Chad Murphy hadn’t swung a baseball bat in real competition since high school, his time taken up by other pursuits, namely education.
Education had replaced a game that had become a faded memory. That is, until Murphy realized that 2012 marked the last time his father, Dale, would be eligible for Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Dale Murphy file
Major league debut » Sept. 13, 1976 for the Atlanta Braves.
Last at-bat » May 21, 1993, for the Colorado Rockies.
Batting average » .265. Home runs » 398.
Runs batted in » 1,266
Highlights » Won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. Only player in MLB history to hit .300 with at least 30 home runs, 120 RBIs, 130 runs scored, 90 walks and 30 steals in a single season.
Now, Chad is going to bat for his father.
In early December, in a mission to right a perceived wrong, Chad Murphy wrote an open letter to the Baseball Writers Association of America — the Hall of Fame voters — imploring the writers, at times in a tongue-in-cheek method, to take another look at Dale Murphy — who, along with Roger Maris and Juan Gonzalez, is one of three winners of multiple Most Valuable Player awards who are not in the Hall.
"I’d been doing other things the past 10 years or so, some pretty nerdy stuff, to be honest," said the Ph.D. candidate in organizational behavior at Penn State.
"Dad is not the kind of guy to talk about himself. I’m sure he was surprised."
No doubt he was, especially after the other seven Murphy children, including University of Utah tight end Jake Murphy, as well as siblings Travis, Shawn, Tyson, Taylor, Mc-Kay and Madison, took up the cause with a series of online projects. Notably, they highlighted the Hall standards, which include sportsmanship and character as well as statistics.
Murphy, a seven-time All-Star outfielder for the Atlanta Braves during the 1980s, said his family’s support was like getting Christmas and Father’s Day rolled into one. The Hall voting results will be revealed Jan. 9.
"I’m really proud of the kids and thankful for what they’re doing," Murphy said from his home in Alpine. "It can make a difference. It could also make a difference for other guys."
Murphy, winner of five gold gloves and only the sixth player to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases, has landed at the center of a debate on voting standards. In explaining his case, Murphy pushed for those peers who have also fallen short, such as Lee Smith, Alan Trammel and Gil Hodges.
"It may be self-serving for me to discuss it, but there should be room for guys like me and Jack Morris and Don Mattingly," Murphy said. "We may not have the elite status of certain players. The discussion is, it’s not that this guy is a good guy and we should let him in. It’s what he’s meant to his team, the game and sportsmanship. Then look at the stats."
Murphy, who played 18 seasons, first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1999, the required five seasons after retirement. Although he continued to earn the requisite 5 percent of the votes to remain on the ballot, Murphy has never come close to the 75 percent of the vote needed to enter the Hall.
In 2000, Murphy had his best total, 23 percent. That has since fallen.
"There has been a huge argument for why he should be in," said Taylor Murphy, whose online cartoon of support led him to be interviewed on MLB Network. "You should be compared to players of his era."
Though his career numbers are not eye-popping, the discussion for Murphy centers around his dominance during much of the 1980s, which includes the most total bases of the decade.
Detractors, many in the sabermetric community, point to those same numbers and the quick downturn of his career. Much like with Ron Santo, recently elected thanks to the Hall’s Veterans Committee, Murphy’s career did not have the typical slow downturn. But his numbers compare favorably to Santo’s.
Murphy’s supporters also say that his numbers are honest, coming before players used performance enhancing drugs — a few of whom are on this year’s ballot for the first time.
Chad Murphy believes his father would be in the Hall had he played in New York or been surrounded by a better team. The Braves, except for their NL West Division championship in 1982, were rarely in contention.
"I saw a lot of horrible baseball," he said.
In the end, Dale Murphy’s fate is in the hands of the baseball writers. And maybe someday, if not now, Murphy could gain admission through the Veterans Committee.
"I’m hopeful this year," Dale Murphy said. "There are real exciting things going on."
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