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07/14/2008

Forever A Yankee

Baseball Quiz: [From information I saw in the NY Times about
a month ago.] Switch-hitters have led the league in hitting 11
times, but one did it three times and another twice, so .name
the eight to accomplish the feat. Hint: The first to do so did it in
1956. The last, 2003. Answer below.

Bobby Murcer

You know what sucks? Losing good people. That’s what Tony
Snow and Bobby Murcer were just good people. In the case of
Yankee great Murcer, being a Mets fan I normally couldn’t care
less about those on that other team in town, but you had to love
Bobby. He exuded class.

And in fact I was in Yankee Stadium for what proved to be a
historic doubleheader with the Indians where Murcer was
featured prominently. As I noted in this space back on May 7,
2001, I witnessed Bobby hitting four home runs in a row over the
two games on June 24, 1970. But this was also the same
doubleheader in which a kid threw an ash can from the stands
that exploded under Indians’ catcher Ray Fosse’s shin guard,
which needless to say stunned him, and it was the day that
Yankee hurler Steve Hamilton unveiled his folly floater, which
he used to strike out Cleveland third-sacker Graig Nettles. [Save
yourself from looking it up Nettles didn’t become a Yankee
until 1973.]

Murcer was born in 1946 in Oklahoma City and as he worked his
way up the Yankees’ farm system, comparisons to fellow Okie
Mickey Mantle became inevitable. Bobby would finish his
career with 252 home runs and 1,043 RBI to go along with a .277
career average. Not quite Mantle numbers, but good enough to
make five All-Star teams. And as Johnny Mac told me, “Bobby
bore the burden of not fulfilling the hype far better than most.”

Steve Politi / Star-Ledger

“Goose Gossage was waiting in a terminal at Dulles Airport in
suburban Washington, D.C., when he heard the news. He felt his
knees buckle and his stomach turn. He dropped his carry-on bag
and started to cry.

“He was supposed to be flying to New York for the All-Star
Game, an event billed as a three-day sendoff for Yankee
Stadium. But now? The next three days are all about Bobby
Murcer. The greatest living ballplayers will gather in the city
starting today, and you know where their thoughts are going to
be.

“ ‘I’m numb. I’m shocked. I’m just oh, man,’ Gossage said,
his voice cracking. ‘I loved the guy.’

“He knew that the man he called ‘the best teammate you could
ever have’ was fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer. He
knew his health had deteriorated in recent weeks, that the
radiation and chemotherapy had taken their toll.

“And still, the news yesterday hit him like a sucker punch to the
gut. He said he felt as nauseous as he did that awful day 29 years
ago when Thurman Munson’s plane crashed in an Ohio field.

“Murcer was at his side that day. He was the rock that carried
the Yankees through one of the darkest moments in their history,
the one who delivered the eulogy in the morning and won the
game at night. [Ed. In a stirring performance, Murcer drove in
all five runs in a 5-4 victory.]

“Now the Yankees will have to find the strength to bury Bobby
Murcer. He was the player who so often was the answer to the
question, ‘Who is your favorite Yankee?’ He was the man who
never lost his smile or optimism even when the cancer put him
through hell .

“There are more accomplished players in Yankees history than
Bobby Murcer, Hall of Famers with bigger numbers and more
world championships. But for a generation of fans, no player
was more beloved. He was the one reason to turn on WPIX and
watch games after the dynasty of the ‘60s crumbled, the young
player fans latched on to during some difficult seasons.

“It is never easy to pinpoint exactly what makes a player a fan
favorite. With Murcer, maybe it was as simple as knowing that
he never took a night off. Maybe it was the sense that, beyond
being a very good ballplayer, fans were cheering for an even
better person.”

You know how I’m a Mets fan and throughout my years
following the sport in this area have been your basic Yankee
hater, which means I’ve been immensely jealous of their success
vs. my own team’s lack of it.

But there are three Yankees who stand out for me. I loved
Mickey Mantle, I respect the hell out of Derek Jeter because he is
a flat out winner, and I couldn’t help but like Bobby Murcer
because he was simply such a good guy in all respects.

Even for you non-baseball fans, you may want to tune into Fox
around 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday because they will offer a
moment of silence for Bobby Murcer before playing the All-Star
Game. It’s going to be very emotional and a well-deserved
tribute.

Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who worked in the
broadcast booth with Murcer, really said it best on Saturday.

“Bobby got what life was about. It was about making life better
for people around him.”

---

Dr. Michael DeBakey

The noted heart surgeon died on Friday. He was 99.

Back in 2005, the Journal of the American Medical Association
stated, “Many consider Michael DeBakey to be the greatest
surgeon ever.” DeBakey pioneered procedures on blocked
arteries in the neck, legs and heart and his techniques have been
employed around the world to save literally millions.

DeBakey, working out of his base in Houston, which helped put
it on the map as a major center of medicine, was also a leader in
developing mechanical devices to assist failing hearts. And,
incredibly, DeBakey, at 97, survived a torn aorta, thanks to a
procedure he had devised himself 50 years earlier and then he
went back to work! In all, DeBakey performed over 60,000
surgeries.

His list of accomplishments goes on and on. For instance, during
World War II, DeBakey helped modernize battlefield surgery,
developing what would later be called MASH units in the
Korean War. For this the Army later awarded him the Legion of
Merit.

Among DeBakey’s more famous patients were Boris Yeltsin, the
shah of Iran, former King Edward VIII, King Hussein of Jordan,
Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, Leo Durocher and Jerry Lewis. But
he was just as eager to work on penniless peasants. “Once you
incise the skin, you find that they are all very similar,” he once
said.

