacious seaside place at Falmouth Fore-side along the southern coast of Maine, spending the month of August, however, in a house in Saratoga so she can follow the racing. At Kentucky Derby time she takes a few friends in her private railroad car, the Adios II, to the impressive antebellum house on Greentree's 1,000-acre breeding farm in the Bluegrass country outside Lexington. In the winter months she is in residence at Hobe Sound, an isolated and quietly fashionable resort island a few miles north of Palm Beach. A penthouse apartment on the corner of 88th Street and Fifth Avenue accommodates Mr. and Mrs. Payson whenever they want to stay in New York City.
Mr. Payson is a Yale graduate like all his Whitney in-laws, and during his college years he was a good amateur boxer and rowed on the crew before taking his law degree. "He's a businessman," is the way Mrs. Payson describes her husband's occupation. "I don't know exactly what he does; he's just a businessman. I remember once I asked Father what he did, and he said, 'I'm a businessman.' Well, that's what Charlie is."
Five years ago, FORTUNE magazine listed Mrs. Payson's wealth at somewhere between $100 million and $200 million, and it could be more than that without her even knowing. Her father's estate of nearly $200 million was the largest ever probated in the U.S. until that time, and that was back in the hard-dollar days of 1929. Yet you will seldom find her activities charted in the society columns, nor will you find her fraternizing in the pages of Town and Country with the rich who like to see pictures of themselves in print. The small snobberies of life escape her; she doesn't seem to need them for herself, and she doesn't seem to understand them in others.