Sandy Koufax visits Mets, offers support

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sandy Koufax acknowledged that New York Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon recommended he invest with Bernard Madoff, but the Hall of Fame pitcher holds no grudge.

Koufax visited Mets camp Saturday morning and warmly embraced Wilpon, his teammate at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn nearly six decades ago.

"We've been friends for almost 60 years -- or over 60 years, I hate to admit that," Koufax said. "I hate to see him be beat up this way. I don't know a kinder, more generous, more compassionate human being than Fred. I was part of that investment. And I think if Fred knew it was going to be a bad investment, he never would have told me, 'Put money in it.' That's it. I hate to see what he's going through. It bothers him."

While Wilpon faces a $1 billion lawsuit from the trustee trying to recover funds for Madoff victims, Koufax said he is not the subject of a similar "clawback" lawsuit.

Asked if he respected what the trustee was doing in suing alleged "net gainers" to return money to investors who lost principal, Koufax said: "I don't know who are the victims and who aren't the victims. If I lost any money, I didn't lose it to Madoff. I lost it to the IRS. You pay taxes on money that didn't exist. That's what happened. But I got some of that back. You're allowed to recoup some of your taxes for a few years.

"I have no problem with what's going on. I just feel bad for Fred. I don't know the legal situation. I don't understand what's going on. Basically, there are two different numbers involved, and I don't understand the discrepancy."

Koufax also has a longstanding relationship with new manager Terry Collins.

"Terry was managing [in the minors] for the Dodgers," Koufax said. "You've got to go back 25, 30 years ago. I've known Terry since then. He's always been a good baseball man. He's organized. He's devoted. He's passionate. And he's just a good guy."

Among the pitchers who requested to speak with Koufax was left-hander Chris Capuano.

Of course, Koufax joked, Johan Santana chatted with the Hall of Famer last spring and ended up undergoing shoulder surgery in September.

"When I talked to Johan, I just told him to stay healthy," Koufax said. "And he didn't take my advice."