But DeBakey was a hard-ass, an example of which was a
disagreement with fellow doctor Denton Cooley which left them
bitter rivals for nearly 40 years. DeBakey also wasn’t known to
suffer fools gladly in the operating room and often belittled
assistants, whether they deserved it or not.

Stuff

[Some of this is old, but I was catching up on all my publications
upon my return from Oregon.]

--Quite a story in swimmer Eric Shanteau, who qualified for the
Olympic team even as he deals with testicular cancer.

Just a week before leaving for the U.S. Olympic Trials, Shanteau
told the AP’s Paul Newberry that he learned he has cancer.

“I was sort of like, ‘This isn’t real. There’s no way this is
happening to me right now,’” he said. “You’re trying to get
ready for the Olympics, and you just get this huge bomb dropped
on you.”

His doctors cleared him to go to Omaha, where he wasn’t really
expected to do well enough to qualify, but then he finished
second in the 200-meter breaststroke, finishing ahead of world-
record holder Brendan Hansen in a major upset.

So now he’s putting off surgery until after the Games because it
would keep him out of the water for two weeks, ruining his
preparation. But lest you think Shanteau is being too reckless,
doctors will be monitoring him constantly and if there is any sign
the cancer is spreading, he’ll immediately withdraw.

--But then you go from a heroic story like Eric Shanteau’s to
quarterback Brett Favre’s. Like every other football junkie in
America, I couldn’t help but like the guy throughout his career.
Bottom line, while he wasn’t always a winner despite all his
records, he was fun to watch.

But boy has he jerked everyone around with his latest
retire/unretire act and it’s good to see Green Bay Packers
officials finally say “enough already.”

Now we learn that after announcing his retirement in a tearful
news conference March 6, just a few weeks later Favre was
backtracking. So coach Mike McCarthy was preparing to fly
down to Mississippi to visit with Brett when Favre called to say,
according to McCarthy this past weekend, that “he appreciated
all the planning we were going to do, but he felt that at this point,
he had reached a point of closure, to use his words, and he was
going to stick with his initial decision.”

At that point the Packers became more committed than ever to
backup Aaron Rodgers as their starter. But even in May, a team
official met with Favre, just in case, only to have Favre tell him
his decision was, yes, indeed, final.

So then in June, as we’ve also just learned, suddenly Favre told
Green Bay, “Give me my helmet or give me my release.” But
when McCarthy asked Favre if he was ready to give football a
100% commitment, Favre said no.

Confused? No wonder the Packers are pissed today with Favre
demanding the team release him while Green Bay counters,
‘Sure, you can come back, but you’re backing up Rodgers and,
no, we aren’t going to release you so you can go to another team
and burn us.’

Now it’s possible Green Bay will be forced to work out a trade.
Brett Favre has lost me .and it’s amazing he doesn’t see how
many millions of fans will feel as I do should he come back.
This was a great quarterback, with a big heart, but he’s an idiot.
And these days, with all the problems we have, let alone losing
examples of class and courage like Bobby Murcer, Favre’s
actions stand in stark contrast to all I really care about.

--Paula Creamer fired a first round 60 at this week’s Jamie Farr
LPGA tourney, birdying 9 of the last 11 holes. Annika
Sorenstam is the only woman to shoot 59 in an LPGA event.
Creamer then went on to win the event, her 7th career title, while
Michelle Wie made the cut and tied for 46th. I’ll have more on
her situation, Thursday. It’s kind of intriguing for you golf nuts
out there.

--Legendary writer Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest is getting up in
years, like I think he is 97, or thereabouts, which allows him to
pretty much write anything he feels like because what the hell
can anyone do about it?

In the August 2008 issue, Jenkins had some of the following
concerning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

“The most fascinating incident on Friday had nothing to do with
Tiger’s game, although it did involve his threesome. Tony
Navarro, (Adam) Scott’s caddie, got into it with an unruly fan at
the ninth tee. The caddie suggested they meet at the bottom of
the hill. They did, and observers declared Navarro the winner on
points. The 7-year-old son of the unruly fan was in the gallery, as
was the unruly fan’s father, who was also apprehended. In the
end, it struck those of us who appreciate dark humor that the kid,
seeing his dad and granddad being led away, would in future
years have a fond remembrance of an incident that occurred
within 48 hours of Father’s Day 2008.”

On Phil Mickelson, who started out the tournament with no
driver and five wedges:

“The funniest thing was how Mickelson ended his chances on the
par-5 13th hole on Saturday. That day he put the driver back in
his bag and removed one wedge. Could have been the one he
needed to pitch the ball onto the green in less than four tries on
his way to a 9.

“That begged the question of whether Phil’s brain needs more
rehabilitating than Tiger’s knee.”

--The other week at the PGA Tour’s stop at Congressional
(Tiger’s event that he missed), the Tour took more than 15,000
shots in an attempt to quantify slow play. Now followers of the
sport won’t be surprised to learn the biggest culprit was Ben
Crane, but I just thought it was funny how long he actually takes
(after he is ready to hit it like after a club is selected). 58
seconds. 20 seconds longer than the average. Go ahead, grab a
beer and count out 58 seconds. That would absolutely drive me
crazy, seeing as I hold the record at my club of playing a full 18,
walking, and in a twosome, in 2 hours 10 minutes. [I also bought
my current home in 10 minutes, if that. I had places to go,
people to see, after all.]

