Murcer pays Yanks unexpected visit
Broadcaster's strength improving in recovery from brain cancer
NEW YORK -- As the Yankees prepared to bat in the bottom of the third inning on Monday, waves of applause gave way to a roaring standing ovation, working its way up from the dugout floors to the top decks of the stadium.
Bobby Murcer had returned.
The longtime Yankees broadcaster and former All-Star outfielder made a surprise appearance on Monday for what he astutely noted will be the second-to-last Opening Day at the current Yankee Stadium.
"I just think it's one of the most special days that you could ever have in baseball," Murcer said. "If you have an opportunity to be at Yankee Stadium ... I think that's very special."
That alone would make the trip a memorable and worthwhile one, but for Murcer -- who continues his fight after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in December -- the trip took on added importance.
His lost locks of white hair are beginning to grow back in as fuzz, and he sports a scar from the surgery, just one reminder of frequent and continuing trips to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
But Murcer's voice -- the rich, warm Oklahoma twang that has greeted Yankees fans for years -- remains strong. With his body beginning to follow suit, Murcer vowed that he will return on a full-time basis to deliver broadcasts for the team he loves "very soon."
"I feel terrific, I really do," Murcer said. "My strength is pretty much all the way back now.
"I'm pretty much doing the same workouts today as before I had surgery. We're glad about that. God has been good to us and blessed us."
About 90 minutes before Murcer found himself waving toward the playing field, looking down as the Yankees ascended their dugout steps and applauded, he was reminiscing about his many Opening Days at Yankee Stadium.
The first one, back in 1966, wasn't a World Series title year, but so many of those that followed seemed to be, sprinkled among Murcer's playing and broadcast careers as sparkling gems of attendance.
"It's hard to miss Opening Day," Murcer admitted.
Before the game, Murcer was led through the Yankees clubhouse by manager Joe Torre and into the trainer's office, where a parade of players -- including Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte -- halted their pregame routines, abandoned their lockers and ventured over to wish Murcer well.
As Murcer recalled, Pettitte even went out to lunch with Murcer in Houston before reporting to Spring Training. Murcer said that the left-hander picked up the tab, though with Murcer's treatment regimen, he hadn't taken full advantage of Pettitte's generosity.
"It was only $7.95," Murcer said. "I wasn't eating much in those days."
Murcer continues to be appreciative of the overwhelming support he has received from baseball fans as his battle continues. As his energy level continues to increase, he has marveled at the love and affection that has come from all corners.
Murcer joked that he had realized he was doing pretty well in the prayers department when he started getting fan mail postmarked from pockets of Red Sox faithful along with the countless parcels of Yankees fan mail, joining in sending along warm wishes.
Murcer's wife, Kay, said that her husband has been doing "incredible."
"He's surprised all the doctors," she said. "Because he was in great physical condition going into the surgery, he has not been typical at all. I kind of knew he has not been typical for a long time."
"Now what do you mean by that?" Murcer retorted, laughing.
Indeed, Opening Day is always a day when optimism and hope reign supreme. With Murcer's arrival and presence, an overcast day in the Bronx appeared just a little bit brighter.
"It's always good to say, 'Yes, I was at Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in 2007,'" Murcer said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.