Faith, family, fastballs: Dale Murphy’s Hall of Fame bid

He’s a man of character with old-fashioned values. He’s adored by his wife and eight — count ‘em, eight — children. He’s an all-around nice guy beloved by baseball fans.

That’s the picture of Dale Murphy painted by a relatively in-depth ESPN.com story on the retired Atlanta Braves star, who is making headlines as he appears on the sport’s Hall of Fame ballot for the final time.

Murphy’s “character” comes into play at the very top of ESPN’s 1,700-word feature:

There was a time, as recently as five years ago, when Dale Murphy grudgingly accepted his meager Hall of Fame support without protest or complaint. The voters had overwhelmingly decided that Murphy, while a terrific player at his peak, faded too quickly to merit a place in the baseball shrine. And Murphy, true to character, smiled and conceded that the electorate might be justified in its skepticism.

But 15 years in Cooperstown’s waiting room have a way of changing a man’s perspective. Murphy, who is making his final appearance on the ballot this year, has gradually warmed to the “Big Hall” school of thinking. With all due respect — and an acknowledgement that it’s a bit “self-serving” to promote his own cause — he thinks there’s room for a plaque with Dale Murphy’s name in the museum on Main Street.

“If you’re going to take the smaller Hall of Fame approach, it gets pretty exclusive. For the overall good of the game, and the marketing of the game and where it’s headed, I think it’s OK to expand this thing. I would love to see guys like Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker and Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think it hurts the standards of the Hall of Fame. I think it enhances it.”

Next, readers learn about an improbable campaign to persuade baseball writers to support Murphy’s candidacy:

The chance of Murphy improving from 14.5 percent to the requisite 75 percent plurality six days from now are roughly equivalent to the Houston Astros winning the American League West in 2013. But long odds can’t stop the people most profoundly affected by Murphy from stating his case until the last vote is tabulated.

And no, we’re not talking about former teammates, Atlanta Braves fans or Bob Knepper, who got dinged for a 1.358 OPS and eight home runs in his career by The Murph.

Over the past month, baseball writers with a Hall ballot and an open mind have had a little something extra to ponder thanks to a smorgasbord of Tweets, blog posts and other testimonials from Dale and Nancy Murphy’s eight children, who range in age from 19 to 32 and talk about their dad in a way that seems downright old-fashioned. If the Waltons had access to wireless technology on the foot of that mountain during the Great Depression, this is how they might communicate their love for their father with the world.

At this point, I began to wonder if ESPN would address the elephant in the room — the holy ghost — related to Murphy? His Mormon faith, after all, plays a crucial role in his life.

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