Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cubs' Piniella mourns death of teammate, friend Murcer

Bobby Murcer 1946 ~ 2008

By Paul Sullivan
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
11:14 PM CDT, July 12, 2008

Murcer unveils the plaque honoring Thurman Munson - along with Gene Michael (from l.), Lou Piniella and Munson's widow, Diana - during a ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 20, 1980.
Credits: Diamond Images/Getty

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was visibly shaken when he heard the news of Bobby Murcer's death after Saturday's 8-7 victory over San Francisco.

The two had been longtime friends since their days playing together with the New York Yankees.

Murcer, a five-time All-Star outfielder who spent nearly four decades with the Yankees as a player, executive and announcer, died Saturday at 62 in his hometown of Oklahoma City due to complications from brain cancer.

"It's a sad day," Piniella said. "Just a wonderful person and a great teammate and a heck of a baseball player. It's just terrible.

"I knew he was struggling, but you just don't think these sort of things happen, but they do. But my thoughts and [my wife] Anita's thoughts are with Kay [Murcer] and his kids. A terrible, terrible day."

Piniella plans on attending the services for Murcer, which will be held in the next few days in Oklahoma over the All-Star break.

Piniella recalled one of Murcer's greatest moments, on Aug. 6, 1979, when after delivering the eulogy at the funeral of their close friend, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, Murcer hit a three-run homer and a game-winning two-run single in a 5-4 victory over Baltimore.

Piniella pointed to Murcer's book, "Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes," which was on his office desk. "What can I say? We're thinking about him," he said.

Murcer also played for the Cubs from 1977-79 after arriving from San Francisco in a controversial trade for Bill Madlock. Murcer had made his major-league debut as a 19-year-old in 1965. After serving in the Army during the 1967-68 seasons, Murcer homered on Opening Day in front of President Richard Nixon in 1969 at Washington to launch a career as a full-time player.

"Bobby Murcer was a born Yankee, a great guy, very well-liked and a true friend of mine," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

"I will really miss the guy."

The only person to play with both Mickey Mantle and Don Mattingly, the popular Murcer hit .277 with 252 home runs and 1,043 RBIs in 17 seasons with the Yankees, Giants and Cubs.

Tribune news services contributed to this report.

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