--Former PGA Tour golfer Mike Souchak died. He was 81.
Souchak won 15 events but never a major. He’s best
remembered, though, for his 257 in the 1955 Texas Open,
including an opening round 60; a record that stood until Mark
Calcavecchia’s 256 at the 2001 Phoenix Open.

--47-year-old Kenny Perry (he turns 48 in August) won his 3rd
PGA Tour event in five starts in a playoff at the John Deere and
now has 12 wins for his career. Quite a stretch but he’s chosen
not to go to the British Open, which kind of bothers some of us,
though not enough to call for a Congressional inquiry, I hasten to
add.

--This wasn’t good enough for a separate quiz, but for 19th hole
conversation, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh have each had five
runners-up to Tiger Woods, the leaders in this category, and thus
theoretically stand to benefit the most from his absence. Phil
Mickelson and Davis Love III each have four.

--Talk about a bummer. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen Jay
Haas on the Champions Tour leaderboard recently and it turns
out he is on the “physically unable to perform list.” The reason?
Jay’s daughter was marrying former Vanderbilt quarterback
Steven Bright (the backup to Jay Cutler) and at the rehearsal
dinner, Jay was covering Bright on some pass patterns. So
someone said “Jay’s faster than you” and they decided to do
some sprints, at which point Jay, 54, I think, pulled a hammy.

Now I feel like I know the Haas family just a little from
following Bill Haas at Q-School for six rounds and getting to
know his mother, and I can just picture how this all played out.
They be good people, as we like to say.

--According to Golf Datatech, which tracks play at 3,860
courses, the number of rounds played was down 5% in May over
May ’07. Not the kind of trend you like to see, though weather
could have had something to do with it.

--From John Hawkins / GolfWorld:

“Who knew June would be Foot-in-Mouth month for two of
golf’s most decorated and least quotable has-beens? Vijay Singh
insulted a nation by saying British golfers don’t win majors
because they get complacent. Retief Goosen then accused Tiger
Woods of supersizing all that wounded-knee theater during his
heroic U.S. Open triumph, and just like that, Rory Sabbatini has
lost sole possession of the orange-and-black-striped dunce cap.

“Singh, who will never be arrested for impersonating a man with
an abundance of interesting observations, offered his lazy Brit
theory to the Daily Telegraph, which won’t qualify him for
bonus intellect points. A surly soul who beats balls in his sleep
probably can’t help but question the work ethic of others, and
though the jingoistic context shouldn’t be overplayed, Kelly
Tilghman meant no evil, either.”

As for Goosen, Retief said:

“Nobody knows if he was just showing off or if he was really
injured. It seemed that when he hit a bad shot, he was in pain,
and on good shots, he wasn’t. When he made putts and was
[celebrating], his knee wasn’t sore.” Goosen later tried to say he
was just kidding.

Hawkins:

“If you thought Woods wasn’t sore last week, Goose, wait until
he catches you in a late-Sunday pairing with two good wheels
and a trophy on the line. Those tire tracks on your back won’t
leave you wincing as would a torn ACL, but then a little pain
never hurt anyone, right?”

--So I received a letter back from GTS Vineyards. You know,
Tom Seaver’s. Basically, you have two options; 12 bottles for
$940 or 6 for $470. You’re on your own from here. I already
gave you the address before and now I don’t want anyone in line
in front of me. [I haven’t really decided. That’s a ton of money,
after all.]

But I did enjoy receiving the autopen signature on the form letter
because I was able to then match it against a signature of his on a
photo given to me as a gift when I left PIMCO over nine years
ago and it would appear .we have a match! This is good.
Very good.

--In a Sports Illustrated survey of nearly 500 major league
ballplayers, 88% said Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of
Fame and 85% felt Pete Rose should. What else would you
expect? They polled current players, most of whom were
munching steroids, or taking them up their (we call on Jesse
Jackson to complete the sentence). I’m actually surprised there
are 12% to 15% who have the character to answer the question
differently. I haven’t totally decided what to do with Clemens in
terms of the Hall, but as for Rose I’ve long advocated that he be
told, “Pete, you get into Cooperstown, but only when you’re
dead.”

--For the past three years in the minor leagues, they’ve been
experimenting with a rule that mandates that a hitter keep one
foot in the batter’s box between pitches or else have a strike rung
up on him. Next season, the major leagues will adopt the same
policy in an effort to speed things up a bit. In 2007 the average
minor league game was 2:43 in length while a major league
contest was 2:52. Of course we all know National League games
are played in 2:20 and American League ones in 6:43.

--From Phil Mushnick / New York Post:

“A close friend has been a Mets’ season tickets holder since
1964, when Shea Stadium opened. He has four box seats.

“In 1993, his bill, including parking, was $5,837. By 1998, it
had doubled, to $11,836. Two years ago, the same deal was for
$23,702 (another bill, sent in August, for $8,660, was for
postseason tickets, with a payment deadline of Sept. 8. He has
been providing the Mets such interest-free loans for years).

“This year, when he was charged $33,300 for his regular season
tickets, full payment due Jan. 15, he was pushed closer to the
edge.

“This week, a Mets rep called him to provide renewal details for
next season, the first in the Mets’ new park. His tickets will cost
him $56,700. The price of parking has not yet been established,
thus he can expect a total bill of roughly $60,000.

“ ‘It’s beyond absurd,’ he said. ‘They want $60,000 from me,
yet, on short notice, they’re going to keep switching afternoon
games to Sunday nights (for ESPN money). Yeah, I’m going to
head home from a Sunday baseball game after midnight. And
pay $700 a game, just for the tickets.”

