Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bobby Murcer, 1946-2008

Bobby Murcer faced one of the most daunting challenges ever confronting a professional athlete. The New York Yankee's great center fielder Joe DiMaggio retired in 1951. Mickey Mantle, his all-star replacement, retired in 1969 and was succeeded by Bobby Murcer. Obviously every time a great ballplayer retires someone has to replace him, but following not one but two baseball icons was a truly formidable task. Although, unlike his predecessors, Murcer did not have a Hall-of-Fame career, he filled their shoes admirably. On the field, over 17 years, he hit 252 home runs, had 1,862 hits and a .277 career batting average. He appeared in five All-Star games (one as a San Francisco Giant). Murcer retired in 1983, when he became a Yankee sportscaster, a job he held virtually until his death.

Murcer was beloved by Yankee fans (actually many baseball fans) because of the kind of person he was as much as for his accomplishments on the field and in the broadcast booth. Murcer was a charming and warm human being. His legacy may be as much a result of the manner in which he dealt with the blow of being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor (which eventually took his life) as anything he did before.

Murcer will undoubtedly be eulogized during Tuesday's All-Star game and the Yankees will wear black arm bands for the rest of the season, but most of us who saw Bobby Murcer in center field and heard him behind the microphone will remember him alot longer then that.

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