When arguing about New York City baseball players and teams, conversations often are peppered with legends such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, John McGraw, Gil Hodges, Mel Ott and Jackie Robinson. The next tier of players who often are mentioned and had shining moments on the New York stage include Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, Ron Swoboda and Doc Gooden.
While the majority of players who have worn the uniforms of New York’s teams mostly are forgotten, many of them had interesting personal stories and unique backgrounds. For example, how many fans know about Eddie Grant and Johnny Murphy?
Giant, Scholar, Soldier
Eddie L. Grant was a turn of the 20th century baseball player. A graduate of Harvard University, he enjoyed playing the game. He was a light-hitting infielder who played in 992 regular season major league games for the Philadelphia Nationals (1907-1910), Cincinnati Reds (1911-1913) and New York Giants (1913-1915).
Grant often annoyed his less educated teammates by refusing to yell the traditional “I got it” when he settled under a pop fly ball. He insisted on voicing the more grammatically correct “I have it.”
Grant was on the Giants roster during the 1913 World Series when the Philadelphia Athletics beat New York four games to one. He was a pinch runner in game two and scored a run, and he did not get a hit in his one at-bat as a pinch hitter in game four.
During 1915, Grant retired from the game and turned to his second career as an attorney. When World War I, or The Great War as it was known at the time, pulled the U.S. into the fight, he enlisted in the army and served as a captain in the 307th Infantry, 77th Division.
He never made it home. He was wounded by artillery on October 5, 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive while trying to rescue Charles White Whittlesey’s Lost Battalion. He died on October 9 and was interred in the American Cemetery in the Argonne Forest in France.
Grant’s Lost Plaque
Baseball fans who remember the old New York Giants home park, the Polo Grounds, might recall the five-foot high monument with a 100 pound bronze plaque that the Giants erected to honor Grant. Located in fair territory below the outfield players’ clubhouse, the monument was dedicated on Memorial Day (May 29) during 1921. A ceremony was held each Memorial Day until the Giants last season (1957) in New York.
The plaque disappeared when the Giants left for San Francisco. It never arrived at its intended destination — the Edward l. Grant American Legion Post 1225 in The Bronx.
Various stories circulated about the disappearance of the plaque. One story reported that teenagers took it as a souvenir while ransacking the now abandoned park. The plaque actually was hidden for years in the attic of a home owned by a police officer who had been stationed at the ball yard.
The plaque was discovered during 1999 when Officer Gaetano Bucca died and his Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, house was sold. The new owners presented the plaque to the Baseball Reliquary, a California nonprofit dedicated to American art and culture through baseball history.
A replica plaque, with its original errors, was installed in the Giants new San Francisco stadium several years ago. As they read the tribute, fans should remember that Grant actually died on October 9 and not October 5, as stated on the plaque, and that he was wounded and not killed in action.
Yankee, WWII Vet, Mets GM
Johnny Murphy was born in The Bronx, played for The Bronx Bombers and rests now in his home borough of New York City.
He played baseball for Fordham College (now Fordham University) a handful of years after future Hall of Fame ballplayer Frankie Frisch (the “Fordham Flash”) left Fordham to sign with the New York Giants.
Murphy signed with the Yankees during 1929 and he played in the minor league system with Albany, St. Paul and Newark. He joined the big club’s pitching staff, playing from 1934 until 1946, with the exception of his World War II military service. He worked on the atomic bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Murphy joined the Boston Red Sox for the 1947 season. Despite a 2.80 earned run average in more than 50 innings, he was released at the end of the season. His career statistics were 93 wins, 53 losses, an ERA of 3.50 and 107 saves.
Murphy had a couple of nicknames while in the game. He was known as “Fireman” for putting out fires as a relief pitcher. The other was “Grandma.” Some stories indicate that this came about from his rocking motion on the pitcher’s mound while most credit the moniker to his fussy food and personal habits.
After his release, Murphy stayed with the Red Sox as a team scout. He later became vice president and director of the team’s minor league system.
During April 1961, Murphy returned to New York as a scouting supervisor with the expansion New York Mets that brought national league baseball back to the city. About seven years later, as general manager, he lured former Brooklyn Dodgers star and Washington Senators manager Gil Hodges to the Mets as the team’s field skipper. During October 1969, Hodges, Murphy and Mets fans celebrated the team’s first World Series championship when they defeated the favored Baltimore Orioles.
Murphy died on January 14, 1970 at the age of 61. He rests in the Oakwood Plot of Woodlawn Cemetery, now a National Historic Landmark, in the northern section of The Bronx.