As Mushnick adds, “My friend’s a wealthy man. He didn’t
become one by writing bigger checks for worsening deals. The
Mets have finally priced him out.”

--And get this. Ticket prices for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at
Yankee Stadium are going for from $150 to $725. $150 for the
cheapest seat?! Good god.

--The founder of the Benihana chain of steakhouses, Rocky
Aoki, passed away. He was 69. It’s easy to forget what a
trailblazer he was. And I forgot it all started with a restaurant on
West 56th Street in Manhattan back in 1964. Growing up, we
had one ten minutes from my home and going to it was
considered a real treat. Today, I have to admit I never think of
going there.

But what I remember most about Aoki was that he was quite the
daredevil. He loved his speedboat racing. Once, he suffered a
ruptured aorta, a lacerated liver and a leg broken in four places as
a result of a crash.

--Allen H. passed along a story out of Wisconsin concerning the
impact beer has on the state’s economy. According to a study by
the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
Wisconsin is home to seven of the country’s top 10 metropolitan
areas with the most bars per capita. [I was a bit surprised that
Jersey City, N.J., Atlantic City, N.J. and Scranton, Pa. rounded
off the listing. I’m assuming the Jersey City entry includes next
door neighbor Hoboken, which back in the 1950s was known to
have more bars per capita than anywhere in the U.S. Heck, I
remember how in 1980 you could still walk into a bar there and
get a 12-ounce draft for 30 cents! Which is probably why I lived
in Hoboken on and off for almost ten years. But I digress.]

Anyway, Wisconsin’s drinking establishment rang up $598
million in sales in 2002, the last for which such data is available,
and the industry employs 14,038 people in alcohol serving
capacities, according to census data. Total, including with
breweries, the beer industry employs over 30,000 in the state.
Wisconsin has over 10,500 drinking establishment that operate
with beer-liquor licenses. Another 1,760 operate with beer-only
mandates.

--My brother correctly asks, “What was it about Coors before
that was so wrong? How badly have we missed the vented can?”
He adds that when George Carlin did the first Saturday Night
Live, they did a spoof on the latest two-blade razor. Now look
where we are.

--Uh oh the New York Post’s Page Six reports it could be over
for Hugh Hefner’s youngest filly, Kendra Wilkinson. It’s a cat
fight between her and older ladies Bridget Marquardt and Holly
Madison. “Holly and Bridget hate her,” a friend told the paper.

It would appear it’s because the other two are jealous of
Kendra’s success, with her own clothing line and growing
exercise and modeling empires.

Madison is 28, Marquardt 34. Wilkinson is just 21. Frankly,
I’m having trouble remembering just which one she is. This is
what happens when you get older, kids. Let that be a lesson to
you. Eat your veggies.

--I swear I’m never going outside again. Did you see the video
of the Great White patrolling the waters off Edgarton, Mass., site
of the filming of Jaws? As Brad K. noted, ‘It put the no dog
meat allowed on the menu at the Olympics on the back burner.’

--I read an interview with Barack Obama in Rolling Stone (RS is
Obama central, if you didn’t already know geezuz, Jann
Wenner is way up Obama’s butt, if you catch my drift) but I have
to give the senator a little credit as they discussed music. Bottom
line his favorite artist is Stevie Wonder, but he’s also a big fan of
Earth, Wind & Fire. I could live with EWF giving concerts on
the South Lawn of the White House, with Verdine White
bopping all over the place.

--Not bad not bad at all. I see the Montgomery Gentry album I
noted the other day, “Back When I Knew It All,” has entered the
Billboard Top 40 album chart list with a bullet No. 20. Lil
Wayne is No. 1 with “Tha Carter III.” [Lil Wayne could never
spell.]

--Ireland remains the second-biggest beer-drinking market in the
world behind the Czech Republic. You’re reading Bar Chat.

--Top 3 songs for the week of 7/18/64: #1 “Rag Doll” (The 4
Seasons) #2 “Memphis” (Johnny Rivers for those of you who
know this tune, there is a ‘bridge’ in it that is absolutely brilliant,
but it always ticked me off it’s not repeated gotta talk to
Johnny about that and see if he’ll re-record it for me I mean
like I can’t sleep at night because it could be a top ten all-time on
my list, but I need the bridge!!!!.........Thanks for letting me get
that off my chest) #3 “I Get Around” (The Beach Boys) and #4
“Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (The Dave Clark Five) #5 “The
Girl From Ipanema” (Getz/Gilberto good tune that then became
the bane of every wedding reception, thus it’s out of my top
1,000) #6 “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena) (Jan & Dean)
#7 “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (Gerry and The
Pacemakers) #8 “Dang Me” (Roger Miller ..gosh he was
underrated as a singer/songwriter and all around entertainer)
#9 “My Boy Lollipop” (Millie Small gives me nightmares) #10
“Keep On Pushing” (The Impressions)

Baseball Quiz Answer: Eight to lead the league in hitting as
switch-hitters.

Willie McGee, 1985, .353 1990, .335
Mickey Mantle, 1956, .353
Pete Rose, 1969, .348 1973, .338 1969, .335
Bernie Williams, 1998, .339
Tim Raines, 1986, .334
Willie Wilson, 1982, .332
Bill Mueller, 2003, .326
Terry Pendleton, 1991, .319

Chipper Jones is bidding to join this list. But I’ve got to tell you.
If given enough time, I’m pretty sure I would have come up with
7 of the 8, but there is absolutely no way I would have
remembered Bill Mueller. I killed the Bill Mueller brain cell in
early 2004. Red Sox fans, though, would have gotten him no
doubt.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.



