08/03/2004 9:22 PM ET
Voice of the Mets passes away
Hall of Fame broadcaster called games for 50 years
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
|Bob Murphy, who called more than 6,000 Mets games, is one of 28 broadcasters in the Hall of Fame. (Ed Betz/AP)
NEW YORK -- The Voice of Summer in New York, calm and confident, steady and reliable for so many years, was lost on Tuesday afternoon, when longtime Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy passed away in Florida after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 79.
Murphy had a style and ease behind the microphone, one that made baseball on the radio enjoyable for generations of fans. He sat in the broadcast booth for a half-century, beginning his career in 1954, describing the exploits of Ted Williams to the Red Sox Nation. He ended it after last season, having spent more than four decades calling games for the Mets, providing all those happy recaps for fans as they drove home from the park.
"This was so unexpected," said Joye, his wife of 32 years. "Bob was sick, but he never stopped battling. The thing that kept him going the last couple of months was when baseball people called to see how he was doing. That perked him up and kept him going."
Murphy was as much a part of Mets baseball as any of the players who have worn the blue and orange since 1962. Murphy was a friend on air, calling games in a simple, yet classic manner that earned him a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown in 1994 as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting contributions to the game.
The former Met wrote a tribute to Bob Murphy:
Time is the alpha and the omega of all things
A beginning, an ending, unto mortals it brings
The reason that turns Summers into Winters then Springs
The reason the clock ticks and the pendulum still swings
It's the reason that turns weeks into months then years
The reason that youth ceases when maturity appears
It's the start of a game, when the first pitch is in flight
It's Bob Murphy's fluent voice recapping the highlights
It's special moments shared, with family and friends
It's the joy we feel whenever the Mets win
It's hours spent toiling to pay monthly bills
It's rookies in the minors trying to sharpen their skills
But on this occasion, it's the end of the marvelous career
The retirement of a talent, so special and dear
The ceremonial good-byes to a legend of the game
That even time had to pause, in honor of his name
Bob Murphy you are the alpha and the omega of your domain
I wish I could restart the clock, for one more refrain
But time, the infamous bane to us all
Just won't reverse this damnable call
Thanks for the Memories
You are truly an Amazin' Met
"We are deeply saddened over the news of our friend Bob Murphy's passing," said Mets chairman and chief executive officer Fred Wilpon. "We have lost a treasure to generations of Mets fans and an important member of our extended Mets family. Our love and prayers go out to his wife, Joye, and his family for their loss."
Murphy called his last game for the Mets on Sept. 25, 2003, the night he was honored at Shea Stadium for his long and outstanding service. He and longtime broadcast partners Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner were inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984. The radio booth at Shea Stadium bears Murphy's name while the television booth bears Kiner's.
"It's like losing a brother," said Kiner. "We worked together for 40-plus years. We did everything together; we went to movies, ate together and traveled together. It's so hard to fathom he's gone. It's has been a terrible year for me, first I lose my wife to cancer and now Bob. I just pray that he was at peace at the end."
Current Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen, a Queens native, sat alongside Murphy in the Mets radio booth for 15 seasons. Murphy helped him get acclimated to life as a broadcaster in the Big Apple, never once pulling rank. He was always there to help Cohen, who remembered Murphy fondly.
"It's horrible," Cohen said. "It's painful to have someone work his entire life, someone who was so beloved, finally have a chance to enjoy his life and have so little time. My heart goes out to Joye and all our thoughts and prayers are with her.
"What stands out the most about Bob is the first game I ever broadcast for the Mets, in 1988. I was filling in for one night and I was a minor-league kid who had looked up to Murph from the time I was 6 years old. I was petrified, to put it lightly. At one point early in the broadcast, I just froze. I didn't know what to say or do next. Murph reached out with his hand and patted mine and took over, making the rest of the evening easy. He was a very sweet man. He made sure that I was comfortable and that I could function and succeed, and I'll never forget that."
Murphy's health, however, had been failing in recent years. The schedule of games he did declined steadily when he decided last summer that it was time to hang up the microphone. He was honored that night at Shea and was greeted with thunderous applause.
"The Mets have provided me with a way of life," Murphy said that night. "And I have enjoyed it so much. Just can't believe how much I love it. I just hate to say goodbye. It was a lot easier saying hello the first day I came to New York 42 years ago. Let me tell you fans how much I love you and how great you've been. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of your life.
"I've loved this so much and enjoyed this so much," Murphy said. "I'd still be going strong if I felt as good as I did a few years ago."
Bob Mandt joined the Mets in 1961, working in their ticket office. He stayed with the club through his retirement this season, leaving as a vice president. He was as close to Murphy as anyone in the organization outside of Kiner.
"He called me last week to congratulate me on my retirement," Mandt said. "So I got to speak to him and I was glad about that. I told him I was praying for him. He said I'm going to need your prayers and that was the last I spoke to him. I had a lot of fun with him over the years.
"He was a heck of a guy. I never had an argument with him. He was the same at the end of his career as he was at the beginning. They were playing a tape of the Mets first game in St. Louis at the park the other day and you'd swear it was yesterday with Murph. He didn't change. Everyone considered him a homer but he never let it on. He wasn't the kind of announcer that would be actively rooting."
As any Mets fan can attest to, three of the most wonderfully spoken words in the English language are "The Happy Recap." The origin is unknown, but Murphy claimed that he owed it to the fans for his famous phrase after each win.
"I don't exactly remember how that came about or when I first used it," Murphy recalled last summer. "But, a couple of the guys in the locker room told me it was real corny. So I stopped using it, and boy did the mail start pouring in asking me, 'Where's my Happy Recap?' So I put it back in and have been using it ever since."
Murphy is also survived by six children. A private family gathering is scheduled Wednesday in Florida and a memorial service in the New York area is planned in the near future.
In lieu of flowers the family has asked that contributions be sent to the Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, Fla. 33407.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.