|Re: Murphy and the Hall of Fame
"Dale Murphy is a Hall of Fame person and that
really ought to count for something. I fear, though, that he'll never make the
Hall because his statistics pale in comparison to the juiced-ball, juiced-bat,
juiced biceps era of today. But the man was a great defensive player and
durable clutch hitter.
He never passed up a chance to make an appearance or
do something nice for someone on behalf of his sport, his team or his
But make no mistake. It was a Hall of Fame career."
"I know one thing for sure--if you selected a person on the way he
represented himself and his team Dale Murphy would be in the Hall of Fame. He
set a great example of how you conduct yourself on and off the field and in my
book Dale is a Hall of Famer."
~ Fred Claire
"He's the kind of candidate I
favor, a player with a high peak as opposed to someone who hangs around and
piles up numbers. But his peak was just six years (1982-1987) and he was an
average player outside those seasons. He was also a fine defensive center
fielder and a good base runner. He was a heck of a player, and it is no shame
to fall just short of the Hall."
~ Mark Armour
"When you look at
Dale Murphy's career statistics -- 398 home runs and .265 batting average
through all or parts of 18 big-league seasons -- the inclination is to think,
"Almost an All-Star; not quite." Deeper study would indicate big Dale is
deserving. First, he hit his home runs in one of baseball's true dead-ball
eras, where 30 home runs was a big deal, like 45 today. He led the league in
homers several times, won the Gold Glove several times, and most importantly,
won back-to-back MVPs, indicating he was the best of his time. To me, that's an
important indicator of Hall-of-Fame worthiness. And while Dale played on some
bad Atlanta teams, he was also instrumental in the Braves' resurgence as they
became a postseason participant after years of ineptitude. I wish Dale had hit
two more career taters, which would have made his selection easier.
Even so, I still think he should have his spot in Cooperstown."
~ Kerry Eggers
When you talk baseball players in Oregon, Dale
Murphy is the guy. Scott Brosius owns the World Series, Bobby Doerr
lives in the state and is in the Hall, but was born in San Diego. Nope, when
talking the best of the best, "The Murph" is the guy in these
Born in Portland on March 12, 1956, Dale grew up and played
baseball in Portland. He graduated from Wilson High School, up in the Cedar
Hills section of SW Portland, where he was drafted 5th in the 1974 MLB draft by
the Atlanta Braves. He debuted on September 13th of 1976, as a catcher, but
only did 19 games in his debut season after coming up from AAA.
follows is a career that covers both ends of the spectrum in terms of winning
While it is true that Dale played with the Phillies and
Rockies at the end of his career, he is, and will ever remain, an Atlanta
Braves player. If you look over the Braves from the late '70's through the
'80's, when Dale played, you'll see a team that lost horribly (101 in '77) and
won convincingly (Division title in '82). It's that anomaly that makes Dale's
career so interesting. It has given him great perspective and as he says,
"Baseball is a humbling sport."
Through good and bad, Dale Murphy
improved, and most importantly, just plain showed up to play. He was extremely
durable over his career. He played the most games (all 162) in the League from
'82-'85 and was in the top 10 till '88. From September 27, 1981 to July 9, 1986
alone he played 740 consecutive games, which still stands as one of the longest
consecutive game streaks in League history.
His light shined the
brightest when Bobby Cox moved him to the outfield, and in '82 he really came
into his own garnering a Gold Glove and MVP. Not content with just '82 he
repeated the same feat in '83 where he became the youngest of 4 players to have
won the MVP back-to-back.
He's an All-Star 7 consecutive years
('80-'87), lead the NL in HRs ('84-'85), Slugging Pct. ('83-'84), RBI
('82-'83), Total bases ('84), RBI ('82-'83), OPS ('83), and yes, strikeouts
('78, '80, '85). What kind of guy does this career make? Humble, exceptional,
and possibly Hall of Fame caliber.
Beyond all the numbers, Dale Murphy
is viewed as one of the true gentlemen of the game. As the sidebar on this
interview attests to, Dale is viewed as a model for what is good and right in
sports. Throughout this interview, he truly shied away from anything that would
place emphasis on himself, instead pointing to who helped him, or how athletes
should use the sport to provide shining examples to America's youth. Perhaps
Joe Torre, his former manager, summed him up best, "If you're a coach, you want
him as a player. If you're a father, you want him as a son. If you're a woman,
you want him as a husband. If you're a kid, you want him as a father. What else
can you say about the guy?"
