Wellington Mara

Last updated

Wellington Mara
Wellington and Ann Mara 1954.JPG
Mara and his wife, Ann in 1954
Position:Owner/President/General Manager
Personal information
Born:(1916-08-14)August 14, 1916
Rochester, New York
Died:October 25, 2005(2005-10-25) (aged 89)
Rye, New York
Career information
High school: Loyola School
College: Fordham
Career history
As executive:
Career highlights and awards
Wellington Mara
AllegianceFlag of the United States (1912-1959).svg United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Navy (1864-1959).svg  United States Navy
Years of service1943–1946
Rank US-O4 insignia.svg Lieutenant commander
Battles/wars World War II

Wellington Timothy Mara (August 14, 1916 – October 25, 2005) was the co-owner of the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL) from 1959 until his death, and one of the most influential and iconic figures in the history of the NFL. He was the younger son of Tim Mara, who founded the Giants in 1925. Wellington was a ball boy that year.

Contents

Life and career

Mara was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Tim Mara and Elizabeth "Lizette" Mara (née Barclay). [1] He was of Irish descent. Mara was an alumnus of Loyola School and Fordham University, both Catholic, Jesuit schools in New York City.

In 1930, Tim Mara split his ownership interests between Wellington (then 14) and his older brother Jack. Soon after graduating from Fordham University, Wellington moved into the Giants' front office as team treasurer and assistant to his father. He became the team's secretary in 1940. After fighting in World War II, he returned to the Giants as team vice president, a post he retained after his father died in 1958. When Jack, who had been president since 1941, died in 1965, Wellington became team president.

For his first 37 years in the organization, he handled the franchise's football decisions. However, his growing involvement in league affairs led him to turn over most of his day-to-day responsibilities to operations director Andy Robustelli in 1974. He didn't relinquish full control over the football side of the operation until 1979, when George Young became the team's first general manager.

The Giants were hamstrung for several years by a strained relationship between Wellington and his nephew, Tim J. Mara, who inherited Jack's stake in the team upon Jack's death. By the 1970s, they almost never spoke to each other, and a partition had to be built in the owners' box. The Maras continued to retain close control over the Giants' day-to-day operations long after most other owners had delegated such authority. Only the fallout from "The Fumble" in 1978, in which a certain Giant win turned into a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on a last-second fumble, convinced the Maras of the need to modernize--among other things, by hiring Young and giving him full control over football operations.

Under Mara's direction the New York Football Giants won six NFL titles (including two Super Bowl wins), nine conference championships (including six Eastern Conference championships in the days before the NFL-AFL merger and three NFC championships post-merger), and 13 division championships. An eighth NFL title, third and fourth Super Bowl victories, fifth NFC championship (11th conference championship overall), and 15th division title have been captured since his passing under the leadership of his son, John, and co-owner Steve Tisch (who in turn is the son of Wellington's former co-owner from 1991–2005, Bob Tisch; Tisch also died in 2005, with his death coming three weeks after Mara's).

The Giants have also accumulated the third highest number of victories in National Football League history. Mara was also well liked by the Giants' players, and was known to stick by them even when they struggled with off-the-field problems. When Lawrence Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999 he credited Mara for supporting him even during the worst times of his drug addiction saying, "He probably cared more about me as a person than he really should have." [2] Taylor has since lived a clean life style and credits Mara with helping him fight his addiction. [3]

The grave of Wellington Mara in Gate of Heaven Cemetery 1 Mara 800.jpg
The grave of Wellington Mara in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

He had surgery in May 2005 to remove cancerous lymph nodes from his neck and under his armpit, but was initially given a good prognosis by his doctors who said the cancer had not metastasized, according to his son, John Mara, who is the Giants' co-chief executive officer.

Not long after Mara came to work with the team, the players- many of whom were barely older than him- nicknamed him "Duke" because they knew he was named after the Duke of Wellington, whom his father called "the fightingest of all Irishmen." The nickname stuck. The Wilson football used in NFL games prior to the AFL merger (1941–69) was nicknamed "THE DUKE" after Mara; the ball was named as such by George Halas, the owner of the Chicago Bears, to reward Tim Mara for arranging the contract that made Wilson the official supplier of footballs to the NFL. [4] Since the 2006 season, a new version of "THE DUKE" has been used in NFL games.

He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. Mara was married to Ann Mara. His granddaughters include actresses Kate Mara and Rooney Mara.

In 2012, Mara was elected into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. [5]

Death

Mara succumbed to lymphoma at his home in October 2005 at age 89. After his Friday funeral at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, [6] [7] [8] he was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne. He was survived by his wife Ann Mara (1929–2015), eleven children, and 42 grandchildren. Two days after his funeral, his team honored him by shutting out the Washington Redskins, the team he always viewed as the Giants' biggest (and oldest) rival, 36–0 on October 30 at Giants Stadium. [8] [9] The 80,000 fans in attendance gave his mention a standing ovation.

See also

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References

  1. "MRS. TIMOTHY J. MARA". New York Times. July 23, 1963. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  2. sportsillustrated.cnn.com, Five for the ages: Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts five more members, accessed February 17, 2007
  3. Dave Anderson, PRO FOOTBALL; Losing Himself to Find Himself, New York Times, November 28, 2003, accessed April 4, 2008
  4. http://www.wilson.com/en-us/football/nfl/wilson-and-the-nfl/history/;jsessionid=F778176F5935A23A9E5C363660A75A0A
  5. "The Newark Star Ledger".
  6. Sandomir, Richard (October 29, 2005). "Mara Is Remembered as a Giant Among Men". New York Times.
  7. McShane, Larry (October 29, 2005). "Giants' owner remembered as one of the greats". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. p. D7.
  8. 1 2 Hanlon, Greg (November 30, 2008). "Top 10 Moments in the Giants-Redskins Rivalry". New York Times.
  9. Porter, David (October 31, 2005). "Giants win one for Wellington". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. p. D5.