Brad's Ultimate New York Yankees Website    -


Bobby Murcer




A Tip of the Cap to Bobby Murcer

July 16, 2008; Page D9

One way of looking at Bobby Murcer's career is to say that it was plagued by bad luck. Murcer, who passed away Saturday at age 62 from brain cancer, was the last Yankee prospect to be cursed with the title of "The Next Mickey Mantle." Born, like Mantle, in Oklahoma and also signed by legendary scout Tom Greenwade, Bobby Ray, as his friends called him, made it to the major leagues in 1965, the year the Yankee dynasty collapsed. A shortstop when he signed his pro contract, as Mickey had been, Murcer was converted, also like Mantle, to the outfield and learned to play alongside his idol. But he spent two years in the Army and by the time he returned to the Yankees as a regular in 1969, Mickey had retired.

"That was my first regret," he told me in a 1986 interview (for the Village Voice). I always thought, 'Dang, why couldn't I have gone into the Army a couple of years earlier so I could have spent some time playing with Mickey?'"

Instead of heralding a new Yankee dynasty, Murcer became the only star in an era of Yankee decline. "He was just about all we had during the dark years," says Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, "from 1970 through 1974, he was the only player Yankee fans went to see." A four-time All-Star (1971-74), he endured a second stroke of bad luck in 1974 when the Yankees moved to Shea Stadium while their ballpark was renovated. "I had averaged about 25-26 home runs a season for about five years," he recalled, "most of them in Yankee Stadium. I really felt 1974 was going to be my breakout year, but that first week in Shea I hit two balls that would have been ten rows deep in the Bronx but wound up dying at the warning track in Shea. It was the worst hitters' park I'd ever seen; the ball just didn't carry. I knew then that 1974 wasn't going to be my season."

Murcer was heartbroken when the Yankees traded him at the end of the 1974 season to the San Francisco Giants for another Bobby also born in 1946, Bobby Bonds, the man who, ironically, had been cursed with the label "The Next Willie Mays" when he broke into the Big Leagues. The trade became a source of humor for both of them; when they'd bump into each other over the years, Murcer would ask with a laugh, "How's the new Willie?" and Bonds would reply, "Just great, how's the new Mick?"

More bad timing: In 1979 the Yankees traded to get him back, just in time for him to miss the world championship seasons of 1977 and '78. "That hurt, and it still hurts to have missed those teams," he told me. "I'm not going to lie to you." He expressed it even more strongly in his recently published memoir, "Yankee for Life": "It just ripped my heart out not to have been a part of that." When he finally made it to the World Series in 1981, it was as a substitute, and the Yankees lost to the Dodgers in six games.

Though he never made it as the next Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer was quite happy to have been the first Bobby Murcer. Mantle was always irritated when he heard people talk about how great he could have been, and Murcer once confessed to me during an interview in the Yankee Stadium press box that he understood how Mickey felt. He had, after all, been voted to four All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove (in 1972), placed in the top 10 in the MVP voting from 1971-1973, and played in a World Series. In 1970, in a double header against the Cleveland Indians, he hit four consecutive home runs, a feat unmatched by Mickey Mantle or even Babe Ruth. And in the end, he accomplished what he had set out to do: play centerfield in Yankee Stadium. He failed to mention that he was the third centerfielder -- in fact, just the third player in all of Yankee history after Joe DiMaggio and Mantle -- to earn a salary over $100,000.

"I don't consider myself unlucky. There are a few things I would have liked to have been different, but with apologies to Lou Gehrig, I think I am the luckiest guy around," he said. One of the luckiest turns of Murcer's career came in 1983 when the Yankees coaxed him into retirement to make room on the roster for an up-and-coming young slugger named Don Mattingly. "I wasn't old," he said, "just 37, and my first reaction was 'Why should I pack it all in now?' But they offered me a position in the broadcasting booth, and that proved to be just about the best job I ever had. I enjoyed watching and talking about baseball as much as I did playing it."

At times, perhaps a tad too much, said his critics. For several years he shared a mike with another favorite, former-Yankee-turned-broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, and some thought the folksy banter between the two of them came on a little too thick -- "Grits-Parmesan," as they were dubbed by one columnist. Nonetheless, as an announcer Murcer achieved even greater popularity than he had enjoyed as a player. Some people made fun of his southwestern twang, but as he once observed, "I spent almost four decades perfecting that accent, and I sure wasn't going to change now."

"Of all the guys who ever broadcast Yankee games," says author and Yankees historian Marty Appel, "Bobby was the guy you felt most at home with. You'd listen to him doing the game, and you felt you were sitting right there with him. He didn't sound like a graduate of a broadcasting school; he just sounded like a friend of yours who happened to know a little more about baseball than you did."

Mr. Barra writes about sports for the Journal.



Bobby Murcer
I have been a Bobby Murcer fan since I was old enough to go to games with my dad. I am 44 now and am heart broken. For years as a child I dressed as him for many halloweens and for a few years when you could go meet the players at the stadium...
posted by robin gould

Last updated: 8:44 pm
July 12, 2008
Posted: 5:18 pm
July 12, 2008

He never filled Mickey Mantle's shoes and wasn't one of baseball's superstars, but in the hearts of Yankees and their fans Bobby Murcer was a Hall of Fame person who happened to be a wonderful player.

