By In Baseball, History

The Murph

From NBC SportsWorld.

In the aftermath of the Goose Gossage and Mike Schmidt soliloquies on the death of respect in baseball, I called up a childhood hero, Dale Murphy, to ask him what he thinks about the state of the game and those darned kids today.

He was, to say the least, fantastic. I left that conversation feeling better about, well, everything.

Our Time was Our Time

45 Responses to The Murph

  1. Donald A. Coffin says:

    Murphy was and is a class act.

  2. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    Darn, when I read the title, I thought this was going to be a retrospective on my childhood ballpark in Mission Valley (before some tech company wrote a check and turned it into the “Q”.

    Seriously, though, I hope Dale Murphy doesn’t get lost to history. In the mid-1980s, he was every bit as fearsome a hitter as Rice and Mattingly. Like Mattingly, his decline was early and steep, which kept him out of Cooperstown, and he didn’t play in Boston or New York, but he was one of the greatest players of a still-underappreciated decade.

    If I recall, Murphy was a slightly polarizing figure, considered by cynics to be too much of a goody-two-shoes. Sort of like Steve Garvey, except that, unlike Garvey, he did nothing to cultivate that image other than being a genuinely nice person. I wish I had appreciated him more at the time, but I’m glad someone got him out from behind the plate soon enough for him to emerge as a (brief) superstar.

    • SDG says:

      I was wondering if there are any modern n players with the same “good guy” reputation. Not necessarily guys who do a lot of public charity but who have unironic reputations as Boy Scouts, with no whispers of any scandal.

      The only one I can think of is Rivera. Even people who hate the Yankees on principle like him.

      • invitro says:

        Are any current players Mormons? Oh wait, Bryce is.

      • invitro says:

        I like your question so I’ll reply again :). I think today’s players are actually probably much more moral, or Boy Scout-like, than, say, 1980’s players. There were a lot of actual criminals in the 1980’s — hard drug users and sellers. Steroid users. Heavy gamblers and tax cheats. And it seemed that way then, I think it was just more accepted, at least until the Pittsburgh drug trials, and/or Len Bias’ death, and the Dowd report.
        I think Murphy just stood out more in comparison to his comrades.
        Maybe I’ll ask the reverse question: who are some modern players that are criminals, or at least strongly suspected of having substantially suspect moral character?
        While there are lots and lots of Mormon MLBers, Murphy was a Mormon missionary, and this seems to be rare. I saw an article that Jeremy Guthrie was one, and apparently the first such player to be in a World Series. What do you Royals fans have to say about Guthrie?

        • Just Bob says:

          We universally LOVE Jeremy Guthrie as a person, not so much as a pitcher. Speaking of Royals players, I’d add Salvador Perez to the list of “good guys in baseball”.

      • hardy callcott says:

        Buster Posey

    • Robert Rittner says:

      Curtis Granderson, for one. I think McCutchen too.

    • Scott says:

      I wonder if the experience with Garvey and Puckett has reduced the idea of looking at athletes through this lens. Both of them were held up as moral exemplars and turned out to be nearly the complete opposite. Reputation helped get one in the Hall of Fame and was part of the reason the other was regarded as one of the best players in the game. This might have caused people to take a second look at other players who held to the same standard, much to the determent of those who were the real deal, like Murphy

  3. SDG says:

    Chris Rock said the same thing as Dale Murphy, but funnier

    They both have a point. It’s sometimes great how baseball cares so much about its history but it’s sometimes nuts. We romanticize the past too much. How are bat flips even disrespectful? Try imagine telling John McGraw that.

  4. invitro says:

    Great article. I certainly don’t remember the 1980’s version of baseball being any less emotional or lively than today’s game. At all. And I’ve read enough about the 1970’s version to know it wasn’t unemotional or dead, either. So I’m baffled by people that think various lively (or silly) displays are anything new. Come on, Gastineau’s Sack Dance is 30 years old now.

    I do hope that people are nicer toward the conservative fans. To answer the guy above, Bill James will tell you why some bat flips, not all, might be disrespectful (I don’t care either way about Bautista’s flip, personally). But I think the most disrespectful thing in baseball is still intentionally pitching at a hitter.

    I like both emotion and cool in pro sports. I do get annoyed at the constant pointing to heaven, hand signs, and kissing the fingers, just because they are so old and tired than doing those things is just simple conformity. But it’s not a big deal.

    Oh, I think Bryce is a bit of a jerk, but there were lots of minor jerks in the 1980’s, and probably in all decades. Murph is the king, though, the king of nice guys, class, reasonability, and just plain being a good person. In the 1980’s, I was more bored of Murphy than his fan, but that’s just being a kid.

