EDMOND – “Celebrating the Life of Bobby Murcer,” a memorial service for the late New York Yankees slugger from Oklahoma City, was a celebration of one man's goodness, graciousness and kindness. And a little bit about what a ballplayer he was as well.
The service at the Memorial Road Church of Christ, subtitled “Yankee for Life, Oklahoman at Heart,” flew by in what seemed like a lot less than the actual one hour and 45 minutes.
The Yankees chartered a flight to Oklahoma City from the Dallas area, where they are playing a series with the Texas Rangers. Among the some 2,000 attending Wednesday's memorial were Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
“I can see my father right now, up in heaven, in his rocking chair, shaking his head in amazement that we are all here today just for him,” Todd Murcer said.
With his voice beginning to break, Todd Murcer later added: “My father understood what was important. He often told me, ‘Treat people with respect, encourage those around you, make the most of every day.' Watching him live by those words proved to be the greatest lesson of all.”
Kent Allen, former minister at Memorial Road, pointed out that Wednesday's memorial was 29 years ago, to the day, since Murcer gave a eulogy at Thurman Munson's funeral. And that night Murcer had a three-run home run and, in the bottom of the ninth, a two-run single, driving in all of the Yankees' runs in a 5-4 win against Baltimore.
“What a game, what a life, what a man,” Allen said, adding that Munson's widow, Diana, was at Wednesday's service.
Former Yankees publicist Marty Appel apologized for unfairly plugging Murcer as the next Mickey Mantle when he replaced The Mick in center field.
“He connected with the fans from day one,” Appel said. “He had an easy, Oklahoma politeness and a modesty that isn't normally associated with elite athletes. He was a fans' player and he was a players' player.
“He was just terrific kid who was handed an oversized assignment and he handled it with grace and honesty and dignity, as he did everything until the very end... He made you a better person just to know him. No man ever wore the New York Yankee uniform better, and in this measure he is, in fact, right there with Babe and Lou and Joe and Mickey. He had Yankee DNA. A Yankee for life. The most beloved Yankee of his time.