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-07/14/2008-      
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Bar Chat

07/14/2008

Forever A Yankee

Baseball Quiz: [From information I saw in the NY Times about
a month ago.] Switch-hitters have led the league in hitting 11
times, but one did it three times and another twice, so .name
the eight to accomplish the feat. Hint: The first to do so did it in
1956. The last, 2003. Answer below.

Bobby Murcer

You know what sucks? Losing good people. That’s what Tony
Snow and Bobby Murcer were just good people. In the case of
Yankee great Murcer, being a Mets fan I normally couldn’t care
less about those on that other team in town, but you had to love
Bobby. He exuded class.

And in fact I was in Yankee Stadium for what proved to be a
historic doubleheader with the Indians where Murcer was
featured prominently. As I noted in this space back on May 7,
2001, I witnessed Bobby hitting four home runs in a row over the
two games on June 24, 1970. But this was also the same
doubleheader in which a kid threw an ash can from the stands
that exploded under Indians’ catcher Ray Fosse’s shin guard,
which needless to say stunned him, and it was the day that
Yankee hurler Steve Hamilton unveiled his folly floater, which
he used to strike out Cleveland third-sacker Graig Nettles. [Save
yourself from looking it up Nettles didn’t become a Yankee
until 1973.]

Murcer was born in 1946 in Oklahoma City and as he worked his
way up the Yankees’ farm system, comparisons to fellow Okie
Mickey Mantle became inevitable. Bobby would finish his
career with 252 home runs and 1,043 RBI to go along with a .277
career average. Not quite Mantle numbers, but good enough to
make five All-Star teams. And as Johnny Mac told me, “Bobby
bore the burden of not fulfilling the hype far better than most.”

Steve Politi / Star-Ledger

“Goose Gossage was waiting in a terminal at Dulles Airport in
suburban Washington, D.C., when he heard the news. He felt his
knees buckle and his stomach turn. He dropped his carry-on bag
and started to cry.

“He was supposed to be flying to New York for the All-Star
Game, an event billed as a three-day sendoff for Yankee
Stadium. But now? The next three days are all about Bobby
Murcer. The greatest living ballplayers will gather in the city
starting today, and you know where their thoughts are going to
be.

“ ‘I’m numb. I’m shocked. I’m just oh, man,’ Gossage said,
his voice cracking. ‘I loved the guy.’

“He knew that the man he called ‘the best teammate you could
ever have’ was fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer. He
knew his health had deteriorated in recent weeks, that the
radiation and chemotherapy had taken their toll.

“And still, the news yesterday hit him like a sucker punch to the
gut. He said he felt as nauseous as he did that awful day 29 years
ago when Thurman Munson’s plane crashed in an Ohio field.

“Murcer was at his side that day. He was the rock that carried
the Yankees through one of the darkest moments in their history,
the one who delivered the eulogy in the morning and won the
game at night. [Ed. In a stirring performance, Murcer drove in
all five runs in a 5-4 victory.]

“Now the Yankees will have to find the strength to bury Bobby
Murcer. He was the player who so often was the answer to the
question, ‘Who is your favorite Yankee?’ He was the man who
never lost his smile or optimism even when the cancer put him
through hell .

“There are more accomplished players in Yankees history than
Bobby Murcer, Hall of Famers with bigger numbers and more
world championships. But for a generation of fans, no player
was more beloved. He was the one reason to turn on WPIX and
watch games after the dynasty of the ‘60s crumbled, the young
player fans latched on to during some difficult seasons.

“It is never easy to pinpoint exactly what makes a player a fan
favorite. With Murcer, maybe it was as simple as knowing that
he never took a night off. Maybe it was the sense that, beyond
being a very good ballplayer, fans were cheering for an even
better person.”

You know how I’m a Mets fan and throughout my years
following the sport in this area have been your basic Yankee
hater, which means I’ve been immensely jealous of their success
vs. my own team’s lack of it.

But there are three Yankees who stand out for me. I loved
Mickey Mantle, I respect the hell out of Derek Jeter because he is
a flat out winner, and I couldn’t help but like Bobby Murcer
because he was simply such a good guy in all respects.

Even for you non-baseball fans, you may want to tune into Fox
around 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday because they will offer a
moment of silence for Bobby Murcer before playing the All-Star
Game. It’s going to be very emotional and a well-deserved
tribute.

Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who worked in the
broadcast booth with Murcer, really said it best on Saturday.

“Bobby got what life was about. It was about making life better
for people around him.”

---

Dr. Michael DeBakey

The noted heart surgeon died on Friday. He was 99.

Back in 2005, the Journal of the American Medical Association
stated, “Many consider Michael DeBakey to be the greatest
surgeon ever.” DeBakey pioneered procedures on blocked
arteries in the neck, legs and heart and his techniques have been
employed around the world to save literally millions.

DeBakey, working out of his base in Houston, which helped put
it on the map as a major center of medicine, was also a leader in
developing mechanical devices to assist failing hearts. And,
incredibly, DeBakey, at 97, survived a torn aorta, thanks to a
procedure he had devised himself 50 years earlier and then he
went back to work! In all, DeBakey performed over 60,000
surgeries.

His list of accomplishments goes on and on. For instance, during
World War II, DeBakey helped modernize battlefield surgery,
developing what would later be called MASH units in the
Korean War. For this the Army later awarded him the Legion of
Merit.

Among DeBakey’s more famous patients were Boris Yeltsin, the
shah of Iran, former King Edward VIII, King Hussein of Jordan,
Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, Leo Durocher and Jerry Lewis. But
he was just as eager to work on penniless peasants. “Once you
incise the skin, you find that they are all very similar,” he once
said.

