Sunday, July 13, 2008

R.I.P.: Bobby Murcer.

       I was 9 years old when Mickey Mantle retired, and my memories of his career are tied to the Yankee yearbooks my cousin Craig gave me, old footage I've seen on TV, and his mythical place in any baseball fan's imagination.
     I still have the yearbooks, and a baseball fan's imagination only swells with time.
     But Bobby Murcer?
     I loved Bobby Murcer.
     Murcer was the Yankees in the early '70's. 
     Those Yankee teams--and especially my beloved, Rusty Staub-era Montreal Expos--were the magic potion of my youth.
     Neither team was much then--especially the Expos--but I think a kid learns more about winning when losing is learned first.
     Bobby Murcer didn't win a World Series--he played in one against the Dodgers in 1981 when he came back to the Yankees--but he was a winner, nonetheless.
     This was a guy who had to wear the mantle of being the "next Mantle".  
     And nobody was that.   
     But he was the one and only Bobby Murcer. 

     Edited from the New York Times: 
     Bobby Murcer, the Yankees’ All-Star outfielder and longtime broadcaster who never became another Mickey Mantle but endeared himself to Yankee fans in a baseball career of more than four decades, died Saturday in Oklahoma City. He was 62.

     Murcer’s death, at Mercy Hospital, was announced by the Yankees, who said the cause was complications from brain cancer.

     Mantle--who, like Murcer, was originally a wild-armed shortstop--died in 1995. He once struck an irreverent note at a ceremony honoring Murcer, whom he considered a friend:

    "The first time I ever heard of Bobby Murcer,” The Saturday Oklahoman quoted him as saying, “they said a kid from Oklahoma was gonna be the next Mickey Mantle. They were right. Sure enough, he couldn’t play shortstop either.”

     I will never forget that August day in 1979 when Thurman Munson died. 

     I was painting houses that summer, and stopped off to buy the New York Daily News---as I did every day---on my way to work. 

     Big, bold, New York headlines announced that the Yankee captain was dead.       

     I was as lousy a housepainter as I've always been with any type of work around a house, but I was even worse that day.

     And I very much remember Murcer's role as a spokesman during those next few weeks.     

     Reggie Jackson called himself the "straw that stirred the drink" on that team, and he and Munson were oil and water. 

     Jackson might have been the straw--and Munson the drink--but Murcer was the maître de.

     Today, Reggie Jackson said of Murcer, "If there's a Hall of Fame for people, he's in it."

     And Bobby Murcer? He's in on the first ballot.           



Anonymous said...

This memorable quote that was resently recalled by a announcer during a Red Sox\ Twins game when describing trying to hit a Bean Town knuckle baller Tim Wakefield...

Bobby Murcer said "trying to hit Phil Niekro is like trying to eat a Jell-O with chopsticks"...


JohnnyRussia said...

I love that quote. That's from a guy who was always fair, never foul.