Sep 14, 2016

Mets Legendary Broadcaster: Bob Murphy (1962-2003)

Robert Allen Murphy was born September 19, 1924 in Oklahoma.

Bob spent fifty years doing play-by-play of MLB games on television and radio. 41 years of those years were spent with his beloved New York Mets, from their inception in 1962 until his retirement in 2003.

Murphy’s first broadcast job was in the minor leagues, with the level D Muskogee, Oklahoma Reds.

His first major league job was with the Boston Red Sox in 1954, working with the legendary Curt Gowdy. Murphy stayed in Boston broadcasting the Red Sox for six years, seeing them finish a highest of third place twice. He then moved to the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons 1960-1961. His call of Roger Maris' record-tying 60th HR in 1961 was what he used as an audition tape that landed him a job with the expansion New York Mets in 1962.

Quotes: Bob’s introduction to the New York Mets went like this in 1962-“This is Bob Murphy welcoming you to the first regular season game in the history of the New York Mets. Tonight the New York Mets meet the St. Louis Cardinals right here in St. Louis.”

Murphy would be part of a three man rotation of announcers, along with Lindsey Nelson & Ralph Kiner. The trio would broadcast Mets games on the radio & on television through the 1978 season. They would usually do three innings of work each on WOR Channel 9 TV, then switch to the radio booth. The three would also narrate the Mets highlights films after each season, and do commercial spots for various sponsors. Who could forget Murphy’s classic spots for Rheingold & Schafer beers throughout the Mets history?

Murphy became known for his optimistic & positive outlook on the game. He would almost never criticize the players & always tried to fins the good in a situation. Everyone knew he was happier when the Mets won, but he would not openly root for the team in any way. Only in the end after each Mets win would he say “we’ll be back with a happy recap in just a moment”.

His love for baseball would have him equally excited when a fine play was made by the visiting team just as if it was made by the Mets.

He was said to have painted a picture of each baseball game he broadcast with his own words & his unique delivery. Somehow with Bob Murphy who never seemed to get to down, you always had a feeling the Mets could comeback when you heard his voice.

Murphy reported the Mets through the early years at the Polo Grounds as the fan base grew. He then found a seat in the grand new ballpark known as Shea Stadium in 1964 with the World’s Fair as it’s neighbor in the background.

By 1969 Murphy was there for the Amazing Mets as they shocked the baseball world winning the World Series.

He was at the mic in the 9th inning at Shea Stadium on July 9th for Tom Seaver’s famous imperfect game: "And it's hit hard to leftfield...It's going to be a base hit...A base hit by Jimmy Qualls and it breaks up the perfect game...Now the applause for Tom Seaver...Eight and one third innings of perfect baseball by Seaver."

On September 24th he made another famous call as the Mets won the Eastern Division. "The crowd is chanting, 'We're number one!' The Mets made up fifteen-and-a-half games since the 13th of August. Lou Brock is on second, and Vic Davalillo, the runner on first with one man out...ninth inning, 6-0, New York.

Gentry pitching, working hard here against Joe Torre. Now in the set position, here's the pitch...ground ball hit to shortstop...Harrelson to Weiss, there's one, first base...Double play...The Mets Win! It's All Over! Ohhhh, the roar going up from this crowd! An unbelievable scene on the are pouring out on the field."

Murphy's joyous voice filled the airwaves again in 1973 as the Mets rose from the cellar at the end of August to the coming within one game of winning another the World Series.

It was the year of "You Gotta Believe” & all throughout 1973, Murph's voice seemed to be there for each dramatic moment. From the ball off the ball play at Shea Stadium in late September to out that clinched the NL Pennant as John Milner flipped to Tug McGraw in the rain at Wrigley Field on the last day of the season.

"Now the stretch by McGraw...the 3-2 delivery...the runner goes...a little pop up...Milner's got it...he'll run to first...Double play! The Mets win the pennant! The Mets have just won the pennant in the Eastern Division! It's all over! They won the pennant with a magnificent stretch drive."

In the 1973 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds it was Bobs call on the radio to the New York fans that let everyone know “a fight breaks out at second base”.

