The good guys don’t always win.
Let’s rewind before we actually go there. Think late 1970’s and early 80’s. Cable TV is spreading across the country.
Think a young pudgy kid who doesn’t know which sport to play. Just call my mom. She’ll answer the phone and tell you right away. “My son was the ‘biggest’ Dale Murphy fan on the planet.” Actually, it was a title shared by thousands of 1980s kids across the country and especially in the south.
Satellites, Baseball and the Braves
Most kids then had a baseball idol. I was very lucky to have Dale Murphy as mine. I grew up just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Like most people, we had cable in those days. Seeing baseball virtually every day on WTBS and WGN was heaven. The Cubs were fun to watch even if they played mostly during the day and I didn’t get to see them play that much until the summer. Ryne Sandberg. Harry Caray. Crazy games when the wind blew at Wrigley Field.
The Atlanta Braves played most of their games at night on ‘The Superstation.” That meant Dale Murphy Time every evening. I relished every single time he came to bat. I stood up. I swung an imaginary bat as Skip Caray–Harry’s son but a completely different broadcaster–called the action. If you don’t remember WTBS, were just too young or simply didn’t have cable, there’s a great documentary might give you an idea of what was at stake. This is especially true if you watched the Braves struggle for three or four straight years without much success to speak of.
I’ve found out over the years I wasn’t the only one obsessed with the Murph. When I was 5’6 as a 7th grader, I told my mom I was going to grow to be around 6’4 like Murphy. I actually did grow that tall. Odd, considering my family had no one taller than six feet. I played my own games in the backyard with a tennis ball, a wiffle ball, a baseball, and more, all while emulating the guy I saw on TV. I thought he hung the moon. I still kinda do.
I now realize there are so many other Dale Murphy fans out there who were impacted just as I was. We all wish Murph was in the Hall of Fame. I’m sad, mostly. He is a good human being with two MVP awards who chose not to use PEDs. Dale wouldn’t do that. He did the right things. Still does. One check of his website reveals how he feels about being a good father.
In the eyes of baseball writers and those who measure analytics, the totality of his career just isn’t enough. I get it. Still, he brought me and thousands of others much closer to the game because he was not only good, his nature was so pure. My mind and heart always say, “if this guy isn’t good enough, then the Hall just isn’t good enough.” To me, he’s a Hall of Famer in every way.
My passion for Murphy and the Braves is why I picked up every piece of memorabilia I could find attached to that name. In the 80s, I thought Murphy was a surefire Hall of Fame inductee but it would be a lesson that the good guys don’t always win. It’s one of the many lessons baseball does teach us-good and bad.
Those of us who watched “The Superstation” thought he was the greatest when he was on the field. Sportswriters come and go. Baseball players who transcend a generation don’t. Murphy was that guy for so many of us at a time when there was a lot of bad news in baseball. He was the straight and narrow and all you are “supposed” to look up to. Good to fans when many weren’t. No drugs. No booze. Just a guy who went out and played hard and honest and produced better than a lot of others who proved they weren’t as much fun to look up to.
It’s not too far-fetched to say I collected cards at the time because of Dale Murphy and the Braves. I liked his demeanor. I loved his attitude. He was the guy I wanted to be so I collected his stuff. My mom noticed and was always on the lookout. I went to the hospital for a stomach infection when I was 15. My mom brought me baseball cards. I loved them, but when I dug through the box, I was looking hard for Murphy.
When he appeared on the cover of the 1988 Donruss box, she bought me several. I couldn’t resist opening them. That just scratched the surface, though. If it was a baseball-related card with Murphy on the front, I wanted it. No matter how obscure or the lengths I had to go to in order to snare it. Just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I wanted both my BB gun and my Ovaltine message. Except baseball cards won’t put your eye out.
These days I look back and wonder how I was lucky enough to find all of the Murphy memorabilia that wasn’t easy to track down. It was a combination of relatives, myself, and luck.
I have a circular 1987 Sportflics 3D disc that still seems pretty cool. I won’t sell it. It’s untouchable in my eyes. I love the day I found it. I have four other regular Sportflics cards. They’re very inexpensive and attainable.
