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.