YANKEE FOR LIFE: MY 40-YEAR JOURNEY IN PINSTRIPES, by Bobby Murcer with Glen Waggoner, HarperCollins, 304 pages, $24.95.
Although brain cancer ended Bobby Murcer's life only six weeks ago, he completed this lively book about his storied career with the Yankees before he died at the age of 62.
Murcer became a New York Yankee in 1966 as he stepped into the shadow of the legendary Mickey Mantle. At the age of 19, Murcer became the shortstop when Ruben Amaro was injured. Later, he was shifted to centerfield, where he spent the remainder of his career.
It is not so odd to compare him with Mantle, who was also 19 at the outset of his career. They both came from Oklahoma and they both began at shortstop and then moved to centerfield. Most baseball scholars would not rank Murcer at the same performance level as Mantle, but his record was impressive, nonetheless.
Following his 17-year-career as a player, Murcer went into the broadcast booth where he spent the rest of his life doing play-by-play for the Yankees' games. There was an interim trade in 1974, when Murcer was sent to San Francisco, a city he and his wife loved, even though he was unhappy playing in Candlestick Park because of its swirling winds off the bay that almost always interfered with fly balls.
After two seasons in San Francisco, Murcer was traded to Chicago, where he enjoyed playing in Wrigley Field with its vine-covered outfield walls. He and Kay were both pleased when he was traded back to the Yankees.
Besides reminiscing about his own life in these pages, Murcer paid tribute to his good friend, Thurman Munson, the Yankee catcher who was killed while piloting his own plane. Murcer delivered the eulogy at Munson's funeral.
Murcer also shares anecdotes about his former teammates and bosses, including Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner.
The last section of the book describes his unsuccessful fight against cancer. Surgeons removed a golf ball-size tumor from his brain and told him that he had less than two years to live. Murcer made good use of that time, finishing his book while journeying from his Oklahoma home for monthly checkups at the Anderson Clinic in Houston.
Four months after his surgery, he attended opening day at Yankee Stadium, receiving an overwhelming welcome from the team and the capacity crowd.According to Murcer, "I'm one of the few people lucky enough to have all my boyhood dreams come true. And we thank God for illuminating the path, our family for taking our hands, and our fans and friends for cheering us along the way to a new, wonderful life."
Parry Sorensen is professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Utah.