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‘Batting Clean’ makes the case for Dale Murphy

Author Kirk McKnight believes strongly that Atlanta Braves legend Dale Murphy belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former Atlanta Braves player and guest instructor Dale Murphy waves his cap to fans as he is introduced before a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets, Friday, March 10, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla.
Former Atlanta Braves player and guest instructor Dale Murphy waves his cap to fans as he is introduced before a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets, Friday, March 10, 2017, in Kissimmee, Fla.
AP

SALT LAKE CITY

It was Aristotle who said, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”

Let’s turn to Kirk McKnight as a case in point.

McKnight is 41 years old. His hometown is Las Vegas, where he lives with his wife and family. He went to college at BYU and has a degree in marketing. He makes a good living as a parking valet at the Treasure Island Hotel on the Vegas strip.

But underneath all that beats the heart of a 6-year-old kid who wishes Dale Murphy was in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kirk is what is known as a TBS kid, so named because of the Turner Broadcasting System Ted Turner unveiled in the 1980s. TBS was one of the early cable TV “superstations” that broadcast nationally. Since Turner also owned the Atlanta Braves baseball team, it was only natural that part of his regular programming included Braves games.

Way out west in Las Vegas, Kirk watched them.

The star of those Braves teams was center fielder Dale Bryan Murphy. To Kirk, Murphy was Captain America and Mickey Mantle rolled into one. He could run, throw, bat, field and hit home runs with regularity. In 1984, the year Kirk turned 6 and Murphy turned 28, Murphy played in all 162 games, hit 36 home runs, batted .290, stole 19 bases, made the all-star team, won a gold glove award for his fielding and a silver slugger award for his hitting – and signed every autograph thrust in front of him. With a smile.

The year was no aberration. All through Kirk’s youth, Murphy kept it up, not tailing off until after the Braves traded him to the Phillies, something McKnight can’t understand to this day.

In the beginning, Kirk had no idea he and Murphy belonged to the same church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When that finally dawned on him, it only made things better.

“I was a fan of him for the sake of being a fan of him,” he says. “When you’re 6 years old and you see somebody on TV hitting a home run you look up and you idolize. Only when you get older in life do you realize he’s a good role model with strong family and personal values.”

Murphy first became eligible for Hall of Fame voting in 1999, five years after he retired. He brought his 18 seasons, 398 home runs, 2,111 hits, consecutive MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, five gold gloves, four silver sluggers and seven all-star game appearances with him.

For some reason, the baseball writers who vote were not impressed. Maybe it was because he never got those two more home runs that would have put him in the 400 club. Maybe it was his lifetime .265 batting average. Maybe it was because when his production dropped off it dropped off fast. Maybe he was just too nice a guy. Whatever it was, when his 15 years of voting eligibility ran out in 2013, the highest consideration Murphy ever got from the writers was 23% of the vote – and you need 75%.

McKnight was among many who hung their heads.

But then, a possible reprieve.

Understanding the many flaws in the HOF voting — voters are limited to putting just 10 players on their ballots each year, for one thing, which can often leave out deserving candidates; and then there’s the perennial problem of writers’ bias and prejudice – the people who run the Hall of Fame set up a panel of 16 baseball insiders whose task it is to vote on players who might have been overlooked.

Dale Murphy is among those on the 2019 Modern Baseball Era ballot.

When Kirk found this out he wasted no time. He loves to write as much as he loves baseball. He’s already published two books about sports broadcasters (both can be found on Amazon). If writing paid as well as valeting cars, he’d switch careers in a nanosecond.

He sat down and wrote “Batting Clean: Why Dale Murphy Belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.”

The book was released in mid-August on Amazon, where it can be purchased as an e-book for a mere $2.99.

Kirk says he wanted to keep the cost down so a lot of people would buy it and jump on the bandwagon.

“Batting Clean” makes the case not only for Murphy’s stats, but for never compromising his principles.

If PED cheats like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are being kept out of the Hall of Fame for weakness of character, Kirk’s argument is that non-cheaters like Dale Murphy should go in on strength of character.

“Maybe if he’d taken some substances he wouldn’t have wound down like he did,” says Kirk. “It’s like he didn’t win either way on that. He played clean and his natural body started to give out. He could have easily fixed that if he’d wanted to compromise his integrity and do what a lot of other players were doing.”

And what does Dale Murphy think of all this?

I called Murphy, who lives in Utah, to see if he’d like to talk about Kirk’s book.

He didn’t answer. I left a message. He didn’t call back.

That is no surprise to anyone, least of all Kirk. He’d have been shocked if he did call back.

“He’s not the kind of person who pats his own back,” says Kirk. “We’ve never actually met. He didn’t have anything to do with the book.”

Well, other than what he did to a 6-year-old kid back in 1984.