John E. Hoover: Dale Murphy is worthy of election into baseball's Hall of Fame
BY John E. Hoover
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
1/09/13 at 7:25 AM
Read Bill Connors’ 1993 column on
Dale Murphy at the time of Murphy’s
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Murphy is deserving of Hall of Fame
It was written 19 years ago next summer, and the words are even truer today than they were back then.
Dale Murphy belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1993, when Murphy retired, then-Tulsa World Sports Editor Bill Connors wrote that even with George Steinbrenner's return, Marge Schott's exile and Terry Pendleton's walkout on his own team, the game's greatest loss that summer was Murphy's retirement.
That was a year before the disastrous 1994 strike, five years before Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa staged a juiced-up home run chase, eight years before Barry Bonds clear and creamed his way to 73 home runs and 14 years before BALCO became part of our everyday sports lexicon.
On Wednesday, Dale Murphy finds out if he is among the Hall's newest class of inductees. Despite a groundswell of support and members of his family actively lobbying voters, Murphy's enshrinement still seems a long shot.
This is Murphy's 15th and final year of eligibility on the ballot, which means he'll probably need a Veterans Committee vote - an old-timer's sympathy vote - to get in someday.
And that's too bad. Baseball has never - not even in 1993 - needed a true hero, a legitimate role model, more than it needs one now.
Instead of debating the Hall of Fame merits of tainted players like Bonds or Sosa or McGwire or Roger Clemens or Rafael Palmiero or others, we should be debating the accomplishments of Dale Murphy.
Or maybe we shouldn't.
"No one could say there were no role models when Murphy wore a uniform," Connors wrote in 1993. "He was the quintessential role model: religious, clean living, unaffected, accommodating, and a spokesman for noble causes.
"At the height of his all-star career with Atlanta or the dismal finish with the Colorado Rockies, Murphy was the epitome of grace."
Henry Aaron, Connors wrote, said Murphy was "probably the finest gentleman to ever play the game."
OK, so it's not the Gentleman's Hall of Fame. It's the Baseball Hall of Fame.
So check out Murphy's baseball accomplishments:
He has 2,111 career hits, 398 home runs, 1,266 RBIs, 161 stolen bases, a .265 batting average and a .469 slugging percentage in an 18-year career. He came up as a catcher and starred as an All-Star center fielder.
As Connors wrote 19 years ago, in a span of six seasons, beginning in 1982, Murphy averaged 36 home runs and 105 runs batted in, won five Gold Glove awards and was the National League's MVP in '82 and '83.
This was in an era when 36 home runs was the gold standard.
As Murphy's oldest son pointed out in an open letter to voters, Murphy was the youngest player to earn back-to-back MVPs, he was just the sixth person in history with 30 steals and 30 homers in a season, he led all of baseball in total bases during the 1980s, and was second in that decade in home runs and runs scored.
And as anyone who watched the Braves play on WTBS before the network became "very funny" knows, Murphy practically invented and certainly perfected the defensive art of climbing the wall to take away home runs.
Voters and critics will rightly say Murphy's career numbers are lower than other nominees, and thus probably shouldn't merit him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
But that argument has become sadly outdated. It is, at best, lazy. Voters should change the way they think about the Hall of Fame.
Should a man who pointed his finger at Congress and embarrassed himself on Capitol Hill be bestowed baseball's highest honor just because he had a better batting average and more home runs than a man who placed morality over immortality?
Voting, the ballot reminds voters, shall be "based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
Murphy's not deserving? Then who is?
Anyway, why do we get so bogged down in statistics?
Why do our sports historians only measure ultimate greatness by percentages and averages, or by how many times a ball goes over a wall?
Few players lived a life of true greatness more than Dale Murphy.
In reality, the steroid era permanently stained what baseball was, and forever changed what it will be. Sadly, any player who becomes the next great power hitter, from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, is under suspicion.
Maintaining that bygone argument about needing 3,000 hits or 400 home runs to qualify for the Hall is a fool's errand, a house of cards just waiting, in this case for the next drug test, to fall.
Dale Murphy's excellence as a baseball player speaks for itself. His astonishing humility and dignity and character as a human being should count for much more.
As a baseball player, other players wished they could play like him. As a man, other men wished they live like him.
"He should make it (in the Hall) and probably will," Connors wrote in 1993. "Hopefully, he will not be remembered as baseball's last role model.
"Meanwhile, baseball already misses him."
Now more than ever.
Dale Murphy waves as he is introduced to the crowd during a ceremony to retire Tom Glavine's number in 2010 in Atlanta. JOHN BAZEMORE / AP file