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Memorial Day Memories of Two Players Proud to Serve

dedicating a plaque to thurman munson nearly forty years ago

A plaque dedicated to the late New York Yankee catcher Thurman Munson is viewed by his widow Diana and Yankee outfield Bobby Murcer during ceremonies before the game with the Boston Red Sox at Yankees Stadium, Sept. 20, 1980.  (Ray Stubblebine/AP)

By Friday, 22 May 2020 05:23 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Memorial Day represents different things to different people.

To some, it's soldiers on the front lines to others it's family members going overseas and wondering if we were ever going to see them again.

Each Memorial Day is just so many things.

To me, I remember being such a big Yankee fan and being upset that the next Mickey Mantle (Bobby Murcer) was being drafted by the Army. The fact that he was going to be gone for two years really hurt because as a young Bronx/Brooklyn kid, I thought Bobby was the coolest thing to ever come to the Yankees since Mickey Mantle.

A couple of years later the same thing happened to this little fat catcher named Thurman Munson. When Thurman first got to the Yankees in 1969 I thought he was the next Yogi Berra. However, the Army came knocking for him too.

As a fan who endured the retirement of his hero, Mickey Mantle, and a couple of last place finishes it really hurt that two players who looked like future Hall of Famers were being taken by the U.S. Army.

For a time, Thurman Munson was stationed at a base in New Jersey.

So, every once in a while he got weekend leave and was able to come to the Bronx to play.

Those weekends were a big tease because it gave us fans a chance to see what the future looked like.

With Murcer, we had to wait two full years before he got back. We did get to see a little glimpse of him before he left for the Army.

Murcer actually got to play with his hero Mickey Mantle on a September call-up.

When Murcer finally got back to New York in 1969 he was still only 23-years-old.

Bobby Murcer instantly became everyones hero.

When I joined the Yankees as a batboy in 1973, the two guys I was so excited about meeting were Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer. They were closer than brothers.

The actually taught me what friendship really meant.

They also explained that they didnt have any regret at all in serving our country in the armed services.

They were quite proud.

In 1973 and 1974 these two men impacted me so much that following the 1974 season I was joining the U.S. Army Reserve. But, a funny thing happened on my way to the recruiter. In those days they used to have a January baseball draft.

Before leaving to sign up for the reserves, the phone rang and I had been drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I told my mom. She got very upset because she thought I was talking about being drafted by the Army and that they were sending me off to war. When my Puerto Rican mom realized that it was a baseball draft she was the happiest person in the world.

Naturally, I did sign with the Pirates.

My batting average was less than my weight and thanks to George Steinbrenner, I ended up going back to the Yankees.

This is my Memorial Day story.

I am always so very proud that two men that I loved more than brothers were proud to serve their country. More importantly, I can honestly say that they were two of the most wonderful individuals I've ever known.

They truly had a role in who I would become. Thanks M & M Boys.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Read Ray Negron's Reports — More Here.

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As a fan who endured the retirement of his hero, Mickey Mantle, and a couple of last place finishes it really hurt that two players who looked like future Hall of Famers were being taken by the U.S. Army.
munson, mantle, murcer
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2020-23-22
Friday, 22 May 2020 05:23 PM
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