But DeBakey was a hard-ass, an example of which was a
disagreement with fellow doctor Denton Cooley which left them
bitter rivals for nearly 40 years. DeBakey also wasn’t known to
suffer fools gladly in the operating room and often belittled
assistants, whether they deserved it or not.

Stuff

[Some of this is old, but I was catching up on all my publications
upon my return from Oregon.]

--Quite a story in swimmer Eric Shanteau, who qualified for the
Olympic team even as he deals with testicular cancer.

Just a week before leaving for the U.S. Olympic Trials, Shanteau
told the AP’s Paul Newberry that he learned he has cancer.

“I was sort of like, ‘This isn’t real. There’s no way this is
happening to me right now,’” he said. “You’re trying to get
ready for the Olympics, and you just get this huge bomb dropped
on you.”

His doctors cleared him to go to Omaha, where he wasn’t really
expected to do well enough to qualify, but then he finished
second in the 200-meter breaststroke, finishing ahead of world-
record holder Brendan Hansen in a major upset.

So now he’s putting off surgery until after the Games because it
would keep him out of the water for two weeks, ruining his
preparation. But lest you think Shanteau is being too reckless,
doctors will be monitoring him constantly and if there is any sign
the cancer is spreading, he’ll immediately withdraw.

--But then you go from a heroic story like Eric Shanteau’s to
quarterback Brett Favre’s. Like every other football junkie in
America, I couldn’t help but like the guy throughout his career.
Bottom line, while he wasn’t always a winner despite all his
records, he was fun to watch.

But boy has he jerked everyone around with his latest
retire/unretire act and it’s good to see Green Bay Packers
officials finally say “enough already.”

Now we learn that after announcing his retirement in a tearful
news conference March 6, just a few weeks later Favre was
backtracking. So coach Mike McCarthy was preparing to fly
down to Mississippi to visit with Brett when Favre called to say,
according to McCarthy this past weekend, that “he appreciated
all the planning we were going to do, but he felt that at this point,
he had reached a point of closure, to use his words, and he was
going to stick with his initial decision.”

At that point the Packers became more committed than ever to
backup Aaron Rodgers as their starter. But even in May, a team
official met with Favre, just in case, only to have Favre tell him
his decision was, yes, indeed, final.

So then in June, as we’ve also just learned, suddenly Favre told
Green Bay, “Give me my helmet or give me my release.” But
when McCarthy asked Favre if he was ready to give football a
100% commitment, Favre said no.

Confused? No wonder the Packers are pissed today with Favre
demanding the team release him while Green Bay counters,
‘Sure, you can come back, but you’re backing up Rodgers and,
no, we aren’t going to release you so you can go to another team
and burn us.’

Now it’s possible Green Bay will be forced to work out a trade.
Brett Favre has lost me .and it’s amazing he doesn’t see how
many millions of fans will feel as I do should he come back.
This was a great quarterback, with a big heart, but he’s an idiot.
And these days, with all the problems we have, let alone losing
examples of class and courage like Bobby Murcer, Favre’s
actions stand in stark contrast to all I really care about.

--Paula Creamer fired a first round 60 at this week’s Jamie Farr
LPGA tourney, birdying 9 of the last 11 holes. Annika
Sorenstam is the only woman to shoot 59 in an LPGA event.
Creamer then went on to win the event, her 7th career title, while
Michelle Wie made the cut and tied for 46th. I’ll have more on
her situation, Thursday. It’s kind of intriguing for you golf nuts
out there.

--Legendary writer Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest is getting up in
years, like I think he is 97, or thereabouts, which allows him to
pretty much write anything he feels like because what the hell
can anyone do about it?

In the August 2008 issue, Jenkins had some of the following
concerning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

“The most fascinating incident on Friday had nothing to do with
Tiger’s game, although it did involve his threesome. Tony
Navarro, (Adam) Scott’s caddie, got into it with an unruly fan at
the ninth tee. The caddie suggested they meet at the bottom of
the hill. They did, and observers declared Navarro the winner on
points. The 7-year-old son of the unruly fan was in the gallery, as
was the unruly fan’s father, who was also apprehended. In the
end, it struck those of us who appreciate dark humor that the kid,
seeing his dad and granddad being led away, would in future
years have a fond remembrance of an incident that occurred
within 48 hours of Father’s Day 2008.”

On Phil Mickelson, who started out the tournament with no
driver and five wedges:

“The funniest thing was how Mickelson ended his chances on the
par-5 13th hole on Saturday. That day he put the driver back in
his bag and removed one wedge. Could have been the one he
needed to pitch the ball onto the green in less than four tries on
his way to a 9.

“That begged the question of whether Phil’s brain needs more
rehabilitating than Tiger’s knee.”

--The other week at the PGA Tour’s stop at Congressional
(Tiger’s event that he missed), the Tour took more than 15,000
shots in an attempt to quantify slow play. Now followers of the
sport won’t be surprised to learn the biggest culprit was Ben
Crane, but I just thought it was funny how long he actually takes
(after he is ready to hit it like after a club is selected). 58
seconds. 20 seconds longer than the average. Go ahead, grab a
beer and count out 58 seconds. That would absolutely drive me
crazy, seeing as I hold the record at my club of playing a full 18,
walking, and in a twosome, in 2 hours 10 minutes. [I also bought
my current home in 10 minutes, if that. I had places to go,
people to see, after all.]

