Milner was a talented prospect for whom the Mets had high expectations, but his recurring
hamstring problems often caused him to miss time. He was a native of Atlanta who
grew up as a fan of Hank Aaron, appropriated his idol's nickname, and appeared to
imitate his batting stance. Breaking in as an outfielder, he batted only .238 in
his rookie year (1972), but hit 17 HR in 362 at-bats and showed a good eye at the
Milner hit a career-high 23 HR in 1973, with 72 RBI, 69 runs, and a .252
average in 451 at-bats as the NL champion Mets' primary first baseman. His power
dropped off after 1974, and the Mets traded him with Jon Matlack as part of a four-way
deal that sent Milner to Pittsburgh as New York got Willie Montanez, Ken Henderson,
and Tom Grieve.
Milner played less for the Pirates, but in 1979 he contributed
16 HR in 326 at-bats while hitting a career-high .276 as the Pirates' "Family" won
a World Championship. He was picked up by the Expos for their 1981 pennant drive
as they took the only division title in their history, and he finished his career
in 1982 with the Pirates.
Milner had ten career grand
slams, including three for
the Mets in 1976 and pinch hit grand slams for the Pirates in 1979 and 1982 (both
in August pennant races). Eddie Milner of the Reds is his cousin.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»September 8, 1972: In the first game of a doubleheader with the Cardinals, the Mets win 8–2 as John Milner collects a homer, double, and three singles in five at-bats. Milner had another home run in the 1st inning of game 2, but the Cards turn around, using a pair of homers in the 13th to win, 9–4.
»May 9, 1979: Four bench-clearing brawls and two grand slams (Gary Matthews and John Milner) highlight the Pirates wild 17–9 victory over the Braves. Substitute umpires eject five players, four managers, and a coach.
»August 5, 1979: The Phillies beat the Pirates 12–8 in the first game of a doubleheader. Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski and Pittsburgh's John Milner each hit a grand slam, and Rose collects his 2,427th career single to break Honus Wagner's NL record.