Murphy is Hall-worthy as person, player

Claire: Murphy is Hall-worthy as person, player

Dale Murphy finds himself on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 13th consecutive year, a reminder of the time that has passed since his 18-year Major League career ended in 1993.

A lot has changed since the time that Murphy played, and in the ensuing years. But what hasn't changed is Murphy himself.

He remains a man who leads an exemplary life while placing an emphasis on family and community involvement.

What strikes me as the strangest part of Murphy's connection to the Hall of Fame voting is the lack of support he has received in view of his tremendous career record.

This is a man who was a dominant player for the Atlanta Braves during the 1980s while winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award in both 1982 and '83. He finished in the top 12 of the MVP voting four other times in the '80s.

No player compiled more total bases than Murphy in the decade of the 1980s.

From 1982-87, Murphy hit 218 home runs (compared to 216 for Mike Schmidt, who is in the Hall of Fame) and drove in 629 runs (ranking third behind Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, 637, and Eddie Murray, 630).

In his career, Murphy compiled 398 home runs, 2,111 hits and 1,266 RBIs. He was selected to seven All-Star teams.

"I would like to see Dale in the Hall of Fame," said former Braves manager Bobby Cox. "For two reasons: the numbers he put up, [and] he was the MVP twice. And you look at the all-around type of player he was, he went from catcher to first base to left field to center field and became a Gold Glove winner. Also the character -- what he does for communities and all that -- has to add in somewhere."

When Murphy first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1999, he was on 19.3 percent of the ballots. The next year, he had his most support -- 23.2 percent -- but was still far removed from the 75 percent needed for election. He hasn't received more than 13.8 percent the past eight years.

"I've been far removed in the voting from being elected through the years, so it's not something I think a lot about," said Murphy when we spoke by telephone earlier this week.

"Even so, there seems to be a lot more talk about the players who played in the 1970s and 1980s this year, so I'm going to check it out just out of curiosity."

There are 33 players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, and the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America now find themselves with considerations -- the rumored or admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs -- other than statistics. The results of the voting will be announced Jan. 5.

There is no question that Murphy's accomplishments on the field were never tarnished in any way.

"If I ever had a chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, my message would be the same as I've been presenting to young people through the years: I gave it my best shot and I did it the right way," said Murphy.

"I think it's important to have young people understand that, at the end of the day or the end of a career, you need to be able to look back and know in your own heart and mind that you didn't cheat yourself or anyone else.

"I'm sure there are some players who compiled great records who, in their heart of hearts, wish they had a chance to do some things over."

Murphy is so passionate about the subject that a few years ago he launched the iWontCheat Foundation (www.iWontCheat.com). It's an organization that places an emphasis on having youngsters follow the path of integrity on the playing field and in the classroom.

"This really applies to all walks of life, for youngsters and in the business world," said Murphy. "We need to teach and emphasize the values that carry the most meaning in our lives."

In view of the voting trends, Murphy may never be elected to the Hall of Fame.

In reality, he doesn't need the honor to establish who he is or what he has accomplished.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.