--Former PGA Tour golfer Mike Souchak died. He was 81.
Souchak won 15 events but never a major. He’s best
remembered, though, for his 257 in the 1955 Texas Open,
including an opening round 60; a record that stood until Mark
Calcavecchia’s 256 at the 2001 Phoenix Open.

--47-year-old Kenny Perry (he turns 48 in August) won his 3rd
PGA Tour event in five starts in a playoff at the John Deere and
now has 12 wins for his career. Quite a stretch but he’s chosen
not to go to the British Open, which kind of bothers some of us,
though not enough to call for a Congressional inquiry, I hasten to
add.

--This wasn’t good enough for a separate quiz, but for 19th hole
conversation, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh have each had five
runners-up to Tiger Woods, the leaders in this category, and thus
theoretically stand to benefit the most from his absence. Phil
Mickelson and Davis Love III each have four.

--Talk about a bummer. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen Jay
Haas on the Champions Tour leaderboard recently and it turns
out he is on the “physically unable to perform list.” The reason?
Jay’s daughter was marrying former Vanderbilt quarterback
Steven Bright (the backup to Jay Cutler) and at the rehearsal
dinner, Jay was covering Bright on some pass patterns. So
someone said “Jay’s faster than you” and they decided to do
some sprints, at which point Jay, 54, I think, pulled a hammy.

Now I feel like I know the Haas family just a little from
following Bill Haas at Q-School for six rounds and getting to
know his mother, and I can just picture how this all played out.
They be good people, as we like to say.

--According to Golf Datatech, which tracks play at 3,860
courses, the number of rounds played was down 5% in May over
May ’07. Not the kind of trend you like to see, though weather
could have had something to do with it.

--From John Hawkins / GolfWorld:

“Who knew June would be Foot-in-Mouth month for two of
golf’s most decorated and least quotable has-beens? Vijay Singh
insulted a nation by saying British golfers don’t win majors
because they get complacent. Retief Goosen then accused Tiger
Woods of supersizing all that wounded-knee theater during his
heroic U.S. Open triumph, and just like that, Rory Sabbatini has
lost sole possession of the orange-and-black-striped dunce cap.

“Singh, who will never be arrested for impersonating a man with
an abundance of interesting observations, offered his lazy Brit
theory to the Daily Telegraph, which won’t qualify him for
bonus intellect points. A surly soul who beats balls in his sleep
probably can’t help but question the work ethic of others, and
though the jingoistic context shouldn’t be overplayed, Kelly
Tilghman meant no evil, either.”

As for Goosen, Retief said:

“Nobody knows if he was just showing off or if he was really
injured. It seemed that when he hit a bad shot, he was in pain,
and on good shots, he wasn’t. When he made putts and was
[celebrating], his knee wasn’t sore.” Goosen later tried to say he
was just kidding.

Hawkins:

“If you thought Woods wasn’t sore last week, Goose, wait until
he catches you in a late-Sunday pairing with two good wheels
and a trophy on the line. Those tire tracks on your back won’t
leave you wincing as would a torn ACL, but then a little pain
never hurt anyone, right?”

--So I received a letter back from GTS Vineyards. You know,
Tom Seaver’s. Basically, you have two options; 12 bottles for
$940 or 6 for $470. You’re on your own from here. I already
gave you the address before and now I don’t want anyone in line
in front of me. [I haven’t really decided. That’s a ton of money,
after all.]

But I did enjoy receiving the autopen signature on the form letter
because I was able to then match it against a signature of his on a
photo given to me as a gift when I left PIMCO over nine years
ago and it would appear .we have a match! This is good.
Very good.

--In a Sports Illustrated survey of nearly 500 major league
ballplayers, 88% said Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of
Fame and 85% felt Pete Rose should. What else would you
expect? They polled current players, most of whom were
munching steroids, or taking them up their (we call on Jesse
Jackson to complete the sentence). I’m actually surprised there
are 12% to 15% who have the character to answer the question
differently. I haven’t totally decided what to do with Clemens in
terms of the Hall, but as for Rose I’ve long advocated that he be
told, “Pete, you get into Cooperstown, but only when you’re
dead.”

--For the past three years in the minor leagues, they’ve been
experimenting with a rule that mandates that a hitter keep one
foot in the batter’s box between pitches or else have a strike rung
up on him. Next season, the major leagues will adopt the same
policy in an effort to speed things up a bit. In 2007 the average
minor league game was 2:43 in length while a major league
contest was 2:52. Of course we all know National League games
are played in 2:20 and American League ones in 6:43.

--From Phil Mushnick / New York Post:

“A close friend has been a Mets’ season tickets holder since
1964, when Shea Stadium opened. He has four box seats.

“In 1993, his bill, including parking, was $5,837. By 1998, it
had doubled, to $11,836. Two years ago, the same deal was for
$23,702 (another bill, sent in August, for $8,660, was for
postseason tickets, with a payment deadline of Sept. 8. He has
been providing the Mets such interest-free loans for years).

“This year, when he was charged $33,300 for his regular season
tickets, full payment due Jan. 15, he was pushed closer to the
edge.

“This week, a Mets rep called him to provide renewal details for
next season, the first in the Mets’ new park. His tickets will cost
him $56,700. The price of parking has not yet been established,
thus he can expect a total bill of roughly $60,000.

“ ‘It’s beyond absurd,’ he said. ‘They want $60,000 from me,
yet, on short notice, they’re going to keep switching afternoon
games to Sunday nights (for ESPN money). Yeah, I’m going to
head home from a Sunday baseball game after midnight. And
pay $700 a game, just for the tickets.”

