Mets general manager Sandy Alderson's 87-year-old father, John Alderson, died early Sunday after being struck by a car as he was crossing the street in St. Petersburg, Fla., according to the St. Petersburg police department.
At 11:54 p.m. on Saturday, Alderson was struck in the middle of the 3600 block of 4th Street, when he was hit by a jeep, police say. According to police, the driver of the vehicle was Jeffrey Lechance, 21, of St. Petersburg; Edward Brownlee, 22, was a passenger. Alderson was taken to nearby Bayfront Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:45 a.m. No charges have yet been filed, though an investigation was ongoing. A police spokesman would not comment on whether alcohol or other substances were suspected.
"Saturday night, my father, John Alderson, a retired Air Force pilot and a healthy and vibrant 87 years of age, was struck by a car and died in St. Petersburg, Fla.," Sandy Alderson said in a statement Sunday night. "Our entire family is devastated by his loss. He was a beloved father and grandfather who will be deeply missed by all of us. He and I shared many baseball experiences over the years and he was excited about spring training and Opening Day at Citi Field. I am terribly saddened that we will not be able to share those new experiences together."
"We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sandy's father," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in his own statement. "Fred (Wilpon), Saul (Katz) and all of us at the Mets send our heartfelt condolences to Sandy, (wife) Linda and their family. We've asked Sandy to take whatever time he needs as it relates to this terrible personal loss."
In a recent interview with the Daily News for a story on Sandy's military service, John Alderson talked about his own military roots, growing up during the Depression and how after a career in the Air Force, he enjoyed living in St. Petersburg and playing competitive softball with an over-80 team in the Kids and Kubs league.
John Alderson was born in Gasport, N.Y., on the Erie Canal, on April 5, 1923, the son of a barber, Ernest Alderson.
"My father was a barber - getting 15 cents for a shave, maybe 35 cents for a haircut or something. So things were tough, it was during the Depression," Alderson said. "But things worked out and everybody in town wanted to be sure I knew I had to be home for supper. Everybody took care of you. Towns were great back then."
John Alderson said his father would have been of age to fight in World War I, but a childhood injury caused him to lose a leg. John Alderson joined the Air Force and flew a B-24 bomber called "Liberators" during World War II in 1944 and '45.
"I was in the 44th Bomb Group, and it was well-known for having five Congressional Medals of Honor given on one mission on the Ploiesti (Romania) Raid," said Alderson. "I wasn't there yet, Thank God, because that was a tough mission. When the war was over, I'd had 32 missions. Things were easing off quite a bit. I was pretty fortunate to have been over there then. I'm no hero."
In September of 1946, shortly after .returning from World War II, John Alderson married and he and his wife, Gwenny, had a son, Sandy, a year later. Gwenny Alderson died in May 1997. Sandy was one of three children - two boys and a girl.
John Alderson flew B-26 bombers in the Korean War and served two tours in Vietnam, the first in 1967 and '68 flying a B-57 bomber. Alderson reflected fondly on one particular visit from Sandy during the summer of '67, when John Alderson was flying out of Phan Rang air base in South Vietnam. "Somehow he wangled a (job as a) foreign correspondent," John Alderson said. "Anyway, I got him on a test hop and I took him up and got him sick, which was exactly what I wanted to do. I remember this kid came up the ramp - you had a ramp to put up a ladder for us to get out of the plane - and he said, 'Sir, we don't clean up after somebody.' I said, 'No, I understand.' I guess Sandy had thrown up a little. But it was very enjoyable. I know Sandy'll never forget it."
John Alderson later served a second tour in Vietnam - after Sandy had served a tour as a Marine officer - when he returned to train Laotian pilots in the final years of the war, 1972-73. He retired from the Air Force in 1976.
In an interview with The News last week, John Alderson said he was particularly looking forward to visiting Sandy in Port St. Lucie during spring training, even though he would have to make the trek across the state. He talked about how proud he was of his son, mentioning a recent family trip to Hawaii.
"I'll tell you what kind of guy (Sandy) is. He paid for 15 people to go over (to Hawaii). Well, that's the kind of guy he is. He took 15 people and paid for the whole schmear. He's very nice," said John Alderson.