Picture Block

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thank You Bobby Cox!

I just wanted to post a quick thank you note to Bobby Cox, whose number was retired this weekend. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: there are a lot of people to thank for giving me the chance to play in the major leagues, but you, Bobby, are at the top of the list. Nancy and I and the kids couldn’t possibly thank you enough for all you’ve done. That said, here’s my best attempt.

First and foremost, thank you for having confidence and patience with in me early in my career. My journey to the big leagues was a bumpy one at times, but it would have surely been bumpier had you not had the foresight to put me where I needed to be—in the outfield. After my escapades as a catcher and first baseman, no two ways about it—moving me to the outfield saved my career.

I’ll never forget getting that phone call from you in the fall of 1979. Nancy and I had just been married in October, and we didn’t really know where my career was headed. I’d been hurt off and on through the 1979 season, plus I’d been playing catcher and first base, and I don’t need to remind anyone how that turned out. I was running out of options in the infield--it was really looking like my career might end before it even began. We were visiting family in Utah that fall and you called to say you were thinking about moving me to the outfield, and I remember feeling so excited about the idea. It gave me a lot of hope that things were going to finally change for the better. You found a home for me, so to speak, in the outfield—where I stayed for many years to come.

If someone would have told me, say, in 1977 that I’d make the all-star team in 1980 as an outfielder, and that I’d go on to win five gold gloves there, I’d have never believed them. But Bobby, you went the extra mile to make it all possible for me. You and John Mullen put me on the roster as an outfielder, and even made room for me as a starter by trading away former AL MVP Jeff Burroughs. I couldn’t believe you had that kind of confidence in me, and I always wanted to live up to that. I know I’m one of many that you believed in against the odds early on in their career. But I’m sure thankful I was one of them. Looking back, I know you saw something in me I don’t think I even saw in myself. And for that, I will forever be grateful.

Saying ‘thank you', Bobby, is not nearly enough when I think of the impact you’ve had on my career. And the move to the outfield was only one way you changed the course of my life. There are hundreds of other ways—too many to name here--that you’ve made me a better player, a better teammate, and a better man. What you’ve done for me, Bobby—I’ll never forget. Thank you for everything.

*Note to all coaches of all sports and all players of all ages. Take a look at Bobby Cox’s success, his players’ respect for him, and the way his players consistently played hard for him over the years. Bobby didn’t motivate by humiliation, punishment, or fear. He motivated his players and got the best out of them by respecting them, communicating with them, and encouraging them. He believed in them. In other words, Bobby knew the secret to good coaching—loyalty coupled with respect. He was on our side as players, and we knew it. Too many times coaches at all levels try to inspire excellence in through humiliation and intimidation. (I have seven sons and one daughter who have played—and some who are still playing—sports. Believe me, I’ve seen it all.) These kind of coaches may get short term performance gains out of their players by treating them that way, but in the long term it always takes its toll. (I mean, really, doesn’t “inspiration through intimidation” just sound like an oxymoron anyway?). Great coaches don’t command respect—they endear the respect of their players by respecting them first, treating them like people, and keeping things in perspective. That’s what Bobby did. Coaches—remember, you are there for your players, not the other way around. Your players are not there to make you look like a great coach. Instead, you are there to be a great coach and a mentor to them no matter what—win, lose, or draw. The idea that you have to be a yeller and a screamer to motivate your players simply isn’t true. Think about the long term impact you’re having on your players (especially those of you who coach kids.) You will win games—and you’ll lose a few, too, but so what? You’ll be changing lives for the better for many years to come. And isn’t that what it’s really all about? Just ask Bobby Cox. That’s what he did. And now, when the last game has been played and his managing days are over, he can look back and be proud of the legacy he’s left behind.


  1. Excellent post! As a Braves fan, I will always remember Bobby Cox as a man who stood up for his players no matter what.

  2. I have heard tributes all weekend, and that may be the most spot-on of all of them. My brother and I talk about this all the time: good managing is way more than knowing when to pull a pitcher or call a hit-an-run. Or, in today's game, knowing all the advanced SABR stats and how to take advantage of them. It's ultimately about people: relating to them and getting the best out of them. The Billy Martins of the world did it one way but Bobby did it another, and his proved to be the best over the long term.

  3. "Take a look at Bobby Cox’s success, his players’ respect for him, and the way his players consistently played hard for him over the years. Bobby didn’t motivate by humiliation, punishment, or fear. He motivated his players and got the best out of them by respecting them, communicating with them, and encouraging them."