In the following interview Dale talks about
what Portland means to him growing up here, his durability and how he improved
as a player, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, his possible induction into the Hall of
Fame, the continuing Pete Rose saga, the pitchers that he thought were the
toughest, Phil Niekro as a competitor, athletes as role models, and how great
it would be to have MLB in Portland. - Maury Brown
Portland and a career with the Braves
OSC: Given the fact that you were born in Portland and grew
up here graduating from Wilson High School, you have always been viewed as
probably the greatest player to come out of the city. Care to talk about your
early life here, and how you view Portland?
Murphy: Portland is always home.
No matter how long I have been gone, I guess, let's see, I got drafted in 1974,
man I can't believe it coming up on 30 years. I guess I am going to have a 30
year high school reunion this year. My parents still live there, and it's
something I still have great feelings for. I love to come back and have great
memories of growing up and playing ball there and great friends. Portland and
Oregon, if you grew up there, it's in your blood. I feel like I work for the
Chamber of Commerce because whenever I start talking to people about Oregon,
the beach and growing up there, I feel like a salesman for the city. I loved
growing up there and have great memories.
OSC: You were drafted very high in the draft (5th overall in
'74), can you recall the details of the signing, and how your first years in
the Braves organization were?
Murphy: Like I said, it was 30
years ago. Let me see what I can remember here. I wasn't sure what was going to
happen. I knew the Phillies were really interested. I don't even remember the
Braves talking to us or expressing that much interest. I know I went to a
tryout back in Philadelphia with the Phillies, so I thought something would
happen there. But, I think Lonnie Smith ended up signing with the Phillies, and
so I was drafted by the Braves and went to a rookie league in Kingsport, TN
that summer. [I then] played some Legion games, then signed, and just left
right from there. I don't remember too many more details than that. I guess
back then I wasn't really aware of what was going on. It seems right now
everyone kinda knows what's going on. You know, we didn't have ESPN and all the
shows that cover sports that much and the draft and the players. Of course
baseball is, even now, nothing like basketball or football. I just had no idea
what was going on. I knew I got drafted and was anxious to sign and get
OSC: You were initially signed by the Braves as a catcher,
something that didn't exactly work out for you. Care to touch on your skills at
the catcher position? What position did you enjoy playing the
Murphy: I signed as a catcher
and enjoyed catching. But, eventually I wasn't doing very well catching. It
happens to a lot of guys -- they get switched and changed to other positions.
I'm grateful the Braves stuck with me and my hitting started getting better.
Usually, as a catcher, they can keep you a little bit longer if you're not
hitting too well as long as your playing good defense, and I wasn't playing
that good defensively. Thanks to my hitting getting better I played some first
base. Then in AAA I played a little first base in '77, and then when I got with
the Braves in '78 I still did catch a little bit and played a little first
base. But, then in 1980 was my first full year in the outfield. Bobby Cox was
there and he just said, 'You know, I think you can play every day in the
outfield. You run pretty good for a big guy and your bat's coming on. So, let's
move you to the outfield.' And it worked out.
OSC: You seemed to have embodied the "mature" player over
your career as you seemed to struggle early in your career and then become the
embodiment of the "veteran player". Early on ('78 and '80) you seemed to
strikeout quite a bit. What was the key to getting your offensive game turned
around to the point of now possibly going to the Hall of Fame? (seeing a lot of
pitches and turning your game around)
Murphy: I think it was a
combination of things. When you sign a contract to play pro ball that's all you
immersed in it. You play a lot of baseball and see a
lot of pitches, and it takes a long time to figure out how to hit the pitching
as it gets better and better. And also what happens is you start to get
stronger physically. Back then we weren't really training and lifting weights.
Now, it is done at a much earlier age and kids are stronger. And that really
helped me. It helped me get stronger and starting filling out and getting some
experience hitting. There's no question that it just takes time, especially in
baseball. Not very many guys go from high school or college [straight] to the
major leagues. There is an apprenticeship that really isn't a mandatory thing,
it's just that it's needed. It takes thousands of at bats to see enough pitches
and have some success to where you can go to the major leagues and figure it
out. I think getting to the outfield really helped me. I knew I going to be in
there every day. And that helps you mentally to know that if you have a bad
game you're going to be in there the next day.