    Eager for the season to start so I can see if the Astros are more than a one-year thing.

  5. Andrew says:

    Didn’t see Murphy much. Out-of-town cable came late to us. All I remember is one at-bat where he roped a low-and-away pitch over the infield to right center — a hard single, maybe a gap double — and suddenly I’m seeing the right fielder’s back as the ball goes over the wall and ricochets around like a bazooka round. Like Joe says, NOBODY was doing that. Give him all the tools and enhancements available today, and he’d be even more exceptional … a great player who didn’t act like it.

  6. Didn’t think it was possible for me to have more respect for Murphy, but I do now.

    Would also point out that the game in Murphy’s day was way more violent. Collisions at the plate were encouraged. Beanballs were common. Murphy’s team was involved in one of the worst incidents — the war between the Braves and Padres (Murph was one of the only players not ejected or fined that day). So I’m a little less rose-colored about that era.

  7. Stephen says:

    We might recall Ron Santo jumping up and clicking his heels after every Cub win in the summer of ’69 too, at least till the Cubs fell out of first. Cubs fans didn’t seem to mind…

  8. mcsnide says:

    I just finished reading The Glory of Their Times, a book written in the early 60s that is basically interviews of players who’d played in the early 20th century. Out of 26 interviews, only 2 of them thought the 60s players were as good or better than they and their contemporaries had been. Some specifically called out Willie Mays as someone who wouldn’t have been able to compete with, say, Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Even as someone who thinks the first 3-4 decades of the twentieth century don’t get enough respect in terms of the quality of the players, I found that downright laughable.

    You see, the players of the 60s were holding the bat too close to the end and swinging too hard – they needed to choke up the bat and slap the ball around. Also, they weren’t able to think for themselves and relied too much on the manager to know what to do. Usually, this sort of disparagement would come up unironically shortly after discussing Merkle’s Boner. Bottom line – old guys gonna old guy. No need to get bent out of shape when they do, but it speaks volumes for the guys like Murphy who get it.

    • SDG says:

      I love books like that. There are two other ones, “We Would Have Played for Nothing” (Ralph Branca, Bill Rigney, Carl Erskine, Duke Snider, Robin Roberts, Whitey Ford, Lew Burdette, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks and Frank Robinson, Billy Williams) and “The Only Game In Town” (Elden Auker, Bob Feller, Tommy Henrich, Buck O’Neil, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Warren Spahn, Larry Doby, Ralph Kiner, Monte Irvin).

      And they both have plenty of players claiming players are too soft now, and earn too much money for how they play, and refusing to admit anyone could be as good as their generation. You get people saying the opposite too, at least.

  9. MikeN says:

    Clint Eastwood really had an eye for talent.

  10. John Leavy says:

    What I’ve never understood is why SOME players (i.e. pitchers) are allowed to take revenge against others for “showing them up,” but most aren’t.

    If Roy Hobbs hits a homer off Nuke LaLoosh, and then showboats while circling the bases, Nuke is going to throw at Roy’s head the next at-bat. And old-schoolers will be in Nuke’s corner, because Roy had no business making too much of the homer.

    But reverse the roles. Suppose Nuke strikes Roy out on three pitches, then does a fist pump. Is Roy allowed to throw his bat at Nuke next at-bat? If he did, would anyone say, “Good- Nuke had no right to show Roy up like that”?

    My take is, if pitchers don’t like getting “shown up,” they should stop lobbing up gopher balls. And if hitters don’t like watching pitchers do fist pumps, they should spend more time at batting practice and try to strike out less.

    • Andrew says:

      If you’re an old-timer, you tell Roy to drag a bunt down first base and run Nuke down as he bends over to field it. But these %^$#@!! players today can’t bunt worth a damn.

    • Bob Lince says:

      When a pitcher throws high & tight and knocks the batter down, he often claims that the pitch slipped. Bats can slip just as well.

      Minnie Minosa crowded the plate and expected close pitches. He at one time (perhaps still does) held the record for most times being hit by a pitch.

      But apparently he didn’t expect a pitch to be thrown at his head by a rookie pitcher in a spring training game.

      He evaded the bean-ball, and on the next pitch he swung and missed. On that swing, the bat “slipped” from his grasp and helicoptered toward the rubber. If the pitcher hadn’t been agile he might have ended up with a broken leg.

      I was at the game.

      Eh, sometimes pitches slip, sometimes bats slip. But all this seems way to subtle for the modern ball-player.

