As a young boy he worked at Ebbets Field assisting Brooklyn Dodger ticket takers. He took other small jobs with the Dodgers & learned how to observe players on the field.
McDonald began his long association with the Mets organization in their first season, as a statistician in 1962. He then became a minor league administrative secretary for the 1965 & 1966 seasons. In 1967 he became Director of Mets Scouting.
From 1968 to 1971 he became the Director of Minor League Operations, working closely with Whitey Herzog. The two were responsible for developing some of the young Mets talents of that era. This included Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Gary Gentry, Amos Otis, Ken Singleton, Tim Foli, Danny Frisella, John Milner & Mike Jorgensen.
McDonald celebrated the success of the 1969 Amazing Mets, earning his first World Series ring. In 1972, he served as the Mets' Director of Player Development Operations.
In 1973 as the Mets went on to win another pennant, he once again became the Mets' Director of Minor League Operations, for the next two seasons. After the disappointing 1974 season, he replaced Bob Scheffing as General Manager and would hold that position until 1979.
|Whitey Herzog & Joe McDonald|
The Joe McDonald GM era was certainly a dark one. In his defense, the Chairman M. Donald Grant usually had the final say but the two made a mess of the organization, especially after the loss of their owner; Mrs. Joan Payson.
One of McDonald's first moves was trading the popular Ken Boswell, who was certainly at the end of his career. But in return the Mets got Dave Gallagher who played just 33 games as in New York.
Then came the trade that sent Tug McGraw, who was one of the games best relievers, to Philadelphia. The Mets had seen a cyst in McGraw's arm & though he was through, so they sent him to the Phillies for catcher; John Stearns. Stearns did become the clubs main catcher, replacing Jerry Grote.
|McDonald with Dave Kingman|
Under McDonald's watch in 1977, the Mets traded Tom Seaver in one of the worst days in franchise history, known as the Midnight Massacre. Although he had brought in Dave Kingman two years prior, he was traded away on this same night in 1977. Kingman was the Mets biggest HR slugger up that point in history, although he did strike out often & hit for low averages.
McDonald also traded away popular long time Mets; Jon Matlack, Bud Harrelson, Wayne Garrett, Jerry Grote, John Milner & finally Jerry Koosman in 1979. He backed Yogi Berra in 1975 & released Cleon Jones after a public dispute.
But Berra would get fired later in the year as well. Minor league Mets skipper Joe Frazier got a Mets managerial position in 1976, but was also fired after a slow 1977 start. Joe Torre was his replacement.
McDonald as well as M. Donald Grant, did not support free agency & refused to sign high priced players. They sat back & watched the organization fall deeper & deeper into destruction.
On the positive side, McDonald did bring in guys like Lee Mazzilli, Dave Kingman, Joe Torre, Bobby Valentine, Skip Lockwood, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn & Pat Zachry. Later trades brought in 1986 Champion Mets; Ron Darling & Jesse Orosco.
His era also drafted players like Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, Neil Allen, Hubie Brooks, Jeff Reardon & Mike Scott.
In 1979 he was made the clubs Vice President as the team finished last for the third straight year. In 1980 as the Wilpon / Doubleday ownership took over, McDonald was fired & replaced by Frank Cashen.
Post Mets Career: McDonald went on to work with his old friend from the Mets in the sixties, Whitey Herzog, in St. Louis. He won another World Series with the 1982 Cardinals as their GM.
He remained there until 1985 & moved on to the Detroit Tigers organization in 1987.
With the Tigers he held various roles; Director of Player Development, General Manager & Vice President, through 1992.
After 30 years in the front office, he would do another 30 years as an MLB scout. He worked with the California Angels, Colorado Rockies & Boston Red Sox for the past 15 years. He won four more World Series rings with the Red Sox through 2019.
Retirement: After the 2019 season, he retired at his home in Lakeland, Florida at age 90.
Family: McDonald's son is sports talk show host Jody McDonald (known as Jody Mac). He was with WFAN in New York for many years & now is working in Philadelphia sports radio.He has also worked as a horse racing analyst.