There is a whole
combination of things. I think just physically getting stronger, and then
mentally knowing that you can do it and then getting the chance to do it. I was
really fortunate with the Braves. Sometimes it helps to break in with a club
that is not doing too well so you get a chance to play at a younger age and
that is what happened to me.
OSC: You were also extremely durable over your career. How
much of your durability was a matter of "fighting through it" and how much of
it was conditioning?
Murphy: It's a combination of
all those things. I knew that conditioning was important and now we know,
especially the weight lifting part -- the strength part. In the late '70's and
early 80's guys started figuring it out that the days of just going to spring
training and getting in shape and then playing the season were over. And, that
you were going to have to work out and be ready to go when you stepped on the
field in spring training and really spend a lot of time working out during the
winter. I made a commitment to that. That I would work out as hard as I could
during the winter and be ready to go.
I wanted to fulfill my
obligation. I signed a contract and, if I was healthy, I wanted to play and I
wanted to give my best effort and it ended up in a long streak. It ended up
over 700 games. It's just kind of one of those things that just happened. You
don't sit down and think, ' I want to play in so many games over so many
years.' You just try to show up every day and, if you're capable of playing,
and if you're contributing, you're playing good - I just felt I wanted to be in
there as often as possible. I felt like I owed it to the Braves.
OSC:In the 70's it looked like the Braves were turning over
a new manager every year or so. You had Joe Torre and Bobby Cox and some other
guys. Can you talk about some of the managers you dealt with and who you
thought was good and who helped the direction of the team go from struggling
into real contenders.
Murphy: Well, Bobby Cox really
saved my career. He got me into the outfield. He actually traded Jeff Burroughs
who had done pretty good for us. He felt that I could play in the outfield. And
in spring training he traded Jeff, a budding left fielder, and put me in left.
He really had faith in me. He said, "This is your job, go get 'em!"
Anyway, Bobby kind of helped me in my career. But then
he put together that team that Joe inherited in '82 with Chris Chambliss,
Claudell Washington - of course, Claudell might have signed that winter of
'81/'82. But, Bobby got Chris Chambliss and really solidified our infield. And
then Joe came in '82 and kind of inherited a team that kind of showed some
potential. No one picked us to win it in '82, but people felt like we would
finish in the middle of the pack, maybe, which was a big step up for us. That
was a great move for Bobby to go to Toronto and Joe to come to Atlanta. It
worked out for both of them. In '82 we won it, our division. In '83 we finished
second and in '84 we finished second. We kind of got blown out in '84, but we
still finished second. The Padres ran away with it.
Those two guys
were probably the most influential [for] me because Bobby kind of saved my
career and got me going. And Joe really helped as far as my hitting was
concerned and really did a great job managing and it has always been a mystery
to me why we fired him. It worked out for him. I am very happy for Joe, it's
been great for him.
OSC: In 1982 you won the NL MVP, which is an unbelievable
feat in its own right, but given the fact that you were the first Brave to win
the award since Henry Aaron did in 1957, was there an added feeling of pride
given this situation?
Murphy: The first since Hank!?
Yeah. Well, that was just another thing that just kind of happened -- It
sneaks up on you. You work and you work and all of a sudden you put some
numbers and you get voted the MVP. And, you know, I am not trying to be overly
modest, but you know the numbers weren't all that big. They weren't huge. And
sometimes things just kind of work out. There weren't hallmark years for guys.
My average was .280 something. To me it was, 'Man, this is a great honor.' I'm
sure the voting was really close. No one had a standout year. We weren't
putting up numbers like they are now. I just remember really being blown away
when that happened.
OSC: One thing that is wholly unique to your career was the
fact that you played on a team that both lost and won over the years. Can you
pinpoint what made the Braves go from cellar-dwellers to a winning
Murphy: Well, pitching is the
difference of any successful baseball team -- their pitching and their defense.
The years when we did well we had decent pitching and decent defense. Our
offense was kind of always there, but the Braves made a major commitment to
pitching. If you looked at their drafts in the late 80's and throughout the
90's and their free agent signings, although they had some great one's that
were not pitchers, they made some great draft choices and free agent signings
as far as pitching is concerned. I think that is the key ingredient for their
being competitive year in and year out.
