Steinbrenner pays tribute to Murcer

Steinbrenner pays tribute to Murcer

NEW YORK -- George M. Steinbrenner served more than three decades overlooking the stewardship of the New York Yankees. Reflecting on that time period, Bobby Murcer continues to be one of the chairperson's favorites.

Though he has handed the day-to-day control of the Yankees to his sons, Hank and Hal, Steinbrenner's figure still carries enormous weight in the organization's operation.

The 78-year-old Steinbrenner shared his memories of Murcer for The Sporting News' 15-page "In Memoriam" package, in which sports personalities reflect on those who passed away in 2008.

"When I think about Bobby, his image comes up with the other great ones, the giants of baseball," Steinbrenner wrote in the issue, which hits newsstands Friday. "I've had lots of wonderful players over the years. I'd say Bobby Murcer was right up there in the top tier. He was definitely one of my superstars."

A personable, popular five-time All-Star who went on to a successful broadcasting career, Murcer died July 12 after a battle with brain cancer. He was 62.

A lifetime .277 batter over 17 seasons, Murcer was the only Yankee to play with both Mickey Mantle and Don Mattingly, and was arguably the franchise's most popular player of the era immediately following Mantle's retirement after the '68 season.

Murcer was hailed as another Mantle when he emerged from the Yankees' system in the mid-1960s. Both players were signed out of Oklahoma as shortstops by the same scout, Tom Greenwade, prompting comparisons.

"When Bobby started out and then succeeded Mickey Mantle, many people likened him to No. 7," Steinbrenner wrote. "And there were similarities. They were both from Oklahoma, both played center field, and both had that all-American look.

"They had great personalities and great competitive spirit and desire. In the end, of course, Bobby was very much his own player with his own image. He was great on his own account. He didn't have to live up to anybody else."

One of Murcer's best seasons came in 1971, when he led the American League with a .427 on-base percentage and ranked second in the circuit with a career-high .331 batting average.

After struggling with adjustments to Shea Stadium, where the Yankees played in 1974 and '75 while Yankee Stadium was being renovated, Murcer was traded to the Giants in October 1974 for outfielder Bobby Bonds.

He would be dealt to the Cubs in February 1977, only to return and finish his career with the Yankees from 1979-83.


"When I think about Bobby, his image comes up with the other great ones, the giants of baseball. I've had lots of wonderful players over the years. I'd say Bobby Murcer was right up there in the top tier. He was definitely one of my superstars."
-- George Steinbrenner

Perhaps Murcer's most memorable moment came on Aug. 6, 1979, in the wake of Yankees captain Thurman Munson's untimely death in a plane crash.

"I remember when he spoke at Thurman Munson's funeral, a sad moment for everybody," Steinbrenner wrote. "And I remember how touching it was to hear Bobby talk about his friend. He played in the game afterward, and he hit a home run."

Indeed, as the Yankees returned to New York from Munson's funeral service in Ohio, manager Billy Martin suggested that Murcer sit out that evening's game against the Orioles.

Murcer disagreed, protesting that he should play and that he did not feel tired. Dedicating his performance to Munson, Murcer drove in all of New York's runs in a 5-4 victory, slugging a three-run homer and a game-winning two-run single.

In the 24 years that followed his retirement, Murcer worked as a Yankees broadcaster, winning three Emmy awards for live sports coverage. Murcer worked as a radio color analyst from 1983-85 before moving to television as a commentator in '87, and also served as the Yankees' assistant general manager in '86.

Steinbrenner believes that Murcer wore the pinstripes with aplomb.

"Some players don't react well to the pressure of being a Yankee," Steinbrenner wrote. "The intense media coverage, the enormous reaction from the stands, on the streets, even in restaurants. Bobby never let it get to him."

In addition to Steinbrenner, 16 others contributed to the package honoring sports figures who passed in 2008. Other baseball stories include Ted Turner on longtime Braves broadcaster Skip Caray and Carl Erskine on former Dodgers teammate Johnny Podres.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.