As a little boy who loved the Yankees, the best thing about the season in those days was saving enough money to go to “Bat-Day” at Yankee Stadium.
To sit in the bleachers it cost one dollar. At that time I lived in Brooklyn. Between subway fare and money for a hotdog and a coke we needed three dollars each.
We used to meet up at my fathers bodega (grocery store) and through the excitement we would all be asking each other if we had our money. One of the fathers named Jose would take us. I could remember my friends Tony Diaz , Frankie and Felipe and Peewee would all be so excited.
I can remember that Tony getting a Mickey Mantle bat. That was the “Mona Lisa” of Bat-Day bats. I would get a Steve Whitaker. A couple of years later Mickey Mantle retired so the “Mona Lisa” was the “Bobby Murcer bat.”
Bobby had become my very favorite player and I so badly wanted his bat. When we walked through the turnstiles and they handed me a bat, it turned out to be a Jerry Kenney. I was so disappointed. My friend PeeWee ended up getting a Murcer bat. I asked him if he would trade his Murcer bat for my Jerry Kenney plus my hotdog and soda money. He told me to kiss his butt.
There was another major disappointment on Bat-Day. In 1970,I would return for Bat-Day and now I had two favorites. Bobby Murcer and the chubby catcher, Thurman Munson. My chances were now better because I would’ve been happy with either one. I ended up getting some guy named Frank Baker. Talk about wanting to cry.
The following year I got a Horace Clarke. In 1972, I got a Roy White , That was a big upgrade but it still wasn’t Bobby Murcer. At this time Bobby had become the new Mickey Mantle. The biggest star in New York. It really saddened me that I would never get the Murcer Bat-Day bat.
When I became a batboy I would tell Bobby that story and he would laugh and actually give me one of his real bats. That was wonderful and Bobby turned out to be one of the best people I would ever know. I have to say though that not getting that Bat-Day Murcer bat always bothered me because I wanted it so bad.
Just recently I was being inducted into the New York State Hall of Fame. My friend Gil Cosenza who is probably the biggest Bobby Murcer fan that I know, found his Murcer Bat-Day bat at his Mom’s house the day of the Hall of Fame ceremony. They were just cleaning the basement and it was found behind a boiler. It was probably there for over forty years.
Gil called me and said that as a gift he wanted to give me the bat. He knew what it meant to me. I literally cried at Gil’s kind gesture. In a very short time he has become a true friend. His love of the Yankees reminds me of when I was a kid and willing to fight if someone said the wrong thing about our team.
In my bedroom, I keep a picture of Bobby Murcer and his first grandson, Jackson. Bobby was on his rocking chair with Jackson on his lap and Bobby was reading “The Boy of Steel,” which was my award winning book that would later be turned into a animated film. Bobby was supposed to star opposite Richard Gere, Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello. Cyndi Lauper actually won a voice over award for her work as the nurse.
Unfortunately Bobby would die of the same brain cancer as the little boy in the movie. Bobby kept calling me right ‘till the end about the fact that he had every intention to do this movie. Unfortunately God had other plans for the wonderful Mr. Murcer.
So now when I watch “Henry & Me,” it’s hard for me. I actually asked Reggie Jackson to do the Part. Reggie was terrific but the way I had Bobby written in would’ve made it that much better.
On my way to the induction ceremony I decided that I wanted to give the bat to Jackson Murcer. When I got there Gil was already in the lobby waiting for me. He was holding the bat. I told Gil what I wanted to do with the bat. Gil was in total agreement. When I went up to the podium with the bat I explained the significance of it and why it had to go to Jackson. By the way the audience cheered, I knew they approved. I was a little sad that I only got to hold the bat for about a half an hour but I knew that Bobby Murcer was smiling up in heaven.
This week I got a call from a gentleman that happened to be at the ceremony. His name is Angel Cepeda. He is a high ranking political figure from Nassau County. He asked if I would meet him for lunch. He said that a guy that was also at the ceremony wanted to meet me. He said that it was important so I went to this restaurant in Nassau called the Lisbon Cafe. When I got there Angel was there.
We sat at a table and waited for his friend. Within ten minutes, a tall gentleman walked in. He came over to our table with what looked like a rifle case. His name was Jack Britvan. We shook hands and he told me how touched he was by my story about Bobby Murcer that he had a birthday gift for me.
Out of the case he pulled out a Bat-Day, Bobby Murcer bat. Talk about tears in our eyes, I think the three of us had enough to fill a hot tub. It was truly one of the most beautiful moments of my life because the journey for the Mona Lisa of Bat-Day bats started in 1967. 52 years later, the journey would have a happy ending.
Tonight I will have a hot dog and a coke and not worry about having to trade them in for a Bobby Murcer Bat-Day Bat.
Want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!