Sunday, July 13, 2008

"If someone makes a bad play, you gotta call it."

"Bobby Murcer died today."

I sucked in my breath and held it. Ian lowered that boom when were driving into a sunset across the Q bridge, headed downtown for dinner last night. My heart cracked a little. After a half minute or so, I exhaled.


"The big C," Ian answered.

I never followed Bobby's career. I came to love the Yankees too late for that. But as I began to follow them in the mid-90's, Bobby Murcer (along with the likes of Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat, among others) introduced me to the franchise, its talent, legend and legacy through his on-air commentary. Bobby Murcer's down-to-earth salty voice, as matter-of-fact as it was kind, shared more than plays and stats. He waxed nostalgic, peppering his commentary with anecdotes from his days on the field. He was a patient, easy voice to listen to every night six months or so out of the year.

I have no special stories about Murcer. I couldn't even remember what position he played. In fact, I was certain he was an infielder, til I was reminded his career with the Yanks saw his position change from third base to center field--so I was half right. I can't claim to have met to him or have had my life graced, even briefly, with his presence (although I am lucky enough to say I met and had a conversation with both Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford together in Florida many years ago). Murcer was just a voice on the television, but a voice I had come to count on to tell me how it was, plain and simple.

Tonight, the YES Network aired several specials on Murcer, including his interview with announcer Michael Kay on the network's program, Centerstage. Murcer acknowledged that the hardest thing about becoming a baseball commentator after retiring as a player was calling bad plays on former teammates and other players he held in high regard. But, he said, he learned that if someone makes a bad play, you gotta call it.

Who doesn't value that, especially in a peer?

Murcer might have cringed at Pettitte's outing on the mound today, but he also would have pointed out Pettitte's strengths as a pitcher. He might have expressed surprise and disappointment at a lousy game, but he always pointed out the better side of players' abilities. That says so much about his character.

No games til Thursday. It's All-Star week at Yankee Stadium. But then again, isn't it always? ;o)


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