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The hefty Hawaiian and subject of many "Benny and the Mets" puns turns 41 today.
Johnny Murphy became the Mets' third-ever general manager on this date in 1967, taking over the position vacated by Bing Devine. Murphy's tenure was eventful, but brief, cut short by a fatal heart attack suffered mere months after the team he helped assemble won the 1969 World Series. Among Murphy's more notable moves were orchestrating the trade with the Washington Senators that made Gil Hodges manager of the Mets and pulling the trigger on a deal for Donn Clendenon down the stretch in '69. Less heralded were his decisions to pick John Milner in the 1968 June amateur draft and Wayne Garrett in the rule 5 round. The latter wound up being a key contributor to two pennant-winning teams, while the former led the '73 Mets in home runs (and, coincidentally, would have had a birthday today).
- Benny Agbayani turns 41. Perhaps the most universally beloved Met in team history, it's been ten years since Benny last appeared in an MLB game. After posting a .237/.359/.425 line for the Triple-A Omaha Royals in 2003, the Hawaiian headed Far East and hitched on with Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japan Pacific League. Two years later, the pair wound up on the good side of a championship matchup, as the Marines swept the Hanshin Tigers in four games to win their first ever Japan Series title. To learn more about Benny, consult your local library or bookseller for a copy of Big League Survivor, his authorized autobiography.
- Longtime Mets front office figure Nelson Burbrink would have been 90 today. Burbrink served as the team's scouting director and as the director of player development between 1968 and 1977 though his biggest contribution to the club came in the field. While working as a Southern California area scout in 1966, Burbrink recommended that the Mets enter the bidding for a young right-hander out of USC named Tom Seaver.
- Ray Knight, MVP of the 1986 World Series, is 60. The third baseman hit just .200 with a pair of RBI through the first five games of the Fall Classic, but turned it on for the final two tilts. In Game Six, he plated the first run of the fateful 10th inning comeback with a single off Calvin Schiraldi of the Red Sox, then came around to score the winning tally on Mookie Wilson's grounder. Leading off the seventh inning of Game Seven, Knight again victimized Schiraldi, this time sending a pitch over Shea's left-center field wall to put the Mets ahead for good in the series clincher. That proved to be Knight's second to last at-bat with the team, as he signed with the Orioles during the offseason, making him the first reigning World Series MVP to start the following year with a different franchise.
- John Milner would have been 63. The 45th greatest Met of all-time, the Hammer spent seven years with the club, pounding 94 home runs while battling a chronic hamstring injury that kept him from ever playing more than 140 games in a season. Productive when healthy, Milner had a keen eye at the plate (as evidenced by his 504:473 BB/K ratio and a decent bit of pop considering the pitching-friendly era he played in.
Five years after acquiring him in the Tom Seaver trade, the Mets parted ways with pitcher Pat Zachry, sending him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Jorge Orta. As it turned out, Orta would never play for New York because five weeks later he got traded to the Blue Jays for pitcher Steve Senteney, who also wound up being dealt before ever donning the orange and blue.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1846, Iowa became the 29th state to join the union. Several Hawkeyes have suited up for the Mets, though none more notably than Jim McAndrew, the pride of Lost Nations, IA (population 446 as of the latest census).