  11. Old(er) Fart says:

    Schmidt? Mediocre — .267 liftime batting average.

    Gossage? Failed starter.

  12. invitro says:

    If his teammates love him so much, I wonder if Murphy will get a better shot at the Hall of Fame when his turn comes up for the Veterans’ vote. I personally think the character clause should mean *something*, and I’d be happy if the players used it to induct Dale. What do you guys think?

    • Pat says:

      I think there’s no such thing as a “character clause.” Rule 5 reads: Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. Now it’s interesting there are three things which relate to performance on the field, and three things which relate more to behavior, but it’s pretty clear from the history of the HOF it’s performance which matters the vast majority of the time.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      I’ve always kind of felt like it’s kind of a thing that results in implicit negative assumptions being made about others. If Dale Murphy is elected the way you suggest, but others receive no such honor, are we saying they aren’t great guys? How good do you have to be for this clause to be kicked in? Better than Sean Casey?

      • SDG says:

        Also, you know how people argue for their favorite player to be in the Hall by saying he’s better than the worst guy in there? Like corner outfielder X should be in because he has a higher BA than Ozzie Smith.

        Do that with the character clause and you may as well shut the whole thing down, because no one was ever less sportsmanlike than Cap Anson. So we’d have to let in pretty much everybody.

    • SDG says:

      In my opinion, you can’t go down that road, because then you’re honoring lifetime 85 OPS+ers who do a lot of charity work and leaving out Ty Cobb. Or Mickey Mantle. Etc.

      Dixie Walker and Ben Chapman went to their graves believing the only reason they aren’t in Cooperstown was politics (the stats don’t bear that out). Do you really want to give people like that ammunition? Let it be the Baseball Hall of Fame, for people who were really, really, good at baseball.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Dixie Walker I can understand. But did Ben Chapman really think he was a Hall of Famer? Not disputing you but I find that hard to believe.

        Of course, Curt Schilling thinks that’s the reason he’s not in.

        • SDG says:

          He did.
          He and Dixie had pretty similar stats, actually, both falling into the “good but not exceptional” category. Dixie has 42.6 career WAR over 18 years, Chapman has 41.3 over 15.

          Schilling seems like he likes to fight. The reason he’s not in is because of the huge 90s-2000s players that are backlogged. Eventually that will all get sorted. Besides, as long as baseball cares not only IF you get into the HoF but how many ballots it takes and what your vote percentage is, a guy like Schilling might be kept waiting until we sort out what to do with Clemens (same era, but way better). Like how they kept Duke Snider waiting 11 ballots because they wanted Willie Mays to get in first.

          • Patrick Bohn says:

            Last ballot, Schilling lost several voters who had voted for him in years past. Not a lot, but enough that I suspect some people were holding some of his comments against him.

            But his vote totals have dramatically risen the past two ballots, from 29% to 52%. I see no reason to think, barring a new controversy, that he won’t be elected in two years

    • NevadaMark says:

      I would say his chances are good.

  13. john4psu says:

    Ozzie’s flip was pre-game. Doesn’t everybody know that?

    • MCD says:

      ..and Ron Santo’s (mentioned above) heel clicks were after the game. I honestly think that part of the objection to home run celebrations has to do with the fuzzy nature of whether the game is still going on at the time. While a home run is a dead ball, the play is not over because the hitter can be called out for passing a runner or missing a base. The unlikelihood of these violations are immaterial. This is akin to a football player who starts celebrating at the 10 yard line when it is a “foregone conclusion” he will cross the goal line.

      I don’t think this delineation is a conscious decision on player’s part, but I do think this is why bat flips or “over-admiration” of one’s homer strikes a bad chord with some players. Even most hardline old school pitchers find some sort of celebration acceptable when a play is over. Pitchers seem less perturbed about players pointing into the dugout while standing on third after a triple and doing choreographed gestures. This is true even though these celebrations are more elaborate than the fist pumps of pitchers, which John Levey suggested above that this was a double standard on pitchers’ parts.

    • Nick S. says:

      Just because it was before someone yelled “Play ball!” doesn’t make them invisible.

  14. Al Michaels says:

    When Murphy retired in 1993, he was widely considered to be a future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately for him, later that season, Ryan, Brett, Yount and Fisk also retired meaning Murphy got lost in the mist.

    The baseball writers currently are using the “morality” clause not to vote for Bonds, Clemens, etc. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Murphy have gotten credit for being a good guy? Plus, his stats qualified to be a HOFer. Unfortunately, the writers have their own agenda.