"This is extremely difficult because we loved him so much," a sobbing Joe Girardi said shortly after hearing the news that Murcer, 62, had passed away in Oklahoma City today after battling brain cancer.

As the sad news drifted through a clubhouse that showed no signs of a much-needed 9-4 win - something Murcer would have cherished - over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, voices were barely heard as people recalled a Yankees icon who was supposed to be the next Mantle but instead turned into a good player and a person that treated everybody with a big hello and an ocean of respect.

"Bobby Murcer was a born Yankee, a great guy, very well-liked and a true friend of mine," George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Kay, their children and grandchildren. I will really miss the guy."

Murcer, who hit .277 in his career with 252 home runs and 1,043 RBIs in 17 seasons, started and ended his career with the Yankees, with stops with the Giants and Cubs in between. But it was as a Yankee in the dismal years of the late 1960s and early 1970s that he made his name as the face of the team.

"Bobby never had a negative thought in his mind," Mariano Rivera recalled. "That's what I will always remember. The last time I saw him was at the Stadium I gave him a big hug. It was nice to see him, he was a great, great friend."

Long-time trainer Gene Monahan still marvels how Murcer was able to deliver the eulogy at Thurman Munson's 1979 funeral and then hit a game-winning homer against the Orioles later that night at Yankee Stadium.

"We went to Canton and all the things that we do, that was the hardest," Monahan said. "I don't know how he got through what he did, putting that eulogy together in a day and a half and winning that ballgame for us."

Derek Jeter recalled Murcer's big smile and how he was always available for words of encouragement.

"I knew he wasn't doing well but I didn't know it was at this point," Jeter said. "Bobby always went out of his way to be positive. He was one of those guys you looked at and how he handled everything with class. You never hear anyone say anything bad about him. He was a good person, that's the bottom line.

"He treated people with respect. He would go out of his way to tell you were doing a good job. Even when you were struggling he would tell you he was looking forward to you coming out of it."

Alex Rodriguez, who passed Mantle on the all-time home run list by hitting his 537th homer for 13th place today, knew about Murcer before meeting him from his days playing in Seattle for Lou Piniella, Murcer's very close friend.

"I heard a lot of Bobby Murcer stories," Rodriguez said. "And then when he would come around with that Oklahoma accent and he would talk hitting. He was one of the greatest Yankees of all time and one of the greatest human beings I have ever met. The Yankees were his life. He is the symbol of what the Yankees stand for and he is a real champion."



Posted: 3:43 am
July 13, 2008

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - This is one way to understand what the Yankees mean to the people, and to the sport, by coming to the Hall of Fame, by walking its corridors, by absorbing its displays and reading the plaques and shopping in the neighboring stores, where every other item is decorated by pinstripes and interlocking "NY."

For the last four decades, this was another way you could do that: You could spend a couple of minutes in the company of Bobby Murcer as he walked among the fans at Yankee Stadium, as he drank in every second of his time there, as he tried to prove, with every step he took, just how many people a single life can touch.

That life came to a quiet end yesterday, Bobby Murcer passing at age 62, ending a dignified battle that began when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor two winters ago.

Murcer will never earn a plaque here, and none of the Yankees teams he played on from 1966-74 or from 1979-82 will ever be celebrated with a display here. If Don Mattingly is the Yankee for whom most of the fans' empathy is reserved, then Murcer is a close second, since he did get a peek at the 1981 Series, even if he was far closer to the end of his career by then than the beginning.

But Murcer was every bit the Yankee that any of the Yankees crystallized in Cooperstown were. Because Murcer was forced to do what no other Yankee had ever been forced to do: He was the singular reason why a lot of Yankees fans bothered to come to The Bronx in the dark, desultory days of the last 1960s and early 1970s. Before him, Yankees had always danced on stardust. He was forced to trudge through the ashes of a fallen dynasty.

When the Yankees' kingdom collapsed, there was Murcer, and there was little else. There was Murcer, who'd come out of Oklahoma just like Mickey Mantle, who'd come up as a shortstop just like The Mick, then shifted to center field. He wore uniform No. 1, and he was the No. 1 attraction for some awful Yankees teams, playing a terrific center field, conforming his stroke to the Stadium's short porch.

A little piece of Murcer's soul was stolen forever when Gabe Paul shipped him west in exchange for Bobby Bonds. A few spring trainings ago, when Barry Bonds was doing something or other to aggravate or agitate, Murcer smiled and said: "I may be the only guy in the country who has a bigger problem with the father than the son. He's the guy who helped send me into exile."

It was an exile that ended on June 26, 1979, when the Cubs sent him back to The Bronx, and because baseball is a cruel game, that meant he missed out on a pair of Yankees championships. But it did allow him to spend a few more weeks around his closest baseball friend, Thurman Munson, a gift that became painfully poignant when Munson died in a plane crash in August.

