Thompson: Where have you gone, Dale Murphy?

From Wright Thompson at on July 25, 2018:

Joel and I are two of the thousands of TBS Kids, or Generation Murph, or whatever you’d like to call us. Most of us were born during the presidency of Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter, and we fell in love with baseball watching the Braves on the Superstation. We hung the posters of the lanky center fielder in loopy midswing stride — too wide a loop and too long a stride, time would prove — and we wanted to grow up just like him. We told him so. Our letters arrived at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 50 or more a day for a decade, as Murphy perennially battled Mike Schmidt for the NL home run title and won back-to-back MVP awards, one of four outfielders in baseball history to accomplish that. We read the stories about Murphy’s kindness and charity, how he didn’t drink or smoke or curse and how he signed every autograph. We imagined meeting him over big glasses of milk and talking about his moonshot home runs. Around the South, we fought over who’d wear No. 3. For Ron’s Heating & Air in Clarksdale, Mississippi, I won the fight. Everyone on the team had his name ironed on except me; my parents forbade me to get “Murphy” on the back, and I told them I’d rather have no name at all if I couldn’t wear the name of my hero. My jersey stayed blank.

Generation Murph has grown into middle age. We are 35 years removed from his peak as a player. He lives mostly anonymously in Utah with his wife and eight grown children. The last time he entered a news cycle was five years ago during his final year of regular eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He never really came close to selection and dropped off the ballots, despite his two MVP awards, his 398 career homers and his status as one of the most beloved players of the early and mid-1980s. You either idolized Dale Murphy or you don’t remember much about him.

“There’s a very specific historical and cultural moment that he’s forever associated with,” says his oldest son, Chad Murphy. “For the Southeast in particular, it was something larger than life. There was some mythmaking, but the reality was, that was him. That was just literally him.”

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Originally published: July 26, 2018. Last Updated: July 26, 2018.