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Murphy honored at service
08/11/2004 6:00 PM ET
NEW YORK -- They filed into the midtown Cathedral of Saint Patrick to the organ strains of "America the Beautiful" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a playlist that captured the 80 years of Robert Allen Murphy.

Hundreds of people from all generations and all walks of life, they came to the breathtakingly majestic 125-year-old church to hear voices raised in praise of the Voice of Summer.

At the end of an emotional memorial service, more than voices were raised for Bob Murphy, who passed away a week ago, a few months after the end of a broadcasting career that had spanned the New York Mets' history.

"Broadcasters can't hear the acclaim, the appreciation of their listeners," Monsignor John Ferry said from the pulpit. "Let Bob hear it now."

The assembled rose and broke into applause, which wouldn't fade for the longest time. If any eyes were still dry after the hour-long service, none remained so at the sound of that ovation echoing off the cavernous cathedral's walls.

Facing the assembled to deliver one of the service's two eulogies, Mets chairman Fred Wilpon had noted, "A full house ... It should be. He deserved it."

They came to honor Murphy's memory and Joye Murphy's presence. The former Marine's widow was presented with a flag by the Marines' 6th Battalion in the poignant conclusion of a touching memorial.

Described by Monsignor Ferry simply as "a good man who did his job well," Murphy's magnetic connection with the people his broadcasts entertained for decades remained evident.

Remembering Bob Murphy

They had begun lining up long before the 2 o'clock service, mixing into a sidewalk-gobbling swirl with those exiting the regular 1 o'clock mass.

Suits and painter's pants. Ties and T-shirts. Young and old. New York natives and tourists. Those who knew him intimately, and those who only knew his voice. Those who doubtless could tell the difference between the hit-and-run and the run-and-hit, and those who probably couldn't tell a baseball from a coconut.

The anonymous, and the baseball renowned. Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner, Bud Harrelson, Keith Hernandez, Art Howe, Mike Piazza were among those present, and others wish they could have been.

Lee Mazzilli, who spent his first six seasons with the Mets, now manages the Baltimore Orioles and regretted that the American League schedule had him on the West Coast, in Anaheim. "You want to pay your respects to his family," Mazzilli said, "so it's something you think about, but he'll always be in my memories."

It was an appropriately somber service, weighed by loss, until Gary Thorne rose to eulogize the legend who had become his broadcast partner in 1985.

"Folks," Thorne said, spreading his arms, "this is a celebration. A celebration of a great life. All of us should leave here smiling."

Cardinal Edward Egan hailed Murphy for being "in so many ways, as much a part of the New York Mets as the players."

"He spent his life talking to his mostly unseen fans," Cardinal Egan said. "He brought joy to the very demanding New York fans.

"Same as all of New York, I was saddened to hear of Bob's passing. I hope his family is comforted by the outpouring of affection for Bob we have seen this past week. We promise to keep this wonderful New Yorker in our prayers. May he rest in peace."

Wilpon acknowledged growing up, as any other New Yorker, with Bob Murphy in his ear and recalled him as "one of the most beloved members of the New York Mets family."

"For him, it was a labor of love, and it showed in every word he spoke," Wilpon said. "His impact on Mets fans will live on for generations to come.

"Thank you, Bob, may you rest in peace. I know you will. You earned it."

There were no laymen or clergy on this occasion in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick. Only baseball fans, and fans of people who add to baseball's vibrancy.

"We all knew and loved Bob Murphy," Monsignor Ferry said. "We face the reality of losing someone who has been a part of our lives.

"His voice has been stilled. But even death cannot bring that love we have for him to death. His passing does not erase those moments you and I share."

Thorne, whose continuing work obviously will reflect everything taught him by Murphy, remembered a beloved friend and mentor.

"Obviously, he was one of the great voices of the game," Thorne said. "What impressed me most about him was, for him, the game was always enough.

"Every day, all he wanted to do was add to your enjoyment of the game. And that's exactly what he did. Simplicity is often described as genius and, in that way, he was a broadcasting genius.

"Nobody did more painting of words. We'll miss that Irish glint. We'll miss that naturally-broad smile. We'll miss his walk, from the press room to the booth. And we will surely miss the Voice of Summer.

"But," Thorne added, his voice finally breaking, "we will always have with us the word-pictures he painted."

The four Marines representing the 6th Battalion silently marched down an aisle, taking their places in front of the congregation. Two of them performed the ceremonious folding of the flag, then the ranking officer walked it over into Joye Murphy's lap.

He saluted, rose, and the Marines quartet silently marched out, to the plaintive notes of "Taps."

Shortly, the cathedral emptied, people making their way through the pews and into the street exchanging favorite recollections of Bob Murphy.

They were smiling. Gary Thorne got his wish.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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