Janice M Cauwels, PhD

Miscellany

A published narrative appears on the Feature/Culture page.


Stuff About Spud (1928-2011)

September 20, 2011

Tags: Spud Murray, New York Yankees


Link to the memorial page for Spud, who passed away on 15 September 2011. A memorial service was held on June 30, 2012.


In the spring of 2009 at his request I arranged for Spud Murray, the full-time batting practice pitcher for the New York Yankees from 1960-68, to meet Jane Fonda while she was performing on Broadway.

Having acquired his nickname in childhood because he loved potatoes so much that his mother had to hide them, Meredith “Spud” Murray began his career by playing with the Cleveland Indians and the Phillies College League. (Except where otherwise indicated, all of the photos in this entry are supplied by Howard Grise.)



Subsequently hired by Casey Stengel, Spud wore Yankees uniform number 55 and worked with the team through five World Series. The only coach to pitch to the regulars, he threw his fastball except to Yogi Berra, who usually requested the curve.



At the age of two, Spud’s daughter Mandee became the first female ever allowed in the Yankee clubhouse. One day as he sat in the players' dining room, hitting instructor "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio came over to introduce himself and his companion, Marilyn Monroe.

During Spud's Yankee career, his best friends were his fishing buddy Mickey Mantle and my father, and for a while the team made our tavern, the Old Mill Stream, as much of their hangout as a New Jersey establishment could be. We knew Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bill "Moose" Skowron, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, Joe Pepitone, Jim Bouton, Ralph Houk, Elston Howard, Clete Boyer, Tom Tresh, a new young guy named Mel Stottlemeyre, and probably others I have forgotten. The 1964 team is pictured below.



One night my parents had all of the players and their various wives and girlfriends over to the house for a buffet. They felt so comfortable with my mother’s encouragement to help themselves that Joe Pepitone strolled into the kitchen and rummaged through the cabinets for a big glass that he proceeded to fill with milk. Considering his various arrests for substance use and abuse since the 1980s, he should probably have continued limiting himself to dairy beverages.

In ninth grade when I screeched my way through a school production of H.M.S. Pinafore as Josephine in falsetto, Spud and his girlfriend were with my parents in the audience. (A school production of anything must be an awfully powerful incentive to birth control.)

Well into his 81st year, Spud spent most of his time outdoors developing his hilltop property in rural Pennsylvania. On a typical day, he would fell a few trees, cut them up, load the firewood on his truck, cart it off to sell, and return home to harvest and distribute vegetables and fruits from his large produce garden. His other plantings included new trees, shrubs, forsythia, and foliage for the deer and turkeys that congregated on his front lawn. I myself saw this menagerie only as Lyme disease on four legs and bird droppings where there should have been breast cutlets, but Spud viewed them as God’s creatures and shot only those that got "nasty." He would stock up on venison and fish instead by frequently taking five-hour drives in his truck to his favorite fishing spots or to the hunting camp that he owned with partners.

Although for various reasons Spud didn't make the trip to New York to meet Jane, he and Mandee did attend Old Timers' Day at the new Yankee stadium. The photo below was taken at the event, and a video of his introduction during the field lineup is here.



Around this time Spud's cousin Howard (the family’s technical sage whose efforts neutralized Spud's Luddism) created a professional-looking DVD for him. It consists of still photos from his Yankee career, Old Timers' Day, and his family, followed by a long video of them eating Maryland crabs and showing off his World Series ring and watch while he tells stories: how unfairly people maligned Roger Maris and particularly Ted Williams; how Roger and Mickey Mantle never shared any animosity; how Mickey drank the Listerine, put the paper bag over the cabby’s head, dropped the fish into the locker room whirlpool, and the like; who roomed with whom on the road . . . with a few Marilyn stories tossed in.

Chris Wood of Pacmedia,who sent the following photo, offers a persuasive argument that the Yankee jersey on display in his office originally belonged to Spud:

“I believe that this jersey was issued to Mr. Murray in 1966, worn by him each season until 1968, and then handed to rookie pitcher Bill Burlach for use in 1969. The jersey has the original 1966 set tagging and Mr. Murray's uniform number (55) swatch in the collar. The zero in the felt numbering applied to the back of the jersey (50—Burlach’s uniform number in 1969) has been added to replace the second original "5," the outline of which is visible even though the change was handled very professionally. The 100th Anniversary MLB patch on the shoulder must have also been added for Burlach's use, as 1969 was the year all teams wore such a patch.”



Spud turned 81 on October 28th, 2009; I notified the Q104.3 DJ Ken Dashow, who gave him a shout-out the preceding Sunday on his Breakfast with the Beatles show. A player's birthday, of course, was not a suitable occasion for the Yankees to lose Game 1 of the World Series, but lose they did.

On February 18th, 2010 Spud suffered a severe heart attack following several silent ones. Having kept the hospital staff in stitches (as it were) with his wit, he completed rehabilitation and returned home, where he groused about not having been able to drive down to South Carolina to keep his bear-hunting date with Bobby Richardson. Ken Dashow reminded his audience of Spud's birthday and sent get-well wishes on behalf of baseball fans, along with kind thanks to me for the alert.

An article about Spud appears here.

