Tuesday, July 15, 2008

RIP Tony Snow and Bobby Murcer

By Rick Morris

Two seemingly disparate men, one who was at various times a nationally syndicated columnist, political talk show host and White House spokesman, the other a famous baseball player and subsequently an announcer. But both came down with lethal forms of cancer, both battled it for a few years and both passed away over the weekend.

Most importantly, though, both were God-fearing men who were beloved by their friends and family and both are in a far better place right now, removed from their physical suffering and the trials and tribulations of a world that gets more insane each day.

Tony Snow was a gifted communicator of conservative ideas, a "happy warrior" to use a phrase that has seen much traction in recent days. When he was working in the Bush White House, he was always far, far, far better than the material he had to work with and the policies he had to defend. Listening to him at the podium as he confidently sketched out a vision of an ideologically sound and committed executive branch, it always struck me that he was painting a picture of the White House that I wished actually existed. Had the men and women of this administration actually lived up to the descriptions that this idealist attributed to them, we'd all be much better off as a country. Having said that, I would in no way insinuate that he ever worked to mislead anyone; Tony Snow saw the best in everyone and wanted this administration to follow his lead and do their jobs as well as he did his. Given the complete and utter failure of this administration to communicate a coherent vision to the public both before his tenure and afterwards, I'm not exaggerating when I say that he almost singlehandedly restored some semblance of balance to the two-party system in this country during his time at the communications helm for Bush. By the accounts of his friends he was also a kind and decent man who cared far more about others than he did himself.

As a small child, I knew Bobby Murcer toward the tail end of his career as a solid, above-average major league baseball player. I was startled to learn at that time that he had actually been projected at the outset of his career to be the next piece of the Ruth/DiMaggio/Mantle Yankee lineage. Obviously, that did not transpire, notwithstanding his best efforts, and he toiled through some of the darkest years in team history in the late 1960s and early 70s. After the 1974 season, he was exiled to San Francisco in a swap for another victim of unfair expectations, Bobby Bonds -- who was expected to be the "next Willie Mays" (remember Murcer and Bonds the next time anyone complains about how the blogosphere has ruined baseball by setting impossible expectations for players!). Eventually, he worked his way back to the team in the late years of his career and played his most memorable game mere hours after eulogizing his close friend Thurman Munson -- as he almost literally willed the team to victory in honor of their fallen teammate. In later years, he became a Yankee broadcaster and remained always a supremely popular figure in the eyes of the fans. Given the burden of perceived potential and the inability to live up to it, the ability to remain revered in such a hard-bitten media market is extraordinary indeed. This heartwarming story about how the BBWAA got a chance to tell Bobby Murcer how much he meant to them before it was too late is a great one, and our friend Russ Cohen of Sportsology has up a great podcast of an interview with Murcer.

Both men took their fate with a grace that puts the rest of us to shame. RIP to two great men, Tony Snow and Bobby Murcer.

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