Editor's Note: This piece was published at BravesWire.com on December 18th.
This January when the Hall of Fame voters submit their ballots for this summer’s induction ceremony, Dale Murphy will be appearing on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time. Murph, as we fans of the former Atlanta Brave refer to him, peaked his second year on the ballot with 23.2% of the vote. Unlike so many inducted into the Hall, Murph didn’t continue to rise in voting percentage. The reality of this is, for the most part, a travesty for the game of baseball.
Dale Murphy played the entirety of his career for teams that simply couldn’t compete despite his best effort on the field. Where his numbers fall short, one should consider how much better he could have been had he been surrounded by winning teams. Had he played during Atlanta’s dynasty years in the 90s, there would be no question about his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Of the nine numbers retired by the Atlanta Braves, four of those players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame (Spahn, Mathews, Aaron, Neikro). Without question four of those players will be inducted into the Hall in the next three years (Cox, Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine). There is no question that Chipper Jones will be inducted into the Hall and his number will be retired by the Braves next summer. That leaves only Dale Murphy. Murph’s number was retired in 1994 by Atlanta.
Recently, Joe Posnanski wrote that beyond what Dale Murphy did on the field, “Murphy was a class act, someone who took being a role model seriously, and in many ways he was the first baseball hero that the American South could call its own.” This is the crux of the matter. Not the numbers, though no one will argue with back-t0-back MVP awards for a team that was terrible, two home run titles and four remarkable seasons of not missing a single game. The Dale Murphy case for the Hall of Fame is bigger than the ubiquitous baseball statistics.
Here is where I make my pitch as a fan of the game, not just the beat writer for BravesWire.
Little-known fact: This beat writer covering the premiere Southern team, the Atlanta Braves, writes this column from her home in Idaho. Out West, guys like Dale Murphy are revered for one particular reason–faith. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormon, Dale Murphy is one of the higher profile members of the Church. Growing up in a Mormon community, the most followed sports stars were Danny Ainge, Thurl Bailey, Shawn Bradley, Danny White, Merril Hoge, Steve Young and Dale Murphy. People didn’t follow these stars just because they were Mormon, they followed them because they were notoriously good guys. Perhaps it is their Mormon faith that instilled in them a certain type of character, a type of character that required them to not drink alcohol or use drugs, but I believe it is far more than that.
Dale Murphy has given as much of himself off the field as he did as a player on the field. He has been an advocate for a number of charities, he has worked tirelessly for and given generously to his church, and he started his own organization promotion integrity among little league baseball players. As a teammate, he was known for his work ethic and leadership. He set an example for each of his teammates, not only for his teetotaling lifestyle, but also for the way he treated the fans. Imagine a 2-time MVP today who would never turn away a fan who wanted an autograph and who would not allow female fans to hang all over him in pictures. Both are unheard of today. As a MLB alum, he continues to be known for his leadership and continued devotion to the game. Dale Murphy is a familiar face at charity events and anything promoting the Braves franchise.
Does off-the-field behavior matter? It should. Do good guys finish last? Unfortunately, this is too often true. But it shouldn’t be the case.
As the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise for a decade, as a credit to the game of baseball and as one of the most liked players to ever wear the uniform, Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.