Awwwwwwww, skunked again

I’m more perturbed than I’m going to let on, but Dale Murphy just missed election to the Baseball Hall of Fame again. He received 43 votes, which amounts to 8.5% of the ballots. He needed 380 votes, or 75%, for election. At some point in the future, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will realize that they can’t continue to ignore most of the stars of the 1980s.

When players like Dale Murphy and Ryne Sandberg continue to be ignored, there is something wrong. Player statistics were less spectacular in the ’80s, but that’s because the game was different. Murphy was near the league lead in home runs nearly every year throughout the decade. But there’s a big difference when the league leader hits 35 homers versus the 50+ for today’s star hitters.

A player should be judged on the merits of his accomplishments against those of his contemporaries, not against those who come after him. This is the same situation happening to Art Monk, who spent most of his 15+ years with the Washington Redskins. In 1992, he became the NFL’s All-time Receptions leader, passing Steve Largent. All-time leader. Monk was none too shabby compared to his contemporaries.

Consider these stats:

Receptions – Monk is now 5th with 940 and Largent is 8th with 819

Yards – Largent is 7th with 13,089 and Monk is 9th with 12,721

Touchdowns – Largent is 3rd with 100 and Monk is tied for 28th with 68

The only glaring stat is touchdowns. Largent had the benefit of being his team’s only legitimate target for the bulk of his career. Monk shared opportunities with the likes of John Riggins, Ricky Sanders, and Gary Clark. Monk waits for the Hall of Fame call that won’t ring. As for Largent? His career resides in the Hall of Fame.

Knowing that I’ve been let down by these votes for several years, I’m going to get sappy for a moment and quote myself.

I believe Dale Murphy will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It will be a magical day, with sunshine and laughter and cheers. I will be there and I’ll remember all of the joy I had watching him play. He defined my childhood and allowed me to grow into the beauty of baseball.

I still believe.

UPDATE: From Jayson Stark’s column about his Hall of Fame ballot, here’s what he had to say about Murphy:

Murphy: We don’t know what this guy did to deserve to have his vote total plummet from 116 to 43 in just four years. But apparently, this whole voting group wiped the ’80s out of its memory banks. Because in the decade of the ’80s, Murphy led all National Leaguers in runs and hits, tied Mike Schmidt for the most RBI and finished second to Schmidt in home runs. He also was a back-to-back MVP, a five-time Gold Glove winner, a 30-30 man, a leading vote-getter in the All-Star balloting and one of the great baseball citizens of modern times. That may not make him a Hall of Famer. But he’s sure the best player ever to fail to get 50 votes.

I agree.

Lucky Penny

A few weeks ago, I was in my hometown of Richmond, Va. I always get a large limeade from Bill’s Barbeque when I’m back. This time, I received a surprise in my change that surprised me.

Normally, I don’t pay attention to my change, but this time I looked. One of the pennies I received was minted in 1919. Figuring I’d hit the lottery, I checked online for an estimate of its value. To my disappointment and happiness, it’s worth about $19. While not the windfall I’d hoped, getting an extra $18.99 in my change is a little bonus for me.

I’d forgotten about the penny until I read this article from USA Today. The foul ball from Game 6 of this year’s CubsMarlins playoff series auctioned for $106,600. It was purchased by Harry Caray’s in Chicago, one of the best restaurants I’ve experienced, so that they can destroy it in February. The ball’s owner is the aspect of this that surprised me. It’s not ‘That Guy’, the one everyone is familiar with. This is the guy:

MastroNet auctioned the ball on behalf of a 33-year-old Chicago attorney identified only as Jim. According to the company, he was sitting near Bartman when the ball was deflected. The man put the ball in his pocket after it bounced his way.

That is a true lucky penny.

Reliving my Dale Murphy childhood

I went to Atlanta this weekend, so I’m going to wax nostalgic for a moment.

One experience I needed was a tour of Turner Field, aka “The Ted”. This is the current home of the Atlanta Braves. Although I’m now a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I grew up a huge Braves fan. That’s not true. I grew up a huge Dale Murphy fan.

My fandom for the Braves ended on August 3, 1990, when Murphy was traded to Philadelphia with Tommy Greene for Jeff Parrett, Jim Vatcher, and Victor Rosario. That trade was an outrage. They could’ve traded him for a box of stale popcorn and it would’ve been a better trade than they got.

So I followed Murphy to Philadelphia. I went to Philadelphia on August 5, 1990 to see Murphy. Thanks to Murph, I found my true home and I remain a die-hard Phillies fan.

But this weekend was about reminiscing. No appreciation of Murphy’s career could exclude Atlanta. And I like stadium tours. The Skydome tour is fun, but I didn’t get to go on the field because of a Monster Truck rally. The Wrigley Field tour is the shining example of how a tour should be done. I played catch with my brother in the outfield, the single best baseball experience of my life. Maybe next time we’ll bring gloves. I digress.

These factors combined to make this tour a requirement. We arrived at the stadium shortly before 11am, since the tours are given on the hour. I was excited like a 4-year-old who’s just met SpongeBob SquarePants. I ran to the parking lot next to Turner Field, which is where Atlanta Fulton County Stadium used to be. The outline of the field is marked, which allowed me to take this picture of me standing in Centerfield, where Murphy roamed during his greatest years.

I also took this picture, which shows where I sat for the first game I ever saw Murphy play on August 22, 1987. I sat in the bleachers next to rightfield, where the #6 street lamp now stands.

The Braves played the Pittsburgh Pirates that day. Seeing Murphy was a dream fulfilled. There was another dream fulfilled, but it wasn’t mine. Tom Glavine pitched his second game in the big leagues. He’d lost his first game in Houston several days earlier, but on this day, he notched his first major-league win, pitching a beaut. Have a peek at where he stood that day.

I’ve been a Tom Glavine fan since. (I was bummed when he signed with the Mutts instead of the Phillies after the 2002 season.) Here’s the boxscore and recap from the August 23, 1987 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After swimming in fond memories, we headed to the stadium so we wouldn’t miss the tour. Upon entering the stadium, I noticed the giant number statues for each of the retired numbers. Murphy wore #3. I spotted it and zoomed to the location of that spectacular sight. It needs no further introduction, for its glory shines through.

Beneath it was this plaque highlighting his career.

Anyone familiar with my site knows that I like to rant. Since I’m happy about my weekend, I will say that the condition of this plaque should be an embarrassment to the Braves and leave the rant to your imagination. The important thing is this: look at those stats!

It’s absurd that Murphy is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. For an excellent examination of that issue, read Jayson Stark’s column regarding Murphy’s eligibility for the HoF, written last year. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2000, marked by this bronze plate leading by the entrance.

As much as I despise the Braves, the tour was wonderful. Dave the Tour Guide was exceptional in bringing the stadium to life with stories and humor. I commend the Braves for doing such a fine job with the tour experience. We visited much of the stadium, including the rooftop view, luxury suites, press box, and locker room.

Besides seeing Murphy memorabilia, the reason for doing the tour was to get in the dugouts and on the field. I love this part of tours. Did you ever wonder how good the view is from the dugout? I do, and here it is:

The only view better is this one, which Braves players see when sitting on the top of the bench, where they keep their hats and gloves and sunflower seeds. See if you can figure out why this one is better. (Hint: look skyward!)

Who could ever be unhappy staring up at that majectic #3?

I believe Dale Murphy will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It will be a magical day, with sunshine and laughter and cheers. I will be there and I’ll remember all of the joy I had watching him play. He defined my childhood and allowed me to grow into the beauty of baseball. This trip reminded me that I’ll carry that with me forever.