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The general manager who built the Miracle Mets was struck down by a heart attack on this date 43 years ago.
Almost exactly two years after being named general manager of the Mets, and just ten weeks after his team shocked the baseball world by winning the World Series as a 100-to-1 long shot, executive Johnny Murphy suffered what would prove to be first in a fatal string of heart attack on this date in 1969. According to the Associated Press item that ran at the time, Murphy was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital on the Upper West Side, where his condition stabilized, though the damage caused by the coronary occlusion would wind up being too severe to survive.
Before joining the Mets' front office, Murphy pitched 13 seasons in the major leagues, all but one of them with the Yankees. One of baseball's first true relievers, the Fireman, as he was nicknamed, is credited with saving 107 games during his career and made three consecutive All-Star teams from 1937 to 1939. Murphy voluntarily put his career on hold in 1944 to work for the Manhattan Project, a claim I'm fairly sure no other Mets' GM can make. Assigned to the national laboratory at Oak Ridge, for two years, the lifelong New Yorker helped construct the world's first atom bomb deep in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. After two more peacetime seasons, split between the Yankees and Red Sox, Murphy retired for good.
These days, the exec's legacy lives on as the namesake of the Johnny Murphy Award, an honor that's been bestowed upon the top Mets rookie during spring training annually since 1972. This year's recipient was Josh Edgin.
Ralph Milliard is 39. The Curacao native had his best season as a pro in 1998 while playing for the Norfolk Tides, cracking 15 home runs and posting a .259/.385/.444 line from the keystone. The Mets rewarded Milliard with a September call-up, during which he was used exclusively as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. His lone at-bat, which also happened to be his last in the majors, ended with a strikeout. Since 2005, Milliard has been a player/coach in the Honkbal Hoofdklasse, which is the big leagues of the Netherlands.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The great Sandy Koufax turns 76 today. Despite never playing for the Mets, the lefty has several tenuous ties to the team. As a youth in Brooklyn, Koufax was a teammate of Mets owner Fred Wilpon on the baseball squad at Lafayette High School. Nine years later, in 1962, he tossed the first of his then-record four no-hitters against Fred's future team. Koufax is also a regular fixture at the Mets spring training facilities in Port St. Lucie. Here you can see him circa 2011 photo bombing R.A. Dickey.