In his voice you heard the surprise & the disgust as he mentioned how much bigger Pete Rose was than little Bud Harrelson “Rose outweighs Buddy Harrelson by about thirty five pounds”.

Murphy called the classic Game #5 as the Mets won the pennant & went to the World Series falling one game short of another miracle.

Murphy continued to broadcast the Mets through the seventies as the team that was once a family had changed. Tom Seaver was gone & the Mets fell into last place. Broadcast partner Lindsey Nelson left New York for the west coast San Francisco Giants in 1979 he was replaced by Steve Albert for three seasons.

Prior to 1982, the Mets announcers had done television and radio on a rotational system. When one was on TV, another would take over on radio, and the other would take a three inning break. As a general rule, the Mets did not have two men in the broadcasting booth, as is so common today.

In 1982, Murphy was taken out of the television booth, and placed solely on the radio. He was joined by Steve Lamar that season who also strictly did radio for the Mets broadcasts.

At first Murphy wasn’t happy about being exiled into radio, but with his class he never complained, took on the job & mastered it.

Many say that play-by-play of baseball on the radio requires a lot more skill than on television, because the broadcaster must be able to inspire the listener's imagination. This is where Bob Murphy was the master, from his description of the weather at the ballpark to the size of the crowds, you saw it through Bob’s radio eyes.

Murphy like a great artist was even able to paint the perfect picture of baseball right down to the puffy cumulus clouds on warm sunny days. For the rest of his career, with the exception of a few emergency situations, he announced exclusively in the radio booth.

Bob & Joy Murphy
In 1984 he was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame. Bob truly took over as the voice of summer for Mets fans as the team once again became contenders in the mid eighties. 
From the steady play of Keith Hernandez, to the monstrous HRs of Daryl Strawberry to the phenom pitching of Dwight Gooden, it was Bob’s voice who brought it to us.

By 1986 the Mets were the best team in baseball and were back in the postseason for the first time in 13 years, and it was Bob Murphy whos voice is remembered with its biggest thrills.

Murphy's call of Lenny Dykstra's ninth inning walk off HR at Shea Stadium in Game #3 of the 1986 NLCS. "Lenny Dykstra, the man they call Nails on the Mets ball club is waiting...Now the pitch and it's a high fly ball hit to right field...It's fairly deep...It's way back, by the wall...A home run!! A home run!! The Mets win the ballgame...Dykstra wins it...Len Dykstra hit a home run...This ballgame is over...Lenny Dykstra is being mobbed by his teammates." 

Murphy's call on October 25, 1986, Game #6 of the World Series: "Mookie Wilson still hopes to win it for New York...3-2 the count...And the pitch by Stanley...And a ground ball trickling...It's a fair ball. It gets by Buckner! Rounding third is Knight...The Mets will win the ballgame...They win! They win!" -

Murphy's call of the final out of the 1986 World Series: "Now the pitch on the way...He struck him out...Struck him out! The Mets have won the World Series! The dream has come true. The Mets have won the World Series coming from behind to win the seventh game." -

Bob witnessed more than 6,000 Mets games and was behind the microphone for the club's six trips to the post-season and two World Championships. In his own words Murphy said, "It's hard to single out one game, but Game Six of the 1986 NLCS at Houston is one that stands out for me," once noted Murphy.

Murph went through those Mets glory years with another fine announcer at his side Gary Thorne. He got to another Eastern Divisional title in 1988 with his new broadcast partner Gary Cohen.

 As some more down years followed in the 1990’s Murphy received the Ford Frick Award & earned a spot in the broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. At Shea Stadium the Mets named the radio booth the Bob Murphy Radio Booth in his honor.

In the twilight of his career Murphy got to see the Mets get to two more post seasons including a Subway World Series in 2000. In 2002 the radio booth in Shea Stadium was renamed the Bob Murphy Radio booth in his honor. As the new millennium rolled in he was aging, his eyes & his health began to go down hill. He no longer sounded like the smooth broadcaster he once was.

At a game against the Cincinnati Reds I was at in 2003 he announced his retirement at the end of the season.