It allowed Murcer his grandest moment as a Yankee, a bittersweet juxtaposition for which he will forever be remembered. The Monday following the accident he delivered a eulogy for his friend in Canton, Ohio, in the morning, and that night, after convincing Billy Martin (who, by then, had reclaimed No. 1, forcing Murcer to wear 2) to play him, he hit a home run and then drilled the game-winning RBI in the ninth inning to beat the first-place Orioles.

It was easy to forget that Murcer did have a fine career as a Yankee, highlighted by a 1971 season in which he hit .331 with 25 homers and 94 RBIs and an otherworldly on-base percentage of .427. He was a five-time All-Star. And he did get those innings in the 1981 Series.

He was admired for that. He became beloved later on, as an announcer, as an ambassador, as a humble messenger of all that's supposed to be right about baseball, and about human beings. We lose a terrific Yankee. But more important, we lose a tremendous person.

Emotional final tribute for Bobby Murcer


Thursday, August 7th 2008, 12:07 AM

ARLINGTON - Bobby Murcer was one of the most beloved figures in Yankees history. Wednesday, his friends, family and former teammates gathered to celebrate his life.

A memorial service was held in Oklahoma City for Murcer, who died on July 12 after a long battle with brain cancer. The Yankees were well-represented, as Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Joe Girardi and others hopped on a 35-minute charter flight from Arlington, while a group of front-office members flew in from New York.

"You want to pay your respects and we hadn't had a chance to do that," Pettitte said. "The Yankees gave us a chance to go there and come right back, which was nice. I think his family appreciated it."

A large group from the YES Network also attended the service, including Murcer's former broadcast partner Michael Kay, who spoke during the service.

"The Yankees were not very good when I fell in love with the game," Kay said. "But as a kid growing up in the Bronx, there was just something about Bobby, and I was not alone. There are people my age that all looked at Bobby Ray Murcer. . . . In the years of bad baseball, we had Bobby Murcer."

Hundreds filled the Oklahoma City-area church for a stirring and often humorous tribute to Murcer, while video messages from Yogi Berra, Goose Gossage, Billy Crystal and Ray Romano were played throughout the ceremony.

Col. Doug Wheelock, a space shuttle astronaut, recalled that as a child he snuggled under his sheets in bed with a transistor radio and a flashlight to catch broadcasts of Yankees games and take down Murcer's stats.

When he heard that Murcer and his wife, Kay, would be in Houston for treatment at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, he arranged to meet his hero. He later took a Murcer jersey with him aboard Discovery to the International Space Station, and on an expedition to Mount Everest.

"Actually, my knees were shaking that day," Wheelock said of his first meeting with Murcer. "I can strap myself to a rocket but . . ."

Girardi called the day "awesome, but hard," saying a lot of tears were shed while remembering his friend and former YES broadcast partner.

"To listen to the tributes from all the people, it was really inspiring," Girardi said. "It was sad because we miss Bobby, but it was a great event."

Others to speak at the service included a 13-year-old cancer survivor whom Murcer befriended while in the hospital, as well as Murcer's son, Todd.

"They did a real nice job," Jeter said of the service. "A lot of things stood out; to hear people talk about their relationship with Bobby, any time you get to hear people's stories, it always adds a personal touch to it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Yankees Remember the Life of Murcer, With a Nod to Munson

John Clanton/The Oklahoman, via Associated Press

Andy Pettitte, left, and Derek Jeter represented the Yankees’ players Wednesday at the memorial service for Bobby Murcer.


Published: August 6, 2008

ARLINGTON, Tex. — There was a reason the family of Bobby Murcer chose Wednesday to have his memorial service in Oklahoma City. Thurman Munson was buried on that date 29 years earlier, and Kay Murcer, Bobby’s widow, wanted Munson to be part of it.

Munson’s wife, Diana, was one of hundreds of friends and family members who filled Memorial Road Church of Christ to honor the life of Murcer, who died of brain cancer on July 12. Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte represented the Yankees’ players, and a large group of club executives, including Hal Steinbrenner and his sister Jennifer Swindal, flew in for the ceremony.

“Awesome, but hard,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “A lot of tears. But to listen to the tributes from all the people was inspiring. It was sad because you miss Bobby so much, but it was a great event.”

Girardi presented Kay Murcer with the No. 1 jersey the Yankees hung in the dugout in his honor on Old-Timers’ Day. Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, an astronaut who took a Murcer jersey into space last year, gave a stirring speech.

“It was incredible,” Pettitte said. “It was a wonderful ceremony for him. I’m glad I went. I just felt like I needed to go, you know?”

People from all phases of Murcer’s life were there, including his former Yankees teammates Reggie Jackson and Gene Michael, and representatives of the YES Network, including Michael Kay, who was a speakers. The Oklahoma football coach, Bob Stoops, was there, as was one of Stoops’s predecessors, Barry Switzer.

Yogi Berra and his wife, Carmen, gave a written tribute in the program for the ceremony: “We loved you in pinstripes, we loved you in the booth, we’ll love you forever, and that is the truth.”



Brad's Ultimate New York Yankees Website    -   -   All Rights Reserved (c)