The '82 season, and players that stood out
OSC: What players, both teammates and opponents impressed
you most? Were there any players that mentor you when you were coming up and
did you mentor any players?
Murphy: I don't know who I
mentored. I tried to be helpful to young players coming up.
appreciated Gary Matthews help as a young player with the Braves. He always
played hard and had an aggressive attitude out there. I think it kind of rubbed
off on me. And he was always trying to encourage me in that way. And Phil
Niekro I always appreciated, as a young player, how he approached his job. He
went out there hurt many times and how he handles things professionally.
OSC: Are there any standout games or events in your career
that you feel are special?
Murphy: Mostly, when I think
about my career, I think about the '82 season when we won the Division. And
when I think about that season, I
think about the big lead that we had and then losing that lead to the Dodgers.
I believe in August we lost something like 19 out of 21, or some unbelievable
number. Going from first place, with a pretty big lead, and then going to
second place behind the Dodgers, I just remember talking to Phil Neikro one out
in the outfield during batting practice. We were pretty down. We had just
gotten off a road trip, I think in San Diego. I lost a ball in the sun. It was
a fly ball that almost hit me. We ended up losing and I just remember talking
to him and he just reassured me. He said, "We're still in the hunt. We just
gotta keep believing. We gotta keep thinking we can do this." And Phil just
carried us. I think he won 17 games that year. And then the last series was in
San Diego and the Dodgers were in San Francisco. I think he pitched the second
game of that series. He was such a good competitor and a positive guy. He hit a
homerun in the game he pitched. He was doing everything for us. That's one game
that stands out in my mind, is how he just never gave up. And we ended up
losing on Sunday and so did the Dodgers so we ended up finishing a game ahead
of them, or something like that. We weren't excited about tying. We would have
gone to L.A. for a one game playoff on Monday.
I think that's what I
remember, a guy like Phil Neikro really being positive and upbeat even when
things weren't really looking good for us.
OSC: Every batter faces pitchers that have their number. Can
you think of some pitchers that when you stepped into the box you said, "This
is somebody I really have to concentrate on or really work hard to get
Murphy: Yeah, Hershiser. We
faced him somewhere in the middle of his 80-something inning hitless streak, we
might have faced him twice. Hershiser was not overpowering,
that's not what he was known for. He just knew how to pitch. And he was always
a tough one, you never really felt comfortable. He's like Maddux, you never
really felt like you knew what you were doing. I always felt like he was in
control of things.
And then there's the big names that you always
knew you were in for a battle; Nolan Ryan and Carlton. You knew they were
probably going to get the best of you. But you might get a chance to get a few
runs across the plate.
OSC: Can you think of any players that you saw as a heavy
competitor or had a hard work ethic?
Murphy: I enjoyed playing
against Ozzie Smith. He was a very frustrating guy. But it was fun to be able
to play against him. It was to be able to compete against Pete Rose. And then
The Big Red Machine. I got to play against them in September of
'76 and then September '77. There were still guys from that '75 team. That was
the best team I have ever seen. Mike Schmidt. I felt he
really played hard and studied the game. He was someone I really admired, as
far as playing against.
I got to play against and with Bruce Sutter. I
thought he was one of the great relievers. I think he should be in the Hall of
Fame. But I think there is a number of those relievers that should be in the
Hall of Fame. You could call Eckersley a reliever, although he wasn't a true
reliever his entire career, he may pave the way. He deserves it. I hope he does
break the way for these guys. Gossage should be in. Sutter should be in. But
I'm not going to argue about it.
"Character", Pete Rose, and the Hall of Fame
OSC: You've always been a player of character, and obviously
a man of great faith. Are athletes role models, and if so, to what extent?
Murphy: I don't think there is
any question that players are role models. Growing up we all have people we
look up to. And the people that society puts out there for everybody to see are
role models. In our society, it's athletes; it's
entertainers, and certainly, it's family members and
parents. I think that is the critical place where you can model to your kids on
how to behave and how to act and the difference between right and wrong.
