Baseball great Dale Murphy back in Portland to be with his former teammates and take another bow
The voice sounded a bit winded, and he apologized for his huffing and puffing as we carried out the phone interview.
Just landed in Portland and Im taking a walk, Dale Murphy said Friday. Gotta lose 10 pounds by (Saturday) night.
Murphy evidently wants to look fit and trim for his old Watco Electric teammates, who will convene tonight for an informal dinner and then be honored Saturday night at the Multnomah Athletic Club by the Old Timers and Active Baseball Players Association of Portland.
The former two-time National League most valuable player will be the events keynote speaker, but hell share the stage with 14 of his teammates as they are honored on the 40th anniversary of Watco Electrics third-place finish in the 1973 American Legion World Series at Lewiston, Idaho.
Actually, the results at Lewiston could have been better. Puerto Rico later had its championship vacated after multiple players were declared too old to participate.
That still eats at us, says Jeff Dunn, a member of that Watco team and son of its coach, Jack Dunn.
Murphy, who lives in Alpine, Utah, arrived in Portland Friday following a long flight from Philadelphia after speaking at a banquet in Reading, Pa.
I dont do these very often, says the seven-time All-Star outfielder with the Atlanta Braves, but you could do them all through January if you wanted.
Murphy, who turns 57 in March, circles this date on his calendar, though.
The former Wilson High great is proud to be welcomed back to his hometown, where parents Charles and Betty and his only sibling, Sue Morse, still reside. He is even more proud to be invited to speak at the Old Timers banquet, given his history with it.
I went to those (banquets) every year with the Dunns and my Dad growing up, Murphy says. Theyd bring in name people to speak and youd be like, This is a lot of fun.
There is a neat bond within the baseball group here in Portland. I remember all those people here who loved the game of baseball. Its a great memory.
The bonus this weekend is the reunion with his old high school and Legion teammates.
People say all the time, Murph, too bad you didnt make it to the World Series, " Murphy says. I always say, I did make it in American Legion baseball.
The most fun I ever had playing ball was here in Portland with all these guys I get to see this weekend. Thats what I always tell kids you might go on to play in college or pro ball, but remember the times in high school.
I was lucky enough to play pro ball, but I was also lucky to play high school ball and have parents and a community that supported it like we did in Portland. Groups like the Old Timers are so important in helping allow our kids to do extracurricular activities, where you learn some lessons of life you cant teach in the classroom.
Murphys major-league credentials including 398 home runs in a dead-ball era from 1976-93, five Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger awards havent been enough to get him into baseballs Hall of Fame. Despite support from some of his eight children seven boys, one girl and a fan petition via Facebook, Murphy received only 18 percent of the vote in balloting of the Baseball Writers Association of America, far short of the 75 percent necessary for induction.
It was the 15th and final time Murphy will be included on the ballot.
I would love to have had more support, Murphy says. I thought I would get more support. If Id had 60, 65 percent (of the vote), Id be very frustrated. My high was 24 percent. I was never close.
But it was a great experience to be on the ballot for 15 years, and I loved the campaign my kids put on for me. It was a great honor, no question about it.
Murphys name now could go to the Veterans Committee for nomination.
Thats not a done deal, either, he says. Ive had people say I have a profile that could be more favorable (to the Veterans Committee), but however you get in there, its not easy.
Murphy was surprised, and a bit nonplussed, at the recent vote that reaped no new members of the Hall of Fame.
Its easy for me to say from the outside looking in, but I dont know if its a good system we have in place, he says. Some people think its great that standards are high, and they should be tough I agree. But I dont know if its a great thing for baseball that no living player goes in this year. Its kind of frustrating.
The biggest reason, of course, is the exclusion of steroid-era standouts such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. That part of it makes sense to Murphy.
I agree when the voters say, If you guys get in, its going to be a long time, " Murphy says. I dont think you should be in (the Hall) if you have some connection to (performance-enhancing drugs). Its not right to have people in there when you have a lot of guys who chose not to use (PEDs).
They can say they werent testing in those years, but they knew it wasnt in the spirit of the game. (Then-Commissioner) Fay Vincent had written letters to everybody saying steroids and amphetamines werent approved. The players knew it wasnt right, and probably against the law.
Murphy and his wife of 33 years, Nancy, keep busy with family that now includes four grandchildren, with two on the way. Son Jake, a 6-4, 250-pound sophomore tight end at Utah, caught 33 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns one against Oregon State this past season. An older boy, Shawn, played four seasons as an offensive guard in the NFL.
Murphy is helping scout players through Major League Baseball International. He was in Italy last month and is heading to Brazil next week to stage camps and check out prospects. He will serve as first-base coach under Joe Torre with the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic, with a first-round game at Phoenix in March.
And Murphy, who served as analyst for 30 Braves television and radio broadcasts last season, will be doing it again in 2013.
I love the game of baseball, so its all fun for me, Murphy says.
Murphy has no political ambitions, despite talk in recent years about a run for governor of the state of Utah.
I talked to a lot of people about it, he says with a laugh. The best way to put it is, cooler heads prevailed.
Now Murphy is back in his old digs for a festive weekend, enjoying the company of the guys he grew up with.
Its the best, Jeff Dunn says. Weve gone fishing in Alaska with him several times, and he brings up stuff we did as kids that the rest of us dont remember.
"Its the same old Murph. Just a good guy.