08/03/2004 9:40 PM ET
Murphy beloved in New York
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Finding someone more beloved than Bob Murphy was on the New York sports landscape would be difficult.
The transplanted Oklahoman weaved his way into the fabric of baseball in the Big Apple, joining the Mets in 1962, forever stamping himself in the hearts and on the minds of those who followed the team from Queens. He joined Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner and for two decades, the trio was as synonymous with New York as the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.
Murphy's passing on Tuesday, though, at the age of 79, leaves a void on that New York sports scene. It was a stage on which Murphy never desired to have the spotlight. Yet his longevity and the love affair the city had with him made it almost impossible for him to be anything short of legendary.
From his weather reports detailing the "high cumulonimbus clouds" drifting above Shea Stadium to his revered Happy Recaps, Murphy touched millions of lives during the more than 6,000 games he broadcast. His passing from lung cancer drew poignant responses from all, many of whom were almost at a loss to describe how much Murphy meant to them and their baseball experience.
"As far as I'm concerned he always 100 percent tried to help me," Mets radio voice Ed Coleman said. "You know, I didn't come up the typical broadcaster way and he could have very easily resented me and he didn't. He always treated me warmly, trying to help me and give me hints on how to do things, pointing out how I should do things. That's what I think of when I think of Murph', how receptive and cordial he was. He made me a better broadcaster than when I started.
"His passing was almost the passing of an era. I wondered how people would react when Murphy retired. He wasn't a dominating figure like Vin Scully or some of the other guys. But I was surprised when I heard all the stories about Murphy from people when they were growing up, listening to him in the car or at the beach. That's what baseball on the radio is all about. Guys like Murph have a place in you heart and in your life and its tough when they go."
Bob Wolff broadcast games for the Washington Senators and the Minnesota Twins in the '50s and '60s before going to work for the Knicks and Rangers. Like Murphy, he is an old-school professional. Also like Murphy, he has his place in baseball's Hall of Fame.
Wolff, like Murphy, could paint a wonderful picture with words. He says it's a gift Murphy never lost.
"I've known him for years and years and the biggest thing about being a sports broadcaster day after day is all the tedious work that we have to do," Wolff said. "And after doing all that, he never lost the ability to be enthusiastic and upbeat about every game he did day after day, year after year. There are days when you come to the park and you're not feeling well or you have something going on at home but he never lost ability to be enthused and get that across to the public.
"It was a remarkable feat. He was fun to listen to. He had a remarkably fine delivery and was a good chooser of words. He knew how to convey excitement. He was a storyteller, a constant companion [on the radio]. And to be able to do that year after year without wearing out to the public, he had all of that. Some people didn't wear well. But he did and then some."
The Yankees had a moment of silence before their game Tuesday night against Oakland. Even as an opposing broadcaster, there was something about Murphy that touched everyone. Joe Torre played for and managed the Mets nearly 30 years ago and hasn't forgotten what Murphy was all about.
"Talk about someone who was a loyal employee for the Mets right from day one," Torre said. "No matter what the club was about, Bob Murphy was always finding that silver lining. He was quite a man. He's going to be missed. Whether it was a Major League player or a minor league player, Bob Murphy was always looking for something positive to say.
"The only thing I could tell you is every time I turned on the radio he was doing either a bowl game somewhere on the radio or a baseball game. He worked all the time. He loved it. It was tough for him to walk away when he finally did. He's going to be missed because of his personality and what a genuine person he was."
Murphy didn't get to make it down to the clubhouse to speak with the players as much as his career drew to a close though he could always be found early in the afternoon outside the manager's office copying down the starting lineup for that night's game. He was always warm and pleasant and the players, even if they didn't know him, knew of him and respected him.
"His voice is synonymous with baseball and synonymous with the Mets," Mike Piazza said. "Our prayers are with his family. He obviously had a special legacy in this organization and should be celebrated. We all loved Murph, and I think he sort of represented everything that's great about the game. He was so positive. He was just a great ambassador for baseball and the Mets.
"Back for me, an afternoon was getting up and watching cartoons in the morning and watching the Mets game at 1:00 on a Saturday or a Sunday. I think obviously they (the announcers of Murphy's era) have a special connection to the sport, because that was back when baseball was in its golden era. That's what people associated with the games -- turning on the radio or turning on the TV and seeing Murph and Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn and Vin Scully, those types of personalities. It's sad when one of them passes. You realize that time is rolling on."
Added Mets captain John Franco: "He's part of the New York Met family and he'll be severely missed. If you were a Met fan and the radio was on, you heard Murph's voice and it made you smile."
|Bob Murphy (right) joined Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner (left) as Mets broadcasters for two decades. (Ron Frehm/AP)
Said pitcher Al Leiter, "For me, Bob Murphy and the Mets were one. I can't tell you how many games I listened to in the car and in my room growing up. Listening to Bob, Lindsey and Ralph were memories that I'll never forget."
Prior to Wednesday's Mets-Brewers game, Madison Square Garden Network will air a half hour special honoring Murphy. The show will revisit the highlights of Murphy's career, including the special Sept. 19, 2003 telecast during which Murphy went back into the television booth to join his old friend Kiner.
Current Madison Square Garden broadcaster and former Mets captain Keith Hernandez summed it up best.
"The thing I remember most is that there wasn't a mean bone in his body," Hernandez said. "When I was first traded to the Mets from the Cardinals, it was like I had known Murph for 50 years. His is a generation gone by, the generation of announcers I grew up with."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. Mark Feinsand and JR Radcliffe contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.