Baseball fans see it a number of times. Some highly touted prospect gets called up to the Majors and is quickly labeled the “next so-and-so.” It is a stigma that ruins many young ballplayers–having lofty expectations placed on their shoulders. Few prospects had bigger shoes to fill than Bobby Murcer, lauded as the “next Mickey Mantle” when he made his debut.
An Oklahoma native, like Mantle, Murcer was signed by the Yankees by the same scout that inked The Mick. The two had their similarities: they each had a fine power stroke, ran well and played serviceable defense. When Murcer joined the Yankees in the mid 1960s, they were at their lowest, finishing sixth in the AL in 1965. Bobby was eased into the lineup at first as a youngster but with America involved in war overseas, Murcer joined the military and served two years during the Vietnam War.
Murcer showed what he could do after the war. In his first full Major League campaign, Bobby hit 26 long balls in 1969. He established himself as the American League’s top power-hitting center fielder, like Mantle, in 1970 when he paced junior circuit center fielders in homeruns and RBI. By the beginning of the 1971 season, Bobby had shown the big wigs that he was good for 25 homers, 80 RBI and a .255 batting average, but he took it up a notch in 1971.
In his breakout year of ’71, Murcer led the AL in on-base percentage while making his first of five straight All-Star squads. His .331 batting avergae easily bested the other center fielders in the Majors and he was the lone center fielder in the Majors to slug over .500. But Murcer, who had struck out 100 times in 1969 and 1970, trimmed his whiff total to 60, making him and Cesar Tovar the only two center fielders in the AL who walked more than they struck out.
Bobby won his only Gold Glove in 1972 while leading the American League in runs scored and total bases. An All-Star again, Murcer was the only player in the American League to reach 30 doubles and 30 homers. For his stellar campaign, Bobby finished fifth in MVP voting. His .304 batting average in 1973 led AL center fielders and he also bested his position peers with 95 RBI.
The Yankees climbed to second place under skipper Bill Virdon in 1974. After the season, the Yankees felt that Bobby Bonds offered more than Murcer and shipped him to San Francisco for Barry’s father–a swift power-hitter. In his first year in the senior circuit, Murcer made the All-Star team, driving in 91 runs for the Giants. He drove in 90 runs in 1976 (tied for the most by an NL right fielder) his last year in California.
Just before the 1977 season, Bobby was dealt to the Cubs for multiple batting champion Bill Madlock. He found Wrigley Field to his liking. With his power stroke revived, Murcer clubbed 27 homeruns his first year with the Cubs. In the middle of the 1979 season, the Cubs sent Murcer back to where he started, shipping him to the Yankees for a prospect. He clubbed 13 homers in an outfield carousel with Lou Pineilla, Ruppert Jones, Reggie Jackson and Bobby Brown in 1980.
After the 1980 season, Murcer was used primarily was a reserve and he ended his career in 1983. Bobby Murcer passed away in 2008 after a lengthy battle with cancer shortly after the publication of his autobiography: Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes.
G 1,908/R 972/H 1,862/2B 285/3B 45/HR 252/RBI1,043/BB 862/SO 841/SB 127/BA .277/SA .445