Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hardball Heroes: Dale Murphy

Last month, More Hardball honored Bert Blyleven with our first Hardball Heroes tribute. This is our version of the Hall of Fame for players whose stats weren't quite high enough to grant them immortality in Cooperstown, but through their sportsmanship on and off the field, they left an impression on us. This month, we honor my most favorite baseball player, Dale Murphy. Murphy epitomizes what it means to be a star athlete. During and after his major league career, he has used his "celebrity" status he earned to call attention to several important charities.

Dale Murphy dominated the National League from 1982 to 1987. During this time, he acquired 2 MVP awards (1982 and 1983), 5 Golden Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, joined the 30-30 Club (with 36 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 1983), and played in seven All-Star games. He was the league's leader in RBIs in 1982 and 1983, with 109 and 121 respectively, as well as the leader in home runs in 1984 with 36 and 1985 with 37. A survey of pitchers taken in 1985 named Murphy as the most feared batter in the National League. He reached a career high in 1987 with 44 home runs. In his 17 year career, Murphy hit a total of 398 home runs, earned 1266 RBI, .265 batting average, .346 OBP, .469 SLG, and .815 OPS. He also stole a total of 161 bases. He played 14 seasons (1976 - 1990) with the Atlanta Braves, including 740 consecutive games from 1981 - 1986, two and a half seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, and closed his incredible career in May of 1993 with the Colorado Rockies. In 1994, his jersey number 3 became the fourth to be permanently retired by the Braves.

What most distinguished Murphy from the other stars at the time (and especially today) was his genuine care for the game, the fans, and himself. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Murphy did not drink alcohol, would not allow women to photograph themselves hugging him, would only endorse wholesome products (like milk), and was considered to be a true gentleman. During his baseball career, Murphy also had a weekly column in the Atlanta Constitution where he would respond to letters and questions from his younger fans. He also donated large portions of his salary to various charities including the Make a Wish foundations and the March of Dimes. In 1987, he was honored at the White House as one of Sports Illustrated's "Sportsmen of the Year" as the "Athlete Who Cares the Most."

Today, Dale Murphy lives with his wife of 30 years in Utah, and is the father of eight, and grandfather of two. His son, Shawn Murphy, plays for the Miami Dolphins. He is actively involved in the Mormon Church as a church youth leader, and in coaching Little League. He also spends his time as a motivational speaker and is on the board of several charities, including ASCEND (whose purpose is to help those in poverty care for their children), and the children's charity Operation Kids. In 2007, Murphy founded the "I Won't Cheat!" foundation with the goal of eradicating cheating in all sports at all levels. In an interview with Baseball America's Alan Schwarz Murphy states "Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are cheating yourself, the game and the fans, and it is unhealthy and it is illegal. People don't like to say it's cheating, but let's call it what it is. It's not the right way to play. You're going down the wrong path in the face of what a kid sees as the advantages. We've got to counteract that somehow." Sports isn't the only focus of this organization, he also wants to encourage children to do well in school and in life without cheating.

Personal Quotes: (from dalemurphy3)
*Nice guys do finish first.
*Good leaders make everyone around them better.
*Talent isn't always the best indicator of success.
*Humor can get you through just about anything.
*The quickest way to earn the respect of others is to respect them.


Commercial for Murphy's "I Won't Cheat" Foundation

40 comments:

GM-Carson said...

Beautifully written piece. A nice break from the norm of the stuff we do here on More Hardball. I have nothing but fond memories of Dale Murphy, and he'll now be forever enshrined in our "hall of fame".

Deaner said...

Yeah, great post! Dale Murphy was a class act and often an unsung hero. I'm going to link to this over at Blue Collar Baseball.

GM-Carson said...

Dale Murphy and John Smoltz are the only two Braves I really ever liked...gotta remember I'm a hardcore Phils fan.

Burton said...

I always admired him, even as a kid I remember him standing out as being different.

Burton said...

Thanks Deaner!

There is a slight possibility that Murphy could be inducted into the Hall of Fame. One of the things keeping him out is his equally impressive strike out stats (a little less than 1/3 of the time at bat). However, some are going back and looking at past sluggers in light of today's steroid scandals.

GM-Carson said...

Murph is an eventual Veteran's Committee selection in my opinion.

PWHjort said...

Great piece. And yeah, I think Murphy probably will get in the Hall eventually. He certainly deserves it.

Mr. A-Hole said...

Dale Murphy a mormon, that's enough to put him in the Hall right there. Any upstanding citizen from a certain religious group gets automatic induction right? Sandy Koufax was Jewish. Satchel Paige was into voodoo. Babe Ruth was practically the Dali Lama.

Burton said...

They also happened to be great baseball players, A-Hole. Why is race or religion an issue with anyone. Why the hell can't we just accept a person for who he or she is?

What the hell happened to you, you get burned by a Mormon Buddhist Jew who occasionally practiced voodoo?

GM-Carson said...

I've been holding off saying this, but here goes...Mr. A-Hole, please refrain from making comments on our site that are profane, borderline racist, and just plain dickish. We appreciate your readership and look forward to future comments that are toned down a bit.

Dean Hybl said...

I had the great fortune as a kid of watching Dale Murphy when he was a catcher with the Richmond Braves and then several times during his career when the A-Braves would come to Richmond for a spring training game. He was a class act and would always sign autographs for everybody.

Along with Andre Dawson, Murphy's timing for retirement couldn't have been worse. Had he left the game 5-7 years earlier with the same career numbers, he probably would have gotten into the HOF or at least gotten very close right away.

Unfortunately, by the time he was eligible, the inflated power numbers had begun and his numbers lost their luster.

Thanks for the great walk down memory lane.

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