Bobby Murcer

In 1965 Murcer joined a veteran Yankee team with 31 World Series rings among them. Like Maris, his lefthanded power stroke was suited to Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Like Mantle, he was signed by scout Tom Greenwade as a shortstop out of an Oklahoma high school. Murcer’s legacy was clear; but the nineteen-year-old rookie couldn’t seem to handle major league pitching, especially lefthanders, in brief stints with the Yankees in 1965 and 1966. After two maturing years in the army, Murcer returned to New York in 1969 to find a barely recognizable Yankee team. Gone were Richardson, Clete Boyer, Maris, Howard, and Ford. Gone was Mantle, who had retired at the end of the previous season. Murcer was given Mick’s locker and, after an aborted experiment at third base, took over Mantle’s position in centerfield as well and was asked by management and fans alike to fill Mantle’s shoes.

The gentlemanly Murcer took the inevitable comparisons in stride. Although he lacked Mantle’s awesome power and struck out often in his early years, the line-drive hitter possessed a good Stadium stroke. Beginning with the last at-bat of the first game of a doubleheader against the Indians at Yankee Stadium on June 24, 1970, he hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats, the only Yankee other than Gehrig to accomplish that feat. During the 1971 season, Murcer began to hit more regularly to left field, cut his strikeouts by 40, boosted his average by 80 points to .331, and finished second in the batting race. His great season solidified his popularity in New York and marked his arrival as a star. Murcer hit at least 22 homers in each of his first five full seasons, with a career-high 33 in 1972. He drove in a league and career-high 102 runs that year and won a Gold Glove. In 1973, he became the youngest AL player to earn $100,000, and responded with his second and final .300 season, hitting .304.

With the Yankees’ playing home games at Shea Stadium during 1974, Murcer’s “Stadium stroke” resulted in numerous warning-track drives but only 10 actual home runs. The Yankees traded him straight-up at the end of the season for the Giants’ Bobby Bonds, who was considered a superstar. Candlestick Park was no friendlier to Murcer than Shea. Not until he was sent to the Cubs and Wrigley Field in a five-player deal that included Bill Madlock did Murcer find another home ballpark suited to his home run stroke. He responded with his last great season, hitting 27 homers and driving in 90 runs.

A subpar performance in 1978 led the Cubs to trade him to the Yankees during the 1979 season for a minor league pitcher, and he was reunited with Piniella, Chambliss, Nettles, and his close friend Thurman Munson, who came up at the end of 1969. Murcer homered at the Stadium on the night of August 2 shortly after learning that Munson had died that day in a plane crash.

The popular Murcer was a productive part-timer for two seasons and lingered for two more before moving to the Yankee broadcast booth following his retirement early in the 1983 season.