As Mushnick adds, “My friend’s a wealthy man. He didn’t
become one by writing bigger checks for worsening deals. The
Mets have finally priced him out.”

--And get this. Ticket prices for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at
Yankee Stadium are going for from $150 to $725. $150 for the
cheapest seat?! Good god.

--The founder of the Benihana chain of steakhouses, Rocky
Aoki, passed away. He was 69. It’s easy to forget what a
trailblazer he was. And I forgot it all started with a restaurant on
West 56th Street in Manhattan back in 1964. Growing up, we
had one ten minutes from my home and going to it was
considered a real treat. Today, I have to admit I never think of
going there.

But what I remember most about Aoki was that he was quite the
daredevil. He loved his speedboat racing. Once, he suffered a
ruptured aorta, a lacerated liver and a leg broken in four places as
a result of a crash.

--Allen H. passed along a story out of Wisconsin concerning the
impact beer has on the state’s economy. According to a study by
the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
Wisconsin is home to seven of the country’s top 10 metropolitan
areas with the most bars per capita. [I was a bit surprised that
Jersey City, N.J., Atlantic City, N.J. and Scranton, Pa. rounded
off the listing. I’m assuming the Jersey City entry includes next
door neighbor Hoboken, which back in the 1950s was known to
have more bars per capita than anywhere in the U.S. Heck, I
remember how in 1980 you could still walk into a bar there and
get a 12-ounce draft for 30 cents! Which is probably why I lived
in Hoboken on and off for almost ten years. But I digress.]

Anyway, Wisconsin’s drinking establishment rang up $598
million in sales in 2002, the last for which such data is available,
and the industry employs 14,038 people in alcohol serving
capacities, according to census data. Total, including with
breweries, the beer industry employs over 30,000 in the state.
Wisconsin has over 10,500 drinking establishment that operate
with beer-liquor licenses. Another 1,760 operate with beer-only
mandates.

--My brother correctly asks, “What was it about Coors before
that was so wrong? How badly have we missed the vented can?”
He adds that when George Carlin did the first Saturday Night
Live, they did a spoof on the latest two-blade razor. Now look
where we are.

--Uh oh the New York Post’s Page Six reports it could be over
for Hugh Hefner’s youngest filly, Kendra Wilkinson. It’s a cat
fight between her and older ladies Bridget Marquardt and Holly
Madison. “Holly and Bridget hate her,” a friend told the paper.

It would appear it’s because the other two are jealous of
Kendra’s success, with her own clothing line and growing
exercise and modeling empires.

Madison is 28, Marquardt 34. Wilkinson is just 21. Frankly,
I’m having trouble remembering just which one she is. This is
what happens when you get older, kids. Let that be a lesson to
you. Eat your veggies.

--I swear I’m never going outside again. Did you see the video
of the Great White patrolling the waters off Edgarton, Mass., site
of the filming of Jaws? As Brad K. noted, ‘It put the no dog
meat allowed on the menu at the Olympics on the back burner.’

--I read an interview with Barack Obama in Rolling Stone (RS is
Obama central, if you didn’t already know geezuz, Jann
Wenner is way up Obama’s butt, if you catch my drift) but I have
to give the senator a little credit as they discussed music. Bottom
line his favorite artist is Stevie Wonder, but he’s also a big fan of
Earth, Wind & Fire. I could live with EWF giving concerts on
the South Lawn of the White House, with Verdine White
bopping all over the place.

--Not bad not bad at all. I see the Montgomery Gentry album I
noted the other day, “Back When I Knew It All,” has entered the
Billboard Top 40 album chart list with a bullet No. 20. Lil
Wayne is No. 1 with “Tha Carter III.” [Lil Wayne could never
spell.]

--Ireland remains the second-biggest beer-drinking market in the
world behind the Czech Republic. You’re reading Bar Chat.

--Top 3 songs for the week of 7/18/64: #1 “Rag Doll” (The 4
Seasons) #2 “Memphis” (Johnny Rivers for those of you who
know this tune, there is a ‘bridge’ in it that is absolutely brilliant,
but it always ticked me off it’s not repeated gotta talk to
Johnny about that and see if he’ll re-record it for me I mean
like I can’t sleep at night because it could be a top ten all-time on
my list, but I need the bridge!!!!.........Thanks for letting me get
that off my chest) #3 “I Get Around” (The Beach Boys) and #4
“Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (The Dave Clark Five) #5 “The
Girl From Ipanema” (Getz/Gilberto good tune that then became
the bane of every wedding reception, thus it’s out of my top
1,000) #6 “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena) (Jan & Dean)
#7 “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (Gerry and The
Pacemakers) #8 “Dang Me” (Roger Miller ..gosh he was
underrated as a singer/songwriter and all around entertainer)
#9 “My Boy Lollipop” (Millie Small gives me nightmares) #10
“Keep On Pushing” (The Impressions)

Baseball Quiz Answer: Eight to lead the league in hitting as
switch-hitters.

Willie McGee, 1985, .353 1990, .335
Mickey Mantle, 1956, .353
Pete Rose, 1969, .348 1973, .338 1969, .335
Bernie Williams, 1998, .339
Tim Raines, 1986, .334
Willie Wilson, 1982, .332
Bill Mueller, 2003, .326
Terry Pendleton, 1991, .319

Chipper Jones is bidding to join this list. But I’ve got to tell you.
If given enough time, I’m pretty sure I would have come up with
7 of the 8, but there is absolutely no way I would have
remembered Bill Mueller. I killed the Bill Mueller brain cell in
early 2004. Red Sox fans, though, would have gotten him no
doubt.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.