Copyright © 2009 by Janice M. Cauwels, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. March 3, 2010 6:54 PM EST
    I just got to meet him today, and I am just amazed at the fact I got to meet a real baseball player and I got to talk to him. He is great, and his stories I could listen to all day.
    - Carmella K
  2. March 17, 2010 6:21 PM EDT
    Great story about Spud! Glad I found this. I picked up a 1966 Yankees road game jersey with his number 55 in the collar. It was renumbered in 1969 to #50 and issued to then rookie pitcher Bill Burbach. I would love to show you and or/Spud the jersey (or pics) if interested.
    - Chris
  3. July 2, 2010 5:23 PM EDT
    When I was a kid, the Yanks had to park across from the Stadium in a gated lot and walk through the fans' lot to get to the clubhouse. We'd get there early to hang out trolling for autographs. One day I got Jim Bouton and Jerry Coleman and then ran up to this guy with three other kids. He said, "I don't know why you kids want my autograph, I just throw goofballs." It was Spud. I still have the mitt with his and the other two signatures on it.
    - John Heeg
  4. July 24, 2010 11:16 PM EDT
    Spud took my friend and a bunch of us kids from the neighborhood to a Yankee game in June '67. I'll never forget the thrill that day and his kindness. We met Yankees in the parking lot and got their autographs, and Spud took my little autograph book into the locker room. I still have the autographs, the group photo, and ticket stub from that day. I remember him as a nice guy who was friendly to all the kids.
    - Dave
  5. February 21, 2011 3:29 PM EST
    Ed Murray, Spud's nephew, sends his love. He always thinks about those times spent with Spud as a kid. Ed would travel up to NYC every summer for a week with Spud and the Yankees. Many fond memories of meeting Yogi, The Mick, Maris, and all the other Greats.
    - Anonymous
  6. July 2, 2012 10:02 PM EDT
    My childhood friend George Krouch gave me a 1965 autographed Yankees baseball that had been given to him by his sister Helen. Helen got that baseball from Spud Murray, who was a boyfriend of hers.
    (Helen was later one of the earliest people to donate a heart for transplant, after dying in an auto accident. Sadly, the recipient didn't survive. And the ball was stolen from me a few years ago.)
    Let me know if you come across a 1965 Yankees ball--with Spud's name on it too!
    - Freddie Gasparini
  7. July 5, 2012 7:15 PM EDT
    I have in my possession either a 1967 or 1968 Yankees ball that has my cousin Spud's signature. I believe it was Roger Maris' last year with the Yanks. Whole team signed it.
    - David
  8. August 25, 2012 12:53 AM EDT
    My dad was Spud's doctor in mid-2000s. He stopped by to meet me one day and we became friends. He told many stories and answered any questions I could ask. If he had ever written a book, he would have made millions.
    - Kurt Guiser
  9. May 8, 2013 11:27 AM EDT
    Spud used to come to Renovo, PA to go hunting and fishing. He became friends with my parents. I can remember in the 60s around 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning we would hear someone say, "Hey Witcheys, get up, the New York Yankees are in town." They would be standing in my living room. I knew them as baseball players, but at the time I didn't realize who they were: Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Spud, and the rest of them.
    - Christine (Witchey) Sherlock
  10. May 11, 2013 5:26 PM EDT
    Spud was a great friend of my grandfather John Barr Smith from Chester Heights, PA. I'll never forget Spud's telling stories about DiMaggio and meeting Marilyn Monroe. Also holding his World Series ring and putting that heavy thing on my finger. What an awesome guy.
    - Joe Voigt
  11. February 3, 2014 11:51 AM EST
    I grew up on the Delaware River in what is now the Delaware Water Gap National Park. I was 11 years old and out on the river in a rowboat fishing one day when another boat came gliding up alongside. The man in it asked me, "Hey kid, where do you catch fish in this river?" I told him where to go for different types of fish, showing off my knowledge. He said, "Thanks," and asked me where I lived. I pointed through the trees to a house up the hill. As he pulled away, he said he would let me know how he did.

    A couple of weeks later, there was a knock at our door. My Mom answered, and a voice said "Hello" and asked her if her son was at home. She asked, "What has he done now?" The voice replied, "The lad gave me some good fishing advice, and I want to thank him." It was Spud Murray. I recognized him from our meeting on the river but didn't know who he was. When he explained that he was a New York Yankee, my jaw hit the floor.

    Spud gave me a 1964 autographed baseball of the Yankees that I still cherish to this day. His actions taught an 11-year-old kid two very valuable life lessons that have been a part of my personal and business being to this day: #1 - When you meet someone, you never know who you are talking to, and
    #2 - A simple act of kindness can lead to great things.

    I am sad to learn from this article that Spud has passed away. His memory and the lessons he taught me have been passed along to my family and my employees, and he has touched all of their lives too. I will be leaving the autographed baseball to my grandson someday, and with it he will find a copy of this story and the lessons that I learned. I hope that it will touch his heart also so that Spud's memory and life lessons will be passed on.
    - James M. Cahill
  12. August 9, 2014 8:01 PM EDT
    Spud played pool in the DelCo league for me. He autographed a beer coaster, saying that I was a favorite coach. I know that was crap, but he loved when I played Amanda on the jukebox. I cherish the times I had with ShotBird.
    - Ron Cross