In recent years, no player served more time in Yankee pinstripes than Bobby Murcer, who was eased off the New York roster and into the broadcasting booth last week. Murcer caught the tail end of the club's glory years in the mid 1960 s, when guys like Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, and fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle were still around. Bobby eventually followed Mantle into center field.
If Murcer wasn't expected to be another Mantle or Joe DiMaggio, he at least needed to be a worthy successor. And he was in his owwn, less spectacular way, batting .278 and hitting 175 home runs during his years in New York.
Filling Mantle's shoes, of course, never promised to be a rose garden, especially under the circumstances. Mickey retired just as Bobby was returning to the club in 1969 after a two-year military stint, and the wheels of the Yankee dynasty had ground to halt. Murcer had played briefly in the majors before his service days, but now was thrust into the lineup, originally at third base. Manager Ralph Houk quickly switched him to center field, however, leading to comparisons to Mantle, who started as an infielder and was signed by the same court.
Murcer became a central cog of a rebuilding team. He batted .331 in 1971, but had perhaps his best all-around year the following season, when he belted a career-high 33 homers, earned his only Gold Glover for fielding excellence, and became the last Yankee to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, and homer in the same game).
Just as the Yankees were breaking out of the doldrums. Murcer was traded to San Francisco for Bobby Bonds in 1974.Bonds had been the heir to Willie Mays, much as Murcer had been to Mantle.
While Murcer played for the Giants and Cubs during the next four years, the Yankees appeared in three World Series. He was reacquired by the Yankees in 1979, finally making his first and only World Series appearance two years later, when New York lost to Los Angeles. In the last two yeaas he was used exclusively as a designated and pinch hitter.
In his new job, he handles the color commentary alongside play-by-play man Phil Rizzuto, the ex-Yankee shortstop.Murcer expects he'll feel a lot more more comfortable nce he learns how to keep a box score. Ang sometimes he falls into taking about "we" and "us". Beyond Wimbledon headlines
Though long noted as the stuffed shirt of tennis tournaments, Wimbleton is gradually entering the modern age. Specifically, it has begun to treat women and men more equally. This year, for example, women were allowed to play on Wimbledon's opening day for the first time. As a result, 30 more players could be accomodated in the women's draw.
Prize money is no close to being even. The men's singles champion receives $ 103,000; the women's winner $10,000 less, a difference that has some parallel in playing formats. The men play best-of-five-set matches; the women best-of-three. (The "liberated" US Open, it should be mentioned, offers equal pay and identical 128-player draws.)
Wimbledon is giving greater consideration to women in match scheduling, an effort not always appreciated. For instance, earlier this week the Andrea Jaeger-Carling Bassett match was selected for center court over the men's match that saw Kevin Curren upset defending champion Jimmy ConnorS. Asked the logic of the court assignements, an official replied, "We have to be fair to the sexes , don't we?"
Connors, by the way, is due to see a lot more of Curren. Within the next two weeks he will play Curren, Johan Kriek, and Ivan Lendl in a four-man South African event arranged before his Wimbleton upset. Connors and Curren then go on to play two additional matches in Cape Town, with Jimmy standing to make up to a half million dollars during this 10-day swing. Curren is a native South African now living in Austin, Texas. An NBA draft surprise
There was absolutely no suspense surrounding the first player chosen in this week's National Basketball Association draft. Everyone knew that the Houston Rockets would take Virginia's 7 ft. 4 in. Ralph Sampson with the No. 1 pick, which they gladly did. If there was a first-round surprise it was the later-than-anticipated selection off 6 ft. 7 in. Clyde (The Glide) Drexler, a University of Houston forward headed for the Portland Trail Blazers. Thirteen other players were snatched up before Drexler, who not only was an All-American and the most spectacular member of Houston's Phi Slama Jama "fraternity," but also a big hit with the children he worked with in his old Houston neighborhood.
Some fans even staged a placard-carrying "Draft Drexler" rally in front of the city's Summit arena. With good cause, they were concerned that the Rockets might look elsewhere on the draft's No. 3 overall pick, which Houston had acquired. And indeed, the Rockets went for Louisville's Rodney McCray after Indiana took Missouri's Steve Stipanovich.
So why the reluctance about the flashy, classy Drexler? Clyde has never really developed a good outside shot. He never really needed to, at least not in the college ranks, where he used his quickness and exceptional leaping ability to score inside. Many fans will remember the incredible sequence from last season in which he sailed over an opponent for a dunk.