In the spring of 1953, Sam Suplizio became UNM's first bona fide first team All-American. Forty years later he played a major role in bringing major league baseball to Denver - the Colorado Rockies. New Mexico's loss was truly Colorado's gain.
Suplizio was recruited out of Dubois, Pa., by Dudley DeGroot to play quarterback, but he would up playing centerfield for George Petrol's baseball club. He batted .435, .450 and .509 for the Lobos from 1951-53, which earned Suplizio a $40,000 bonus from the New York Yankees - really big money at the time.
Suplizio's outfield speed and rifle arm so impressed the Yankees that manager Casey Stengel considered bringing up Suplizio from Birmingham and shifting Mickey Mantle from centerfield to right field. Unfortunately, a badly broken arm after sliding into second ended Stengel's plan and Suplizio's dream.
Since that day, Suplizio jockeyed a successful banking-insurance business in Grand Junction, Colo., with an ambassador's role in baseball that Walter Mitty would envy: He founded the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction; served as a scout, coach and instructor for Milwaukee, St. Louis, Seattle and Anaheim; co-chair of Colorado's Baseball Commission which brought baseball to Denver and secured voter approval for the construction of Coors Field; held major league clinics in Holland, England, Spain, France, Germany and Japan.