Bobby Murcer, RIP
I was very deeply saddened by the loss of Bobby Murcer, a long-time Yankees player and broadcaster, and all-around-good-guy. Murcer had been battling cancer for quite a while, and his fans, and I count myself among them, were rooting for his return to the broadcast booth. He'd made a brief return after cancer treatments, but he eventually had to leave the YES network; Yankees fans had hoped to see him back at the stadium in time for this week's All-Star Game, which is the last All-Star Game to be played in the old Yankee Stadium. Next year, the new Yankee Stadium opens across the street; after this season, the House that Ruth Built will be no more.
Alas, now Bobby has joined the field of dreams of baseball eternity.
In the New York Daily News, Bill Madden had this to say, reminiscing about how Murcer, who had been traded from the Yanks late in his baseball career, made his way back to the Bronx:
It wasn't until late June of 1979 that [Yankees owner, George] Steinbrenner reunited the 33-year-old Murcer with the Yankees, as the Cubs, who were just looking to dump his $320,000 contract, sent him back to the Bronx for a non-prospect minor-league pitcher named Paul Semall. At the time of the deal, the Yankees, who had lost their closer, [Rich "Goose"] Gossage, to a thumb injury (the result of a shower room fight with teammate Cliff Johnson) were already falling out of the AL East pennant race. Then, on Aug. 2, an off-day, the Yankees and the rest of baseball were shocked by the news that [Yankees catcher and team captain, Thurman] Munson had been killed in the crash of his single-engine private jet as he was practicing landings at the Canton, Ohio, airport.
No one in baseball was closer to Munson than Murcer, who, only the night before, had watched from his car at the end of the runway of a small Chicago airport as Munson took off on his solo flight home to Canton. Four days later, after delivering the eulogy at the Munson funeral in Canton, Murcer, despite having gotten no sleep, implored Yankee manager Billy Martin to let him play in the game that night at the Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles. It would be his finest hour as a Yankee as he honored Munson's memory by driving in all five runs, with a three-run homer and two-run single, in their emotional 5-4 win.
"He loved the game, his fans, his friends, and most of all his family," Murcer had said in the eulogy for Munson. "He is lost, but not gone. He will be missed, but not forgotten."
Now they are both lost.
Mike Lupica tells us of this "prince of the city": "There will be a moment of silence for him Tuesday night, at the All-Star Game. Then one last time they will cheer Bobby Murcer big at Yankee Stadium, the biggest place the kid from Oklahoma ever saw, this time to the heavens."