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Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! Celebrating the legendary contract that keeps on giving

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Happy July 1.

Today is the day this country loves to celebrate in style, seeing an all-American dream play out in living color.

It’s a little premature for July 4th fireworks.

Today, is well, perhaps a celebration of the most famous baseball contract in history.

It’s Bobby Bonilla Day!

Bonilla, the 59-year-old Bronx native who was a six-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner, and 1997 World Series champion, played 16 years in the major leagues.

So, what’s the All-Star most famous for in his celebrated career?

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That paycheck that keeps on giving.

The Mets will once again cut Bonilla a check for $1,193,248.20 on July 1, just as they have since 2011.

And they will continue to do so through 2035.

Bonilla will be 72 years old when he receives the last check.

This day used to be a parody of everything that has gone wrong in Mets’ history.

Bobby Bonilla, left, jokes with former Mets pitcher Frank Viola on the field in 1999.
Bobby Bonilla, left, jokes with former Mets pitcher Frank Viola on the field in 1999.

Now, Bonilla and the Mets are embracing the contract together.

An NFT project with Bonilla and the Simple NFT company, started by former agent Joshua Kusnick, will be selling 1,193 Bonilla NFTs. It will include autographed Bonilla bats, baseball cards, zoom sessions, and spending next year on Bobby Bonilla Day with Bonilla himself at a suite at Citi Field.

Mets owner Steve Cohen has even spoken to Bonilla about the idea of parading in a car around Citi Field.

And the original contact itself, negotiated by former longtime baseball Dennis Gilbert, will be on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention on July 27 for a week.

It will be later sold by the Goldin Memorabilia Auctions, perhaps worth even more than the $1.193 million July 1 payment.

And it’s all happening because of the Mets’ involvement with Bernie Madoff, leaving former Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon cash poor in the infamous $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme. They decided that instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million he was owed in 2000, they would give Bonilla deferred payments at 8% interest.

It has turned into $29.8 million.

The Wilpon family no longer own the Mets, or are responsible for the Bonilla payments, selling the franchise for $2.375 billion in 2020 to Cohen.

And when you’re the richest owner in baseball, worth about $15 billion, why not have a little fun with the deferred payments?

“I didn’t know a thing about NFTs until a few months ago, says Gilbert, now managing partner of Paradigm Gilbert, “but I wanted to make sure that Bobby was set for life. There are more and more retired athletes, regardless of how much money they made, who are out of money.

“This is an example of of having the right type of plan to provide you income after you retire. This is business people do to take care of executives in their company.

“So why not athletes? Why not Bobby Bonilla?

“Really, it should be a day worth celebrating.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale  

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bobby Bonilla Day! Celebrating the Mets' infamously doomed contract