And that is not to say that athletes and
entertainers don't have impact, they certainly do. And they can have a great
impact for good. I tried to remember that and I wish that all athletes
would realize that and remember that. Some don't agree with that, but what I am
saying is that there is really nothing to agree with or disagree, it's just a
fact, whether you like it or not, is the point. You are going to make
impressions on people, and especially younger people that enjoy sports, that
watch and follow you; watch what you say and what you do. You can have an
impact for good. Why not think about that? No one is perfect. I'm not saying
that. We all have weaknesses. You have an opportunity, make the most of it. And
think about that when you're going through your career. You can have a good
OSC: What are your feelings about the Pete Rose
Murphy: Pete's dug a big hole
for himself. The problem with the commissioner is the rule. There really isn't
too much the commissioner
can do. The rule is very clear. Pete broke the rule. And so, as far as my
feelings are concerned, you got to abide by the rule. I don't know how else to
get around it. There may be a way to get around it, but I think you add that
with what has happened lately -- a total lack of contrition and understanding
-- it's really another opportunity for Pete to exploit the situation in his own
behalf. Instead of trying to repair damage done from what he did, it is really
frustrating to ex-players and fans of the game, I think. Instead of trying to
work this thing out it's been more difficult for me to side with Pete because
of the way he's handled this.
I think he got some really bad advice. I think
right after it happened there needed to be a lot of work on his behalf that he
just did not come forward with, and take part in, and want to make amends, and
make things better, and fix the problem he created. So, I think it is very
frustrating and I'm not sure what the commissioner is going to do. The only
idea, and I don't know if this is even ethical or logical, is to change the
rule to a 25 year ban. And then make him wait for 12 more years. Because it
just sends the wrong message.
He really wants to put on a uniform again and get on the field.
That's what is really what he wants to do. And if I were him, that's what I
would want, too. The Hall of Fame, I think that would speak for itself. But, I
would miss not being able to have the opportunity to even go work
for a team. And it's so interesting to me and I think it just illustrates that
he's got a problem.
Here's that one thing he loves, baseball, and he
can't overcome this addiction. He's even said publicly that, 'I've told the
commissioner that I'll work on [gambling]. But I'm still going to go to the
track.' You know, if you're an alcoholic, my understanding is you don't say,
'I'm still going to drink a little bit. I'm still going to drink beer because
it's legal.' That's what Pete has said, 'I'm still going to do legal gambling
because it's legal.' Well, to me gambling -- and I don't know a lot about it --
but my understanding is it's a problem you have to address and you can't gamble
any more. And if he wants to get back in the game and put on a uniform but he
won't say 'I am not going to do this any more.' It's a sad thing that people
have not been able to get to him and say, 'Pete, here's how you could have
maybe done this differently.' How you do it is to tell him, 'You've got a
problem and gambling is a problem.' You know, he should say, 'I am going to go
on the road and start talking to people on what a problem it is. And I'm not
going to do it any more. I want to get back in the game.' It just hasn't been
that way. He's written a book. He capitalized on his admission to the
commissioner that he gambled to make money. It's just really in bad taste.
OSC: You are up for the Hall of Fame, which I'm sure
everyone in your hometown here would love to see. Do you think about going to
the Hall, or is it a case of if it happens it happens?
Murphy: I don't think about it a
lot. I've been eligible now for a few years and I'm not getting a lot of
support. I think if I was on the bubble I would be giving a different answer,
but I am not really sitting on pins and needles. I have people that really
support me and feel the things I have done should get some more consideration.
And then there's others that don't feel that way.
It's a real tough place to get into.
I understand statistics are statistics. They're
there. I have heard some people say some very complimentary things and have
been very supportive. I appreciate that. It's a challenge when there are some
players that I'm wondering why they didn't get in sooner and they say I should
be in there. I don't have a problem with them saying that. I agree with most of
the guys that are saying that. I have some borderline statistics and I
understand that. There is nothing you can do about it. It's there. I have had
some people say 'Well, for the 80's and for those good years, you should be
considered. And they kind of tailed off in the end.' Some people say, 'You
needed a few more good years.'
So, I don't really think about it a
lot. I do think about it. I appreciate the support I have received and will
just have to wait and see. If it happens it is going to be a
OSC: Do you still follow the game closely? And if you do,
are there any players that you currently admire?
Murphy: I think I follow it
pretty closely. I'm not working for anybody, so I'm not involved in the game,
but I think I follow it pretty closely. I enjoy watching it. I enjoy seeing
what guys are doing and what's happening. This winter has been interesting with
all the possible trades and stuff.
