Bobby Murcer, 1956–2008

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Last year it was the Scooter. Today, the Yankee broadcasting booth lost another legend with the death of Bobby Murcer, after a long fight with brain cancer. Murcer was the very epitome of a Yankee, a lifer whose heart remained with the team even when he was playing elsewhere, and who returned for good after his days on the field ended. He was born in Oklahoma City, and as a prospect was annointed the heir apparent to fellow Sooner Mickey Mantle, an impossible standard. He had a fine career, even if it fell short of those early expectations. In 1971 he was brilliant (.331/.427/.543) but on a lousy team. Four years later the Yankees traded him to San Francisco for Bobby Bonds, a deal that was a bitter disappointment for him. After two seasons playin with the temporarily relocated Yanks at Shea, he missed the inauguration of the refurbished Yankee Stadium. The Yanks could take Murcer out of the pinstripes, but they couldn’t take the pinstripes out of Murcer. His first baseball card as a Giant [above on the right] pictured him standing with a forlorn look at Yankee Stadium, a sloppily airbrushed SF on his cap. He finally made it back to the Yanks in 1979. His most memorable moment came that year, when he got the walk-off hit in the game immediately following the funeral of Thurman Munson, at which he gave the eulogy.

As a broadcaster, Murcer did not have the deep reservoir of anecdotal material of Jim Kaat, and he wasn’t especially skilled at breaking down the tactical game. But he had that most important quality for an announcer: an easy affability that made it a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with him, watching the game. His voice was a sweet Oklahama drawl; the aural equivalent of a lazy summer afternoon. I met him once, back in the late 1980s, when I was an intern for Yankees magazine. We took an elevator ride together from the press entrance at the ballpark up to the administrative level. He was wearing white pants and a green plaid jacket, which reflected his outgoing personality. He went out of his way to greet every employee he passed, as if it were second nature. That was unusual in that environment.

In a sad parallel of his career, Bobby won’t be around to see Yankee Stadium when it opens next season. It would have been nice to have him there, to add a little genuine Yankee tradition to place where so much is being invented new. He will be missed.

15 comments… add one
  • Very sad day indeed, especially just days before the All Star Game. He will certainly be missed.
    In other news, Cashman says he’ll be picking up Richie Sexton if he clears waivers.

    Atheose July 12, 2008, 10:38 pm
  • Also, sorry to be a dick but it was a walk-off single he hit in the game following Munson’s funeral, not a homerun.

    Atheose July 12, 2008, 10:40 pm
  • I don’t know when this happened, as I just got home. Sigh.
    RIP. I hope they do a little something at the All-Star game. Nothing major, just a little something.
    Bob Sheppard won’t be doing the All-Star game too.

    Lar July 12, 2008, 11:55 pm
  • I was at a birthday party all day and come home to this news. Terrible news. I am not old enough to have seen Murcer play, but he was always such a joy to listen to in the booth.

    John - YF July 13, 2008, 12:03 am
  • I’m sure there’ll be a moment of silence for him, or a video montage. Sad, sad day.

    Atheose July 13, 2008, 12:06 am
  • I am truly sad. Bobby Murcer influenced me as a player, as an announcer, and in how he led his life.
    What a fine person.

    attackgerbil July 13, 2008, 12:11 am
  • “His most memorable moment came that year, when he got the walk-off hit in the game immediately following the funeral of Thurman Munson, at which he gave the eulogy.”
    One continuous moment that most channeled his heart.
    RIP, Murce.

    A YF July 13, 2008, 5:31 am
  • I’m lucky enough to have watched Murcer make his return to the Yankees and then follow him thorugh boradcasting. He will be missed.

    Sport Quote Guy July 13, 2008, 7:50 am
  • This one has really hit me hard for some reason. I think Michael Kay’s quote about Bobby fulfilling every standard that Kay set out for him as a child, is the part that gets me the most about Mercer’s passing.
    There was something about his personality, thru the TV set, that made you still believe in those simple, heroic ideas you had about baseball players when you were first idolizing them.

    walein July 13, 2008, 12:47 pm
  • My Midwestern upbringing unfortunately forces me to think of Bobby Murcer first as an ex-Cub. Sorry about that, YFs. (He played for some dreadful Cubs teams.)

