When we look back at the biggest events and celebrations in Mets history, it’s the details that stand out.
Members of the 1986 Mets come from the stands at Shea Stadium during their 20th anniversary celebration. The representation of the fan parachuting onto the pitch. Tom Seaver throws out the first pitch to Mike Piazza before the opener at Citi Field. Seaver’s family sat in the front row as his statue was unveiled.
Few fans enjoy nostalgia like Mets fans, clinging to every milestone, good, bad, controversial or comical. The face behind it all, longtime Mets executive Lorraine Hamilton never wanted any credit, preferring to let the legends on the field be the center of attention, but she will finally be recognized Sunday night when she is inducted in the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, along with the late Tommie Agee and Bobby Ojeda.
It’s a recognition of 34 years of service to the Mets and recognition of the lasting legacy he leaves as he retires.
“There’s really something special about Lorraine as a person,” Sarah Seaver Zaske told the Daily News. “I’m sure you’ve been told time and time again how great she is at her job. But honestly, it’s so much more than that.”
Hamilton, the executive director of broadcasting and special events, has been an unsung hero since the 1980s. She was behind the scenes orchestrating some of the most memorable moments in team history and was a trailblazer as one of the few women to hold a team executive role. Major League Baseball early in her career.
The list of hats she’s worn and roles she’s played is endless: Hamilton anchored live broadcasts, handling everything from production trucks, booth space and camera positions. Scheduled national broadcasts. He told the SNY team of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling what to promote on the air and when.
“We all have people we meet in the business who are a little bit underrated, but their presence is so strongly felt because they take care of so many things without much fanfare,” said Gregg Picker, the Mets’ senior coordinating producer. airs on SNY. “Lorraine has always been one of those people. taking care of things for our announcers, for our producers, for our crew. You can count on her to get things done.”
The professionalism has endeared her to some of the most outsized personalities in the Mets realm. He has had to mend the fractured relationship between the club and his former players and deftly manage the politics inherent in professional sport.
“He doesn’t have an ego,” Picker said. Because of her experience, she is able to work with people of all different personalities. Whether they’re loud and intimidating or reserved and shy, he finds a way to make everyone feel comfortable.”
Looking at the body of work, it becomes apparent that Hamilton has been influential in bridging past generations of Mets greats with the current generation of fans.
He was influential in bridging previous generations of Mets greats with the current generation of fans. He had to deal with the fractured relationship between the Mets and their former players.
“There’s nobody better,” Piazza told The News through his agent, Alan Nero. “It will be an incredible loss, not only for the Mets but for all those who had the pleasure and luxury of working with her. It was a privilege.”
Hamilton grew up in Oceanside, Long Island, and was hired by the Mets in 1980 as a public relations assistant to Jay Horwitz, another longtime club figure. She left in 1984 to do PR and events in Manhattan, but returned to the Mets in 1994 with the desire to raise her son in Flushing. Like so many women, Hamilton wanted a balance between motherhood and career, and the Mets offered her that.
That balance can be hard to find. The double standards that exist for women in high-level positions have been challenging for Hamilton to navigate. If you’re friendly, no one takes you seriously. Too violent? So then you are very angry and emotional.
“There was a fine line,” Hamilton said. “You couldn’t be much fun. You should have made it clear that you were representing the club. And what you were saying was not a suggestion, but what had to happen.”
It was never more real than with her first conversation with Shiver. She was assigned to act as the Hall of Famer’s handler and found his over-the-top personality intimidating. But Hamilton had to get the message across that they would work closely together and that he would have to follow the instructions he was given.
“I gave him a schedule and told him what I expected,” Hamilton said. “And he looked at me like I had three heads.”
What he didn’t know at the time was that he was joking. Shiver was testing her to see how she could handle his humor. The two became close friends as Hamilton accompanied Seaver to various graduation and charity events. Along the way, Hamilton became part of the Seaver family and remains close to his widow, Nancy, and daughters Sarah and Anne.
It’s no secret that Seaver and the Mets have had a rocky relationship at times. This was the case for many players who disagreed with the way the organization treated its former players. Hamilton was able to help Seaver and his family mend these tensions.
“I can’t speak for all the other players and situations, but Dad certainly had a rocky relationship at different points with the Mets. And through it all, I really think Lorraine was monumental in bringing him back into the fold,” said Seaver Zaske. “He trusted Lorraine implicitly and would always be up and willing to do whatever she asked.”
Hamilton pushed for years for the Mets to honor Seaver. He finally saw these efforts come to life with the street renaming ceremony. He later worked with the family and William Behrends, the sculptor who created his statue, even traveling with Seaver Zaske to North Carolina to meet with Behrends to see his studio and the progress of the bronze depiction.
“It gave us a really wonderful opportunity to talk about it and process it a little bit and kind of mourn him, which we weren’t able to do during COVID,” Seaver Zaske said. “It’s full of amazing stories and interactions with dad and all the players he was so close to or still is so close to.”
Hamilton’s legacy with former players will be the personal insights he was able to capture and apply. She is so well known and so popular in broadcasting circles that the mention of her name evokes admiration and respect.
But now the respect is coming from Hamilton to the other women in the industry who carry on one more of her legacies. The industry has transformed over the past two decades and there are women at various levels of sports and media. It’s on the sidelines, in the TV trucks and in the front offices. The industry is in a better place than when he entered.
“I would say it was very gradual. I think women are drawn to the racing side, more so than other areas of the sport,” Hamilton said. “But when I started, there were literally none. I’d say probably around 2000 was when it started to get a bit more of an even playing field. But it happened very gradually. It was a slow development.”
Hamilton credits women like Bernadette McDonald, MLB’s senior vice president of broadcasting and the woman she calls her “north star,” and Marla Miller, the league’s senior vice president of special events, with helping her chart a path in baseball.
When Hamilton is inducted Sunday night at Ballston Lake, she will join former Mets media relations executive Shannon Forde, who was inducted posthumously in 2021, becoming the first woman to be selected. Forde died in 2016 aged 44 after a battle with breast cancer.
“He was really a huge role model,” Hamilton said. “I feel very proud to follow in her footsteps in the New York Hall of Fame. He was a terrific employee and person.”
As for what’s next, Hamilton isn’t sure. For someone who has spent nearly three decades programming baseball shows, she still isn’t sure how to plan the next phase of her life. Her son Timothy is now 35 and she plans to spend more time with him. After years of missing vacations and family gatherings, she looks forward to finally being present at them.
But for now, she’ll enjoy her Hall of Fame honor. Hamilton, who commemorated so many Mets’ historic moments, will now become a part of Mets history herself.