I have oversized Topps cards and Donruss Diamond Kings, which are also cheap today but unique in their own way. They give Murph a much larger than life presence. You can actually frame them and hang them on your wall or in your sports cave.
I found it a major league thrill when Dale accepted my invited on LinkedIn one day. I felt like a kid in a candy store. He has liked several of my comments on Twitter. What’s funny is I have interviewed dozens of famous pro athletes throughout the years and it’s just part of the job, but there’s still nothing like your childhood hero. That’s why cards and memorabilia have that lasting impression and connection.
It’s Still Cool to Dig Dale
In addition to owning a restaurant in Atlanta called “Murph’s,” he brings his positive attitude to speaking engagements for corporations and communities in a big way.
Thankfully, he also signs autographs for current baseball card products, often tweeting about it (he’s a really fun follow, by the way).
Good stuff, Chipper! Honored! https://t.co/j8Cu5Zm6CT
— Dale Murphy (@DaleMurphy3) March 1, 2020
His signature is clean and legible and you can tell he still gets a kick out of seeing himself on newly produced cardboard, some 27 years after his last at-bat. He appeared at the National Sports Collectors Convention a couple of years ago and was a big hit.
Digging Deep To Find Dale
Persistence pays off in any endeavor such as sports collecting. The persistence part is making sure your immediate family is aware of your passion for a particular player. In this case, I was a kid who loved the Braves. My mom would bring me Murphy items when she found them. I vividly remember that overnight stay in the hospital when I had gastroenteritis. My mom knew I was feeling horrible. She brought me Murphy cards. Let’s just say that was an amazing pick me up at the hospital after having plenty of not so fun procedures the previous day.
I had already picked up several other Dale Murphy items throughout the years. I was slowly building my collection one card at a time. Cards like the 1987 Topps Murphy don’t have much value these days, but they sure meant a ton to me. Sure they were overproduced. I’d gladly take five or six more.
Plus, you won’t get me to trade mine. If I remember right, I traded a Ruben Sierra rookie to get two Murphs. Sierra was one of the hottest players in the hobby at the time.
I remember my binder was full of Dale Murphy cards. I’d cruise my Beckett monthly and find out which cards I was missing. I’d leave an open slot for his Topps rookie which I didn’t have then but is very affordable these days. Even his first, second, and third year cards are all relatively inexpensive on eBay.
It’s fairly easy to complete a basic collection.
What’s funny is every single card or piece of Dale Murphy memorabilia in my collection tells a story. I remember where I got most of them, like cutting out the back of an ’87 Kraft Mac & Cheese box to get a Dale Murphy/Eddie Murray combo that’s still intact.
I wish I was as smart as some-who saved the entire box of Macaroni. It probably won’t boil correctly these days. The bottom line for me is that I wasn’t saving for a future investment. I was saving for the future joy of seeing my favorite player years from now. You know you want to reminisce about those days. These are my untouchables. Doesn’t everyone have an off-limits card or cards? My entire Murphy collection is mine.
I remember watching Jerry Seinfeld and seeing the “Keith Hernandez” episode. My thoughts immediately went back to a card I had with Murphy and the Mets first baseman. For two guys who meant so much to their respective teams, this card is practically “free” on eBay or Amazon. It’s so funny how card collectors like us remember and associate other moments with baseball cards and sports memorabilia. The Donruss Action All-Stars were hot in their time and while they’re not worth much today, they still look pretty great. The ’83 captures Murphy about as well as any card ever has.
And yes, I did keep some cards from his playing days in Philadelphia even though it’s the trade that broke my heart and made me just grow up. I have never looked at professional sports the same since that moment. I always thought he would start and retire with the Braves. It was a new era I wasn’t ready to embrace. Many of us weren’t. It’s very typical of the modern era in baseball and pro sports. Back then-it felt like a major earthquake.
What I’d like to know is what are your coolest Dale Murphy items? Do you have a giant stash of Murph stuff? I’d love to hear about it.
I’m still rooting for the good guy to win. I am guessing there are many other Hall of Fame inductees who didn’t inspire nearly this amount of love for the game of baseball. That’s where Dale Murphy wins every single time.