    These words should be in book detailing how superiors interact with employees beneath them. Your success, Mr. Murphy, is proof positive that respect earns respect and the payoff for both of you was professional success, and maybe more importantly, pure happiness.

  4. Ran through your autograph line. They hurded us through like cattle, but I was able to get a mini helmet signed for my new daughter.. I wasn't too bummed though because I'd met you in B'ham last summer at the Barron's stadium. "For Love of The Game..." Take care Murph.

  5. Oh yeah, that ol' #3 autograph remains elusive. :) Friday I hoof it into the Ted early for the Cox ceremony, plop in my seat at 6:30 and open Twitter only to find that you'd just stopped signing out in the fan plaza. I was really hoping to add your autograph to my daughter's hat, already festooned with Braves alums. OK, but there are two more days...

    So on Saturday, my daughter (age 8, huge Bravos fan, reveres you because I do) worms her way down next to the visitor's dugout prior to the Old Timers... er, I mean, "Legacy" game holding her hat and you stop signing just as you get to her. Understandable: something about having a game to manage. (Nice roundtripper though! Took me back to '82, when I was 10.)

    Not to be deterred, I return on Sunday with my three-year-old Bravos fan, who wears her sister's hat. I'm later than I plan to be (from having to pick up sunscreen on the way so daughter does not roast) and as I stroll into the Ted I check Twitter to discover you are at Aisle 208, so we're off. We get in line around 12:10 and I permit myself to relax, but just 10 mins later the security guys cut the line off. I float around the area just in case, and as you leave a few folks run up and naturally you accommodate them. (I just don't have the heart -- or pushiness -- and the security guys are doing their best to give you a lane out of there.)

    But I know it won't be long until you're back down south. And I'm nothing if not persistent. ;) Kinda like how I keep jawing about how you need to be in Cooperstown...

  6. Greg in San FranciscoAugust 23, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    Hi Dale...just found out about this blog with the mention in the NYTimes. Ironic timing as this summer marks 20 years since my college friend and I went to a game in every MLB stadium so we've been re-living the trip through our journals from that trip. We both grew up as Phillies fans and the last game of our trip you hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 11th to win the game. What an incredible way for us to end our trip and we've always remembered that moment. Thanks for the memory and here's the box score from that game. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI199108060.shtml

  7. I was there on the field for the ceremony (i'm a camera guy for one of the local tv stations) and it was great to see the reverence all the guys had for bobby. he was always a good guy to the press, doing post game interviews with us as he smoked a big cigar! glad you're blogging, murph - both about music and baseball.

  8. Hey Murph. You as well as Bobby C. have made lasting empressions on peoples lives throughout your own journey. You came to my house in stone mountain when i was a kid. You were driving a maroon Volvo and the mormons brought you by, do you remember us? we are the murphys. I know you may never see this post but if you do please call me 304-704-3855.

  9. This post is more for "Reid" who posted a comment regarding his pursuit for your autograph a few weeks ago in Atlanta. For me, one of the greatest things about Murphy is that he is a role model that panned out. Like you, I took my child to Atlanta with the hopes of getting a Murphy autograph. Prior to that weekend, my pursuit always ended in an "almost" autograph. However, this time has a great ending. I could only pick one day out of the weekend so I went with Saturday because I just wanted to see Murphy play again. Prior to the game, I took my 6 year old son, picked a spot, and waited. When Murphy finally came out, he was pulled into an interview and then went out to centerfield. At that point, I realized I had forgotten a pen, something for him to sign, and my camera wasn't charged. Really!?! I couldn't believe it. Then Murphy begins heading back towards the dugout. My son starts yelling out, "Dale Murphy!", over and over. Murphy looks up, smiles, and motions he will be right there. I couldn't believe it. Then, I think it was Smoltz taking batting practice, hit a foul ball a mile high but in our direction. I reached up, and with one hand, caught the ball. While just as amazed as the people around us, Dale Murphy walks up, my son takes the ball from me and hands it to him for an autograph, then gets a high five. This moment was so much better than I ever expected. Seeing my son and his excitement was priceless. Also, hearing him tell the story and how his mom caught him a foul ball is pretty cool too. So Reid, keep trying and please post your moment when it happens because I can't wait to hear about it. Just make sure you charge yoru camera!
    The Coolest Mom Ever!