This is the 100th anniversary of the original Yankee Stadium. This week I got to educate hundreds of kids about so many of the great players that got to leave a mark at the stadium. Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Yogi, Ford, Billy, Maris.
For me as a kid, I adored Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent and Mickey Rivers, Jim Catfish Hunter. Each of them for various reasons.
Today I will tell you about Bobby Murcer.
When I first fell in love with the Yanks my hero was Mickey Mantle. To all us neighborhood kids in the Bronx Mantle was bigger than life. He was handsome and he had big natural muscles. He did commercials and actually appeared in some movies and television shows. When Mantle would hit a home run, I would feel totally exhilarated. If Mantle wasn’t playing and he would come out to pinch hit late in the game, the whole stadium would start to roar as the Mick would step out of the dugout.
When Mantle retired after the 1968 season, I cried like a baby. I just couldn’t believe it.
I was desperate for another hero. All of a sudden I was told about this 23-year-old rookie that was coming back from the Army. His name was Bobby Ray Murcer. I will never forget that in his first exhibition game, he would hit a home run. When I found out that Murcer was from Oklahoma and was signed by the same scout (Tom Greenwade) as Mantle I was sold, this was my new idol. Bobby may not of been as big as the Mick nor did he have as big a muscles but he had this wonderful charisma about him. Bobby was just cool.
On the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium, I would ironically become a batboy for the Yankees. No question, one of the greatest moments of my life. One of the first people that I would meet was Murcer.
He was told by the equipment manager Pete Sheehy, a man that had worked for the Yanks since the days of Babe Ruth about the fact that Steinbrenner had caught me outside the Stadium doing graffiti and decided to give me a job as a Batboy.
Murcer at the time was the unofficial team leader. Let me say that he acted and was respected as the leader.
After I was given instructions and a uniform when we got to the dugout Murcer asked me where did they station me. I told him that I would be the ball boy down the right-field line. Murcer told me to put my stool that I would be sitting on at the position now and come back to him. When I got back to him he told me that when the organist (Eddie Layton) started to play the Yanks theme song that I was to run out with the team and go to my position. I was extremely nervous and Bobby knew it. He patted me on the back and smiled. The music started and Murcer screamed out let’s go boys and again patted on the back and said …come on… I ran to my position down the right field line and couldn’t believe that I was actually living this incredible dream. I will never forget the stares that Murcer gave me several times during the game just to see if I was ok.
I remember that we beat the Cleveland Indians that night and Murcer and his best friend Thurman Munson actually said …good game Ray… I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy that I actually had tears come down my face. Mr. Steinbrenner came over to me and asked how did I enjoy my job. I said that I loved it. He asked me if I wanted to keep it. I said yea! He said, then you will keep your ass out of trouble, and that I better not make him look like a fool for him giving me this opportunity. He told me that there were people that were upset with him for doing this for me. He said… however I don’t give a damn because I’m the F… ing boss.
That was 50 years ago. I got a job as a batboy because of a man with a kind and understanding heart in George Steinbrenner and I got to meet my hero Bobby Murcer who was one of the most amazing people that I would ever meet. He never disappointed me, For that matter, no Yankee ever did!