The Not So Happy Recap
Another touchstone to my youth has vanished. Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy died yesterday, less than a year after retiring from broadcasting.
Bob was no Red Barber or even a Vin Scully in terms of impact across America’s consciousness, but his voice was one I grew up with, first hearing it as he called games on WOR, channel 9, and I watched Mets games with my Dad. As an adult, I knew spring was really here when I heard him call the first Spring Training game on WFAN. It made me smile, it gave me comfort and was one of the few constants in my life.
This past March, I was driving somewhere with Kate and I tuned in the game. Upon hearing his voice, she broke into a smile. For her too, Bob Murphy was a sign that brighter days were ahead.
In a world where things change regularly, Bob calling Mets games for 42 years is an impressive feat. His upbeat approach to the games, both the good and the incredibly bad (see 1962 Mets), kept you in a positive frame of mind. He spoke plainly, without a lot of colorful phrases and his trademark call at the end of games, “The Happy Recap,” developed by accident. Even though he started on radio, he had come to embrace television and was unhappy when he was relegated solely to the radio booth in 1981. But he settled in, was a pro, and did his job without complaint. (And for those who don’t know, it was his older brother Jack, for whom Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego was named.)
Over time, age caught up with him. In the past we used to chuckle at Ralph Kiner’s malaprops but when Murph started the habit as well, you had to wince. In the final few seasons, his analysis was reduced to comments like, “You’re right, Gary” and then repeat his partner Gary Cohen’s thought.
But Murph called a good game, even when the analysis atrophied. His voice was steady, his tone unchanging. I thought it was very classy of the Milwaukee Brewers, hosting the Mets last night, to honor Bob with a moment of silence before the game. (The New York Times and Hollywood Reporter both had nice obits this morning.) And for Ed Coleman and Gary Thorne, there was a 12-3 win allowing them to have a Happy Recap with which to honor Bob’s professionalism and commitment to the team.
Spring just won’t have the same feeling anymore. Rest easy, Murph.