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'Yankee for Life' gives his final call
07/30/2008 1:04 PM ET
Bobby Murcer's life ended July 12 after a lengthy battle with cancer, but he leaves behind a tight-knit family, countless fans from his careers as a baseball star and a beloved broadcasting legend, and a timeless story of faith, strength and the power of love.

That story is available to all in the book "Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes" (Harper, 320 pages), which was released on May 20, Murcer's 62nd birthday.

According to the book's co-author, Glen Waggoner, it contains the sentiments, beliefs and life lessons that will always make Murcer so special to so many.

"People have to react to Bobby's passing in their own ways," Waggoner says. "But I think his attitude toward the initial diagnosis, treatment and prognosis could be a guideline to all of us.

"In my heart, I believe to the very last out, he was sustained and buoyed by [his] own courage, sense of humor, and the love of his family. He considered himself lucky."

Murcer's many followers should consider themselves lucky to have this book.

His entire career is chronicled in his own words and the words of his widow, Kay, and his two children, son Todd and daughter Tori.

In its pages we trace the steps of his baseball career with, and without, his beloved Yankees, how he broke into the broadcast business, and his long partnership in and out of the booth with Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto. In particular, the story looks at his battle with cancer and how he met it head on in life and why it was important to detail that challenge in the book.

"He made no bones about dealing with the cancer in the book," Waggoner says. "He saw it as an opportunity. He met fascinating people in this part of his life, such as the brain surgeon in Indiana who had the same tumor and had it removed. Bobby me met him and admired him. And he met a kid who had brain cancer and befriended him.

"When given a diagnosis the way Bobby was, a person can be cynical, but insofar as you can look into anybody's heart, I do not believe he was cynical and angry in any way. He was planning for the future. He was always looking forward. It's just that this was the pitch he got and he did what he could with it."

Baseball Bookshelf

Waggoner, a senior editor for ESPN The Magazine and, as many seamheads already know, one of the founding fathers of fantasy baseball, didn't know Murcer when the project began. The two grew close through the writing process, however.

"I'm a Texas native and Bobby, of course, is from Oklahoma, so the two of us do speak the same language, straddling sides of the Red River," Waggoner says. "We hit it off very well. I'm a few years older than he and I take a different side of the Texas-Oklahoma football rivalry, but we hit it off very well."

The ease of their relationship shows in the light, entertaining prose of the book.

Murcer's memorable baseball stories include tales of his emergence as a Major League Baseball player and the inevitable comparisons to another Yankees center fielder from Oklahoma, Mickey Mantle, plus Murcer's friendship with late Yankees catcher Thurman Munson.

Along the way, you'll also read never-before-told anecdotes about Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner and what it was like to transition from fearless player to sometimes-frazzled commentator.

"In the booth, he managed to be a Yankee broadcaster but also a guy who knew the game, could express it in language that people could understand, and did it with candor," Waggoner says.

"And he had a great sense of humor, too. He and Rizzuto in the box together forced Bobby to become a great translator, an extender, a great foil, and as the book points out, a pinch-hitter at some very critical moments when Phil lost himself with language.

"He really built a bond with Yankee fans as a broadcaster because of his humor, his knowledge and his modesty. He forged a bond that's very special. It goes beyond what most players achieve."

And Murcer went above and beyond what was necessary when writing about his disease.

"We called them the 'cancer chapters,' Bobby and Kay and I did," Waggoner says. "And I have to say that both of them were very brave and very up-front. They didn't use euphemisms when they were dealing with this. They knew the score.

"It's a terrible, terrible disease, and it strikes so randomly at so many people. But Bobby didn't pussy-foot around. He had terminal cancer. It's not curable, and he didn't try to pretend it was. But he also made sure that he was going to live his life the best he could for as long as he could."

Murcer's bravery, kind nature and incredibly strong faith and belief in his family buoyed him through the tough times and ultimately enabled him to leave this world fulfilled.

"Bobby was, above all, a good man," Waggoner says. "He was very, very special."

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