Joan Whitney Payson was born on February 5, 1903 in New York City. She was an heiress to the prominent Whitney Family and received much of the fortune when her father passed on.
She would marry Charles Shipman Payson, a lawyer and successful businessman himself. The two lived in a 50 room mansion in Manhasset, NY with their own private art gallery.
She collected art and has many notable works donated in her name at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the Joan Payson Galleries. She along with her brother also ran Green Tree Stable & Breeding Farms in Saratoga NY & Lexington Kentucky.
Their horses won four Belmont Stakes, two Kentucky Derby’s & a Preakness. The family interests also backed finances for Broadway plays & movies, including A Streetcar Named Desire & Gone With the Wind.
Mrs. Payson was a huge baseball fan and became a minority holder in the New York Giants baseball club. Her favorite player was Willie Mays. She voted against the Giants move to California, and sold her shares when they left. She began to work hard to find a replacement team.
In 1962 she became the first woman in America to buy a majority share of a sports team. She was the Mets majority stock holder, team President and was involved in baseball operations from 1962-1975.
Unfortunately she trusted M. Donald Grant with many decisions in the later years. Her husband Charles Shipman had no interest in baseball. She loved her team, and was good to her players. They also had a deep respect and admiration for her.
She was always seen in the front row of Shea Stadium rooting on her team, not in an owner’s box. In 1972 she got Willie Mays back to New York to finish his career as a New York Met.