    Finally, getting back to Joe’s interview, Murphy is so right. Back in the 70s and 80s, who can forget Reggie’s home run swing? Who doesn’t remember Dennis Eckersley acting like John Wayne after every strikeout? How about Jeffrey Leonard’s “one flap down” home run trot? Every generation has their showboats. We remember them after all these years BECA– USE of the showboating. When Ickey Woods made the Geico commercials a couple of years ago, he wouldn’t have gotten them if he hadn’t done the Ickey Shuffle after every touchdown. There’s nothing wrong with a little flair.

    • AaronB says:

      I couldn’t stand Jeffrey Leonard and his “one flap down” trot. That ’87 series between the Cards & Giants was pretty dang good, and hotly contested. Leonard was easily having his way with Card’s pitching until the old cagey veteran, Bob Forsch, put one in his ribs. People can say all they want about beanballs/ brushbacks, etc, but that whole series changed when Forsch took a shot at Leonard. The 2015 Cards could have learned something from that. The Cubbies dug in with no expectations that they’d be pushed off the plate, leading to some easy AB’s against the Cards. A shot or two to brush them back may have made them a bit uneasy.

      As mentioned, I couldn’t stand Leonard, but I sure as heck respected him. 1987 was also the year of one of the most improbable bat flips ever – Tom Lawless in the WS against the Twins. Lawless, who barely played in ’87, 25 AB’s with 2 hits, and 2 career HR’s, launched one off the Twins pitcher, stared it down, and did a massive bat flip. Bautista would have been proud. As a kid, I loved every moment of it.

      Murph, even though he never played for my team, was always one of my favorites, because he played every game hard like it was the last game he might ever play, and because he truly walked the walk.

      • Stephen says:

        I was in the park for that Lawless HR! In the upper deck in LF. I remember thinking, “Great! Sac fly!,” given who was batting, then watching the outfielder heading back faster than I expected, then the ball and the fielder both going out of my line of sight, then the fans elsewhere in the park exploding as they saw what I couldn’t…because it wasn’t a sac fly at all.

        Missed the bat flip, though. Too busy watching the ball and the LF. What an unexpected moment. One of just two Series games I’ve seen, the other being the obstruction game with Will Middlebrooks and Allen Craig.

      • NevadaMark says:

        Dicky Nole’s knockdown of Brett may have chilled the Royals a bit in the 1980 WS.

    • Pat says:

      “The baseball writers currently are using the “morality” clause not to vote for Bonds, Clemens, etc. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Murphy have gotten credit for being a good guy?”

      I don’t think so. Two wrongs certainly don’t make a right. The writers should not be blackballing players who were doing what they were doing with, at the very least, the implicit consent of MLB.

      “Plus, his stats qualified to be a HOFer. Unfortunately, the writers have their own agenda.”

      Certainly debatable. He had a HOF peak from 1982-1987, but he did next to nothing before (2,210 PA’s at a 107 OPS+), and next to nothing after (2,658 PA’s at a 96 OPS+). In the 12 seasons outside of his peak he was worth about 14 WAR; that’s really not a HOF record. He’s pretty borderline, and well behind a couple of guys who were one and done recently with less than 5% in their first year: Lofton and Edmonds. Nice guy, great peak, not so great career relative to HOF standards.

  15. thoughtsandsox says:

    I don’t mind when a guy does a bat flip 99%. I don’t see it as a disrespect (normally) I see it as a outpouring of joy. The bat flipper is so overjoyed they just can’t contain it. I have a huge problem with Batista’s bat flip though. Why? Watch the Batista bat flip, do you see any joy there? No, heck he doesn’t even smile till he passes third. Not only does he not show happiness but after he watched it go out he looked right at the pitcher before tossing the bat. His body language and facial expression both say one thing, FU Texas.

    • thoughtsandsox says:

      Edit – That was supposed to be “99% of the time.”

    • MCD says:

      I emphatically agree with this. That is the exact barometer I use whenever there is any debate about whether a celebration was excessive. I ask myself “Did the guy’s expression look like he was happy or did he look angry”? If the latter, it was an F you to the other guy.

  16. Justin says:

    Some old duffer, who was a kid watching the Cubs on WGN years ago but is ancient now at 40, needs to speak up about the glory of the Sarge thinking two. There. Someone did. But Sandberg had his way, too, and both were fabulous and existed at the same time.

  17. Gesge says:

    Ozzie Smith did exactly one back flip per year, and it was as the Cardinals took the field in the top of the first inning for their home opener. It was not showboating or braggadocio of the sort that Bryce Harper thinks is so vital and important. Joe Posnanski is old enough to know that, which makes him putting that in his column really ridiculous.

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