He was hailed as the “next Mickey Mantle” when he signed with the Yankees in 1964, and eventually patrolled the centerfield position at the Stadium for the Bronx Bombers. He played 17 seasons from 1965 to 1983, and then went on to his post-baseball life as a beloved figure for the Yankees as well as one of their most popular broadcasters.
For this Throwback Thursday, we remember the career of Bobby Murcer.
Murcer was a solid fixture on the roster of those Yankees teams from the early to mid-1970s. He hit 252 homes runs over the course of his major league career, and drove in 1,043 runs, with a lifetime batting average of .277, while appearing in five straight all-star games from 1971-1975.
In MLB history, only 24 players have hit above .275 while also hitting 250 or more home runs, driving in more than 1,000 runs and stealing more than 125 bases and totaling 45 or more triples. Among that elite group, only Murcer, George Brett and Rogers Hornsby struck out fewer than 1,000 times.
After being traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1975 and then also playing for the Chicago Cubs from 1977-1979, he returned to the Bronx and the Yankees on June 26, 1979. It was during this second stint with the Yankees that he would have perhaps his most memorable moment as a player.
On August 2, 1979 tragedy struck the Yankee family when beloved catcher and team captain Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. After Munson’s funeral in Ohio, the team had to immediately catch a flight back to New York to face the first place Baltimore Orioles in a game that was televised nationally by ABC. Despite manager Billy Martin wanting to give Murcer the day off, he insisted on playing.
In this game, Murcer would deliver one of his best performances of his career at the plate. He hit a three-run homer in the seventh to help the Yankees climb out of a 4-0 hole and then later delivered a walk-off two-run single down the left field line to give the Yankees an improbable come from behind win. After the game, Murcer gave the bat he used to Munson’s widow, Diana.
Yankees fans from the past two decades will remember Bobby as a broadcaster for the Yankees on WPIX and the YES Network. Tragically, Bobby battled brain cancer for the last few years of his life. The fight with the disease began in December, 2006 at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. While he was in the hospital, he was visited by Andy Pettitte, who had just finished up his third and final year of a brief stint with the Houston Astros.
Many of the Yankees players, past and present, had tremendous respect for Murcer. On July 12, 2008, he died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the same place of his birth.
Bobby Murcer never became the “next Mickey Mantle” like many envisioned, but there is no doubt that he endeared himself to Yankees fans everywhere for four decades.