Dale Murphy gets a ballot in the mail every year. Well, not a real ballot, just a sample one, although somebody with a more devious mind than his probably would’ve orchestrated a ballot-box-stuffing or “dirty tricks” campaign by now. Where’s Charles Colson when you need him?
This is year No. 15 for Murphy on the Hall of Fame ballot. He will fall off after this season because 15 is the ceiling. The chance of leaping from 14.5 percent of the vote (which he received last season) to 75 percent (which is required for induction) is infinitesimal.
I don’t know if it’s sad irony or a cruel joke that Murphy’s final year of eligibility coincides with the first appearance on the ballot for three cover boys from baseball’s steroid era: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. But it would be nice to see a player who never consumed anything stronger than a “Dodger Dog” on game day (Murphy: “I ate two before the game. I could smell the hot dog stand from the dugout.”) at least draw more votes than the aforementioned juicers.
Back to the sample ballot. It’s the last year. If you’re Murphy, don’t you at least try to fill it out, mail it back and pass it off as the real thing?
“That’s a novel idea,” he said by phone from his Utah home. “I should do that. Maybe make a few hundred copies.”
Murphy has strong opinions on the Hall. While he is not the greatest self-promoter in the world, he believes he deserves to be in Cooperstown. He also thinks any player who used performance-enhancing drugs during their career artificially enhanced their accomplishements and therefore aren’t worthy of the honor.
“I have a problem with guys who said they were on [drugs],” he said. “I respect them for admitting it, but I agree with what the voters have been doing, keeping those guys out. It’s a problem for me because the real issue is the integrity of the game and the numbers.”
So if he had a real ballot, would he vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa (who haven’t admitted PED use but have been connected to it with circumstantial evidence)?
Murphy retired after the 1993 season. For the next five years, before he was on the ballot, he would make appearances, give speeches and often was introduced as, “Future Hall of Famer …” He called it, “Flattering.”
“You start to think, ‘Hey. that’s a good possibility,’” he said. “Then eventually, reality sets in.”
But he peaked at 23.2 percent of the vote in 2000, his second year of eligibility, and dropped to as low as 8.5 in 2004. Last season, he was named on 83 ballots (including mine), but that placed him only 12th overall (14.5 percent of voters).
“It’s a tough place to get into, I understand that,” he said. “But to get in, you ought to think you should be in, and I think there should be a spot for me.”
His children are running his campaign now. It started when his daughter, Madison, took a picture of the sample ballot and sent it out on Twitter with the message, “Put my dad in the Hall!” Son Chad wrote a long letter with statistical data that was emailed to Hall voters. Another son, Taylor, posted a petition on Change.org. And everybody is Tweeting.
“It hasn’t gone viral world-wide but it’s viral in our family,” Murphy said, laughing.
He knows it won’t get him in the Hall but he’s hoping it gets him “a bump” in voting. There’s also a chance he could be voted in the Hall one day by the Veterans Committee.
There is no doubt in this corner he belongs in. Murphy had an eight-year span in his career (1980-87) when he won two Most Valuable Player Awards, two home run titles, two RBI titles, led the league in runs scored, had a 30-30 season, won five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and played in seven All-Star Games.
There has been too much weight given by some voters to the lesser seasons surrounding those years, and not enough given to the fact Murphy did all of this drug free and was one of the game’s greatest ambassadors.
“I’m hopeful,” Murphy said. “Maybe something will come around one day with the Veterans Committee. But I’m thankful for those who’ve supported me, and I’ve really been touched by what my kids have done.”
Cooperstown should have a spot for him.• The Hall of Fame voting results from Dale Murphy’s previous 14 years on the ballot, with year, total votes (where he placed) and percentage of vote. Year Votes (Place) Pct. 1999 96 (11) 19.3 2000 116 (10) 23.2 2001 93 (13) 18.1 2002 70 (15) 14.8 2003 58 (16) 11.7 2004 43 (17) 8.5 2005 54 (16) 10.4 2006 56 (15) 10.8 2007 50 (16) 9.2 2008 75 (14) 13.8 2009 62 (13) 11.5 2010 63 (14) 11.7 2011 73 (15) 12.6 2012 83 (12) 14.5
By Jeff Schultz