Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two Huge Losses

I guess there's no other way to express how this day has gone, other than "tough".

Earlier today, former Yankee player and announcer Bobby Murcer lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 62. Bobby fought an unbelievable year-and-a-half fight against something that normally takes people within weeks. The Murcer family had released a statement recently stating the Bobby was not doing well, so while this is not totally unexpected, it's still a shock.

Murcer was one of my father's favorite players. When the Yankees traded him to the Giants back in '74, my Dad was crushed - but he was equally ecstatic when he came back to the Bronx during the '79 season. For those that don't know the story, Murcer retired in 1983 to make room for Don Mattingly. The next night, he was in the Yankee TV booth - a place he would stay for the next 25 years.

For today's generation of Yankee fans, Bobby became the modern version of Bill White and Phil Rizzuto rolled into one; a voice in the booth that became synonymous with summer, baseball and the Bronx Bombers, his Oklahoma drawl drawing you in to one of his stories about days gone by or glory days to come.

Unlike many of his retired contemporaries, Murcer was good friends with many of the current Yankee players, extending the hand of the "Yankee family" that he had been a part of for so long. Today's Yankee players were visibly shaken up when they spoke of the loss of this great man.

By all accounts, Bobby Ray Murcer was as good a man as you could find. His endless work for a variety of charities is well-known, and he addressed everyone with kindness and a wide, ear-to-ear smile. There were many times I'd see Bobby on his way into The Stadium and call out his name. He always responded with a wave and that same smile.

Murcer will be sorely missed by the Yankees, their players, their fans and the baseball world in general. The team plans to hold a special day in his memory; no date was announced yet.

Several hours earlier, former White House Press Secretary, news commentator, radio host and equally good guy Tony Snow also succumbed to his (colon) cancer. Back when Tony started up his radio show, there was a period of time when the outfit I work for distributed the program. Naturally, any time you start up a new network, there are going to be issues, and from time to time we'd have to work with Tony's people about refining certain things.

During one of these times I mentioned that something Tony had said on the previous day's show made me laugh uncontrollably for the rest of the day. It was suggested that I send Tony an e-mail and tell him this, which I did, never expecting an actual answer.

Not only did Tony e-mail me back, but we struck up a friendly e-mail correspondence for the next several years….snarky little stream-of-consciousness things about the events of the day and whatnot, always good fun. We were both addicted to Smarties, so when he got the White House Press Secretary job, I sent him a congratulatory package of them that would have probably lasted for the next decade. I always meant to go see his band play down in DC, but never got around to it (of course).

The last time I saw him was just a few months ago. He was up at my job, doing some news and commentary. He looked and sounded great, weak but the way you would expect a guy in recovery to look. He was still just a genuine, fun guy to be around. We talked shop over some Chinese food and had some laughs, hoping to see one another again soon. That was the last time I talked to him.

I'm sure he's somewhere right now, chewing on Smarties and laughing at the insanity of it all...meanwhile Bobby, Thurman, Billy and The Mick have a few beers and catching up.

RIP, Bobby and Tony. You'll both be missed.