The phone rings unexpected. The number unblocked, and the voice on the other end sounding as if it should come with the accompaniment of big brass instruments.
"Dale Murphy here!"
On Thursday afternoon, Dale Murphy calls. A little later in the day he would likely have to tackle that "honey-do" chore of hanging Christmas lights around the family's Utah home. But for now, he will take his time and talk.
Murphy's name appears on the recently released Baseball Writers' Association of America 2013 Hall of Fame ballot. When he says it's an honor to be on the list for his 15th and final time, his humility seems true. So does this:
"I don't plan on going in this year," Murphy says with certainty.
Murphy grew up playing the game of baseball on diamonds across Portland and attended Woodrow Wilson High before the Atlanta Braves chose him in the first round of the 1974 draft. He was the face of a franchise that transmitted into living rooms across America and earned a reputation as much for his choirboy lifestyle than as his slugger persona.
The Case for Dale Murphy
Teams: Atlanta Braves (1974-1991); Philadelphia Phillies (1991-93); Colorado Rockies (1993).
Career totals: At-bats: 7,960; Hits: 2,111; HRs: 398; RBI: 1,266; Fielding percentage: .982
Miscellanous: 1982 & 1983 National League MVP … .265 career batting … peaked with 23.2 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2000.
While other players in his era filled their mouths with gobs of tobacco, Murphy endorsed milk and ice cream. Even today, Murphy's boy-scout clean; the voice in the wilderness who from high school auditorium stages, corporate staff rooms and his platform of choice, Twitter, rails against the evils of cheating.
"The 'U' of Miami? Throw the 'book' at em'.. (I mean that literally..have you seen how big the NCAA rule book is?).. Now that would hurt.." read an August 2011 tweet from Murphy's account, responding to news that a booster provided illegal gifts to Miami players.
As the youngest player in history, Murphy won back-to-back National League MVP awards. He has five Gold Gloves and hit more balls into the stands and drove in more runs than anybody else in the 80s. But, apparently to Hall of Fame voters, these numbers are as bland as a carton of 2 percent.
"In my opinion, Dale Murphy is a Hall of Famer," says one BBWAA member, Art Thompson, III, who in past years has cast a vote for Murphy. "(But) you look at people like Barry Bonds … Barry hits 73 home runs — boom, that opens up eyes. Sammy Sosa hits 66 home runs — boom, those are eye-popping stats and Dale never had those type of years."
Murphy never hit more than 44 home runs in a season but then again, never relied on the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs. Now, here he is in his final fight for enshrinement, on the same ballot when first timers from the steroid era enter the fray.
Bonds and Sosa and Clemens, to name a few.
The milkman versus the dopers.
Last year, Murphy only received 14.5 of the necessary 75 percent of the vote to gain admission in to the Hall. He doesn't expect a miraculous jump in support this year. He'll likely have to wait until 2014, when he becomes eligible to be elected in by the special "Expansion Era Committee."
Murphy wants Cooperstown, there's no question about it. But he's also not holed up somewhere in Utah, sweating this process. He leads a rich and full life. Just this week, Murphy was named to the USA Baseball coaching staff and early next spring, he and wife Nancy will become grandparents for the fifth and sixth time.
"Atlanta Braves fans would have a hard time picturing me as a grandfather," he jokes.
During a 45-minute phone conversation — only interrupted when Murphy notices that one of his sons is trying to reach him — he expresses how much the Hall would mean to him but sounds resigned to the reality of the situation.
"It's a tough place to get into, it should be," Murphy says. "I wish it was closer, but it's not. I'm OK."
"I think I have a spot in there, somewhere. I believe that."
Someone else needs to believe it, too. For all the righteous opining about cheaters and how they ruined baseball, why not honor someone who embodies the purity of the game.
Dale Murphy here.
It's time for voters to answer the call.