Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hey, Hal, when you were passing out all those Monument Park invitations, you forgot one

So, we have two new members of the Monument Park fraternity this weekend. Congratulations, Goose Gossage and Tino Martinez.

We'll have a bunch more plaques put up over the next few years ... we've got Paul O'Neill, Joe Torre and Bernie Williams announced, and that doesn't even figure the inevitable Jeter-Rivera-Pettitte-Posada run. At this rate, they may have to rebuild the old Stadium just to hold all the Monument Park plaques.

I'll be honest, I have mixed feelings about the flood of Monument Park members. Tino was a helluva player for us for 6 or 7 years, got a bunch of rings and by all accounts is a great guy. Honestly, though, never once in his career -- and this is no knock on Tino -- did I ever think, "Yeah, he'll get a plaque in centerfield some day." Look, I'm not one of those folks screaming that we're on the slippery slope to Wayne Tolleson Day, but if I'm Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph or any of a dozen or so guys from the Yankees previous dynasties, I'm thinking, "Hey, when's my plaque being ordered?"

The cynic in me would note that this is the sort of thing that happens when you have a so-so team, very few stars in their prime and home-plate cameras showing the most expensive seats in the park half-filled most days. I'm sure no one is more thrilled about the influx of Monument Park residents than the folks at Steiner Sports, who can hawk more collectibles filled with their world-famous "game-used dirt." (Quick! start scooping up the dirt in Monument Park!)

That being said ... Hal, in your haste to pass out the MP membership cards, you missed one name.

Bobby Murcer.

I know, I know, Murcer never lived up to the "next Mantle" tag on the field. I know, he spent four prime years in the National League and when he came back for his second stint in Pinstripes he was mainly a platoon DH/pinch-hitter. And I know, he never was on a World Series winner.

But if you grew up in the early 70s, Murcer WAS the Yankees, at least for a while. He was the team's star and a great player -- top 10 in the MVP voting three times on a not-very-good team. When he returned to the Yanks in 1979, he was past his prime but still gave one of the truly memorable performances in the team's history on the night of Munson's funeral.

No, Murcer was never a threat to make the Hall of Fame. But see, Hal, if you'd attended any of those games as Murcer was winding down his career as a part-time DH in the early 80s, you'd have noticed something.

Yankees fans loved the guy. Hell, he was probably one of the most popular part-time players in history -- he'd get huge ovations when he was announced as a pinch-hitter. You should have heard the crowd when he hit that pinch-hit grand slam on Opening Day in 1981. (I did. I was there, and it was loud.) Yankee fans loved him in the broadcast booth for about 20 years, even though he would never be mistaken for Bob Costas. And nobody -- nobody -- loved being a Yankee more than Murcer did.You could see that on all those Old Timers' Days he was a part of, getting miked up by YES and looking like he was loving every minute he was able to spend wearing that old uniform again.

And so, we're at Old Timer's Day again, and this year it's Goose Gossage's day to get his plaque added to the wall. That's great, he's a Hall of Famer and he deserves it. Should be a memorable day.

But here's a suggestion, Hal. Add one more name to your list of plaques, and set the date for Old Timers' Day, 2015. It'll be great to see Bobby out in centerfield again.


Anonymous said...

Jesus Bern (and I mean Christ, not Montero), that was a beautiful piece. I honestly just wiped tears from my eyes.

I loved Murcer. Total class act. I don't care if he never lived up to expectations on the field, the guy had a heart the size of the GW bridge and it showed.

Great, great piece. THIS is why I read this site every morning...

Love you guys

BCA said...

Beautiful words El Duque, thank you!

Tom said...

well said, Bern, well said.
on your first point, Tino -- plain and simple -- does not belong in Monument Park or whatever the heck they call it any more than Dave Winfield, probably less. For that matter Gossage was great but, I mean, he doesn't belong on the same wall with Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins. But then neither does General Von Steingrabber. Just sayin.

And Murcer's 30-plus years as a Yankee -- second best hitter in the American League for a couple of years behind Richie Allen -- certainly deserves recognition. This whole thing is out of control and increasingly meaningless.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Very well said BBBern, a very moving read to wake up to today, many many thanks!

And, I'm 10000% in agreement with Tom! I'd add that all of these Monument Men moments and Swan Song celebrations smell like marketing gimmicks to get fannies into the seats since the Team has been floundering over the last several years. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for celebrating Mighty Mo and King Jeter, just do it once, on the last day, of the last home game, of regular season.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Didn't mean to be a total Grump, listing now to the Old Timers Day celebration and it's absolutely lovely!

John M said...

Bern, you made me tear up. Murcer is too special for Monument Park, it is too crowded out there and the honor is becoming increasingly meaningless, like Tom said. We should put our heads together and figure something out. The man deserves it, he was a special, even unique, Yankee.

Pat said...

While they're at it, they might as well have a separate section for the chief groundskeeper and the clubhouse attendant. I also nominate Carlos Silva, Irv Noren, Andy Carey, Frank Messer, Fran Healy, Charley Silvera, Dale Long, and Enos Slaughter, and Mike Francesa.

Have I forgotten anyone?

joe de pastry said...

Monument Park stopped being special when they put Billy Martin out there. I no longer care who's in or out.