    I'mBillMcNeal July 13, 2008, 1:50 pm
  • I have followed Bobby Murcer and his career since 1969. I am deeply saddened because he was my boyhood idol and a first class huma being. I was fortunate to have seen him play and it was an honor to meet him only 6 weeks ago at his book signing. I will miss him dearly, and my prayers go out to his wife Kay and his entire family.

    Tony July 13, 2008, 10:37 pm
  • Great post YF and nice to hear that you got to meet Murcer. I envy you that. I’ve been away for a week but wanted to add 2 cents on Murcer’s passing.
    He was in my view an under-appreciated constant in Yankee-land. The kind of person you don’t value sufficiently until he is gone. This is because he got eclipsed by the larger-than-life figures and events that are drawn in disproportionate numbers to the Yankees organization.
    In fact, Murcer’s greatest quality – certainly in the booth – may have been exactly in not placing himself above anyone else even while he performed at a high level in the most crazed and spotlighted stage in baseball.
    He was always positive and never expressed any bitterness nor did you ever hear him touting his own accomplishments, though the story of his career must have made it tempting for him to do so.
    Consider how you would feel being hyped as the next Mantle so much so that your play could not but be disappointing to Yankee faithful. You then perform as arguably the best and most consistent player on a bad Yankee team from ’69 – ’74 during which the team makes not one post-season. You leave town for 4.5 years during which the same team reaches the WS three times in a row – winning two of them while relying on the absolute antithesis of Murcer, transplated egomaniac Reggie Jackson, to get the job done.
    You come back to that same team in ’79 as it is making its way back to mediocrity. You arrive in time to be part of a couple disappointing post-seasons and end your career with the team in the same no-playoff doldrums they were in when you started.
    The Yankees have had either great players, towering giants, or face-of-the-game figures providing the bridge from one era to the next over the past century: Ruth to Gehrig; Gehrig to DiMaggio; DiMaggio to Mantle; GAP; Mattingly to Jeter; Jeter to A-Rod.
    “GAP” would be Bobby Murcer – not a towering figure, but a day-in-day-out workhorse. Others would plug Reggie Jackson in there, but this is wrong, and not only because Reggie did not overlap with Mantle. As great as Reggie was in October, playing for less than a quarter of your career in NY forever places you in a different category than all the other names on that list, no matter how fully you embrace your Yankee-identity in the years that follow.
    Many would argue that Murcer should not be mentioned together with any of these other players – he simply was not as talented as every other player on that list. And Murcer most of all would not lobby for himself to be considered that way, having suffered from others having plugged him into that impossible position long before he ever got a chance to establish himself.
    But when you think of players who embody the team’s identity, and you consider which players represented that in the lean years of the late 60s to the mid 70s, I’ll take Bobby Murcer (together with Thurmon Munson) any day.
    I wish Murcer could have been with the Yankees for one of those WS Championships during his playing career, but I am certainly glad he was there in the booth for the next 4.
    We already miss you Bobby.

    IronHorse (yf) July 14, 2008, 11:24 am
  • Well said IH.
    What’s most amazing to me was that Murcer was only 52. He looked a lot older than that to me.

    Atheose July 14, 2008, 11:54 am
  • I didn’t necessarily feel like he looked all that old, but I do definitely feel in retrospect like I took his presence for granted. He’s the kind of guy whose name never would come up in a debate over either the most beloved or most hated Yankee players in history and I don’t think his name came up much in the most beloved or hated broadcasters. He was eclipsed by other players during his first career and by other broadcasters (esp. his partner, the much-loved Rizzuto) during his second. I would have liked to see him get more attention while he was still around, but at least he got to stay within the organization, which he clearly just loved.

    IronHorse (yf) July 14, 2008, 12:30 pm
  • 62 ATH. Still too young.

    walein July 14, 2008, 1:12 pm

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