Dale Murphy is not a Hall of Famer.
And that’s perfectly fine. He doesn’t need to be.
As we’ve seen in recent years with the final Hall ballot push supporting him, sometimes the reverence outshines the celebration. Sometimes the memories are enough. Sometimes it’s fine if the numbers and votes aren’t there.
That’s the case with Murph. His legacy doesn’t need the Hall. It’s those of us who grew up watching him that have convinced ourselves we need it for him. I don’t know if it is somehow a type of vindication we are chasing or what it is, but it has always seemed like it’s so much more for us than it ever has been for him.
For those of us currently pushing forty and beyond, those of us who grew up watching horrible team after horrible team on TBS during our youth or teenage years, Dale Murphy was all we had in the years before the dynasty began. There were flashes here and there that became must-watch events — pre-injury Horner, the emergence of Smoltz — but there was always Murph. Day-in, day-out for almost a decade… There was always Murph. From almost the day he stepped on the field with the Braves for the long haul in 1978 until the twilight of his career, there he was. Over the entire decade of the 80s, no outfielder saw their name on a lineup card more than Dale Murphy. He was our constant.
Not only was he consistently there, but over the heart of his career, from 1982 to 1987, no few were better. Two MVP awards, five Gold Glove awards, six All-star appearances. He was a top-five hitter in all of baseball and he was playing elite defense. He had fans all across the country tuning into the Superstation on a nightly basis to watch a bad baseball team play bad baseball for one great player.
The number 3 became almost a form of religious iconography across parts of the south. Want to know who was the most talented kid on any Little League or Dixie Youth field across Georgia? Look for the kid with a three on their back. It was a badge. It was an honor. We all fought for the right to wear it. We didn’t just want to watch Murph, we all wanted to be him.
That is Dale Murphy’s legacy to Braves fans. He was all we had.
But since he walked off the field for the last time in 1993, the groundswell has begun. From that moment on, it became a countdown until the Hall of Fame balloting began. It became a countdown for us to make that push for the baseball world to recognize and realize the little slice of greatness we had for a decade. It became our redemption story for all those nights of miserable baseball we had to sit through.
The legacy was already there. The memories were already there. The respect was already there. The adoration was already there.
The numbers weren’t. It’s been 25 years. They never will be. And that’s unfortunate. But it’s become this cloud that now hangs over everything surrounding how we remember him. Now anytime Murphy’s name is mentioned, ultimately there is a slew of “HE SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME!” arguments that trail off with it into the night. His legacy becomes less about the remarkable things we watched him do and the amazing person he still is to this day, and more about why a group of writers hasn’t voted him up onto a stage in New York.
The BBWAA never cast more than 25% voting in his favor. And that’s ok. Sure, the Modern Baseball Era Committee for the Hall of Fame may one day induct Murphy, and we’ll all be there with tears in our eyes because of how long this fight has been ongoing. But what is it worth?
Dale Murphy is a legend. Dale Murphy is baseball in Atlanta. Even with five Hall of Famers achieving greater things in the city, even with a World Series trophy, and a decade-plus of banners and pennants hanging in the outfield, Dale Murphy will always remain baseball in the south.
It’s for that reason, that legacy, that he doesn’t need the Hall of Fame.
Sure, with everything that came after him in the steroid and juiced ball eras, the Hall of Fame may need him… But we shouldn’t need his face on a plaque in order for him to be cemented in our memories.
Not the questionable players with questionable legacies. Dale Murphy is the moral high ground. Dale Murphy is who we should trot out in front of our kids and younger Braves fans to be that example. Year after year, the Braves organization trots out name after name of players and executives within the family who have committed unspeakable acts. They continue to be embraced. They continue to be celebrated.
If you want to honor Dale Murphy — prove it through action and accountability — not by wanting a plaque on a wall in Cooperstown.
Murph may be a Hall of Famer someday. That day may never come. But it doesn’t matter. We have our memories. We have that legacy. And that is more than enough.