In the final home game of the 2003 season, the Mets honored him on Bob Murphy night September 25, 2003.

On July 25, 1990 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the Mets took a 10-3 lead into the ninth inning. But the Phillies opened the inning with seven consecutive singles, a walk, and scored six runs to narrow the Mets lead to one run.

Finally the Mets were able to turn a double-play and get a line drive out. By the end of the inning Murphy showed a rare display of emotion as his patience had worn thin. As the game finally ended, he famously said, "The Mets win! They win the damn thing by a score of 10 to 9!"

The actual chance that Bob would use a bad word was so out of character, that it became one of his more memorable moments following his retirement.

After the 2003 season, Murphy retired to sunny Florida. He passed away of lung cancer in August of 2004 in West Palm Beach Florida at the age of 79. After his passing, the Mets honored Murphy's memory by wearing a patch on the left sleeve of their uniforms for the rest of the 2004 season. 

A standing room only crowd including hundreds of Mets fans jammed St. Patrick's Cathedral for Bob’s memorial service. Mets owner Fred Wilpon led a both current players like Mike Piazza and Al Leiter as well as former Mets Keith Hernandez, Ed Charles and Bud Harrelson. Wilpon and broadcaster Gary Thorne delivered the eulogies. "For 42 years, he was with us for every beautiful summer's day," Wilpon said. "His impact on Mets fans will live on for generations."

Quotes: Gary Thorne, former Mets broadcaster & ESPN announcer; “He was my former radio partner with the Mets, a Hall of Fame announcer and a good friend.

In his memory, all of us who love the game might remember just what made Bob and his band of broadcast brothers such a joy to hear. They put the game first. They cared about their listeners.

They painted the word picture for the enjoyment of their audience, In 50 years of broadcasting, Bob Murphy left behind a treasure chest of memories. He showed us all how powerful words can be when they're spoken by one of the great voices of the game.”

Gary Cohen-Mets Broadcaster: "What stands out the most about Bob is the first game I ever broadcast for the Mets, in 1988.
Bob & A Young Gary Cohen

I was filling in for one night and I was a minor-league kid who had looked up to Murph from the time I was 6 years old. I was petrified, to put it lightly. 

At one point early in the broadcast, I just froze. I didn't know what to say or do next. Murph reached out with his hand and patted mine and took over, making the rest of the evening easy. He was a very sweet man. He made sure that I was comfortable and that I could function and succeed, and I'll never forget that."
Trivia: Murphy was also an announcer for the New York Titans (now the New York Jets) of the American Football League (before they joined the NFL. In addition, in 1973, he hosted the New York edition of Bowling for Dollars, a locally-produced game show, on WOR-TV.

His brother Jack Murphy was a sports writer who was instrumental in bringing MLB to San Diego. The former Padres home Jack Murphy Stadium was named in his honor.

from centerfield: For me there was no more favorite of announcer than Bob Murphy. As a kid I grew up with Bob from the Miracle of '69 through the pennant of '73, he brought it all to life  for me. I remember seeing him leave the ballpark once when I was a kid & he seemed like some kind of a star, as he got into a private car driving off.

Later as I got older in the late seventies, I remember mimicking his voice in school. "It's beautiful daaaaaay for baseball" (in a classic Bob voice). Then again in my partying days of the mid eighties, my friends & I would once again imitate Bobs voice with more of an adult humor added to it.

As I got older, it became such a pleasure listening to Bobs broadcasting, as if it were like an art. At times, I would keep the TV's volume down & put Bobs radio broadcast on instead. He is greatly missed & was a huge part of my centerfieldmaz 's Mets history.


BERT said...

Bob Murphy is my favorite Met of All-time. Great comment about how he may have been a homer, but not a cheerleader. Long for another Beeyoutiful Day!

Eddie said...

As much as I enjoy getting and reading Centerfieldmaz, I do have to say the one on Bob Murphy was the nicest and best yet. I just finished reading it and had to write you right away. Brought back a lot of nice memories, and yes I almost got a little choked up! Well done, my friend....