I love the game and I love to watch
it. I love Alex Rodriguez. I think he's probably the best player in the game. I
John Smoltz and some of the guys I played with that are still
playing; Tom Glavine and Smoltz - I think that's it (laughing) with the Braves.
And I follow what Bobby Cox does and Joe Torre --I played for Joe. I really
enjoy seeing how Joe is doing with the Yankees. And I watch Derek Jeter, I
think he's incredible. I love to watch Greg Maddox pitch.
I was really impressed with some of those young
guys on the Marlins this year. That was tremendous. And what was that pitchers
name? Josh Beckett? Yeah, Beckett. That was just incredible. I have
never seen any young kid pitch like that. It was amazing.
OSC: Outside of sports do you have any other aspirations for
life that are public in nature? Word has it you've considered
Murphy: I have thought a little
bit about it. There is nothing to announce. But I have talked to people and
people have talked to me. I am giving it some consideration in the future.
MLB in Portland and closing thoughts
OSC: Portland has grown from a "town" into a "city" since
you graduated from High School here. Portland seems eager to bring Major League
Baseball into the city as a sports option for the fans. What do you think of
the game of baseball, and what do you think MLB would do for Portland if it did
Murphy: My first thought about
it is I wish I was still playing. I can't even begin to think of what it would
have been like to possibly have played a game there and then possibly played
for a team in Portland. That would have been a dream come true. I went out to
play an exhibition game in Seattle. We left -- boy listen to this schedule --
We left Florida and went to Seattle for an exhibition game before the season
started. I don't know how that got scheduled. From West Palm Beach to Seattle
and then back to Atlanta to open the season.
Just playing in Seattle, the Seattle area reminds you
a lot of Portland. Just walking around the city it felt so good to be in the
Northwest. All I can say is that I'm like a lot of people from Portland that
are associated with the game, it would be so exciting [to get a MLB team].
Baseball has a great heritage in Portland. And I am grateful that I am feel
connected somehow to the great tradition that we have. I just got a letter the
other day where I am invited to the Active and Old Timers baseball banquet. I
look down at the names of those invited and those who are involved and I think
about the days of growing up and going to the Old Timers banquet and the people
are such good people -- Jack Dunn, and of course getting to play for Jack, and
I kind of felt like I grew up with those group of men and growing to love the
game of baseball. It's interesting to me that there isn't a lot of communities
like this. Baseball has a really unique baseball history. Areal great one. And
now one that is still viable [in Portland].
The kids still play some great baseball in
Portland and in the Northwest -- a lot of supportive communities. Were not
known like a southern California, or Texas, or Florida. But, what we can do in
weather conditions in the springtime, things like that [is great]. We have some
really good programs there. And then to compliment that, to grow on that
heritage, from the old days of the Portland Beavers, which I was able to go
there now and I know there's minor league baseball there. All I can say is that
would be a fitting tribute to the support of the community, that they have
given to baseball, to have a major league franchise there. And, it would be a
dream come true.
OSC: We've asked this of some other players that have ties
to Portland, so why stop there. If Portland lands an MLB team, would you consider being here on
Murphy: For sure. I can't
imagine what would stop me from being there on opening day. Unless I have a
bunch of boys playing baseball here. Like I said, I wish I was playing and if
they get it I would consider a comeback (laughing) just to put on a uniform.
That would be a blast. I'm kidding about a comeback, but I might try to be
batboy or something.
OSC: Is baseball something that is good for kids to build on
for life? Are there lessons in playing baseball that can be applied to life
outside the sport?
Murphy: I think so. I think you
learn a lot of things about athletic competition at any level. But, I think
baseball is a very humbling game. It
always reminds you that you're imperfect and that you just have to keep working
Having a good, positive attitude is essential in
whatever you do.
Even as cliché as it is, even if you're
going to strike out every once in a while, and you're not going to hit a home
run very often. But that's the way life is, you just keep going, keep swinging
and have a good, positive attitude. And that's the great thing. You [have] a
lot of good life lessons to learn from baseball and from sports in general - as
long as we keep in perspective, what sports really is - it's entertainment.
It's fun. But, we can learn some great things from it. I think kids from their
involvement in sports. It's one of the best things they can do.