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Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Early Days in the Computer Revolution

A couple of weeks ago, as I was following my timeline on Twitter, I was strangely moved by the thought that many people around the world heard the news of Steve Job’s passing via a product that he created. Aren’t these products remarkable? It was largely through him that we have so many new and amazing technologies—he harnessed them and put them in a useable format. The tasks we face in our everyday lives—including doing our jobs, getting an education, and even staying in touch with our families—have become much easier and more efficient as a result.

As I was reading about Steve Jobs in the days that followed, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences and efforts to embrace technology and computers over the years. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I was probably what they might consider an “early adopter,” though “gadget freak” is probably the more accurate, less flattering term. I’d like to think I was right there on the front lines at the beginning of the home computing revolution. In my pursuit of these new-fangled “computers,” one of the first stores I went into was Radio Shack. You read that right—Radio Shack. They were the carrier for one of the first affordable home computers, made by Tandy, the TRS-80 (later nicknamed the “Trash 80,” for reasons that soon became all too obvious). Along with the TRS-80, I bought a Texas Instruments computer, as well as a “portable” computer (truthfully, though, it was a beast—probably weighed about 20 pounds) called the “Kay-Pro,” which I could never for the life of me figure out how to use. I eventually sent the Kay-Pro to my dad, who’s got a master’s degree in electrical engineering, assuming he’d be able to figure out how to do something productive with it. Not sure how that turned out!

I also remember flying back to Atlanta from a road trip and seeing Chris Mortensen (he was writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time) tap away at a little Tandy computer about as big as a college history book. After asking him what in the world he was typing on, he said something like, “Yeah, it’s cool, I’m typing tomorrow’s article about tonight’s game, and when I get to the hotel I just have to plug this computer into the phone jack, dial the newspaper’s phone number, and then the modem back at the office receives the message, deciphers what I type and then puts it into the article.” I still didn’t understand what that tablet thingy did, but I knew I wanted one. (Eventually I did end up getting one and if I remember right they were relatively user-friendly. I even used it for writing a few letters.)

Soon after this computing craze I took a break from buying any more new computer-related gadgets. It turned out that, on average, they just weren’t very easy to use. These computers were supposed to save us time, I thought, but that didn’t ever work out very well. The phrase “user-friendly” hadn’t really even been invented yet, I don’t think. There were just way too many manuals and too many glitches to sort through.

Nevertheless, I stayed true to my love of gadgets. I have no idea how many devices I had throughout the 80s. Let’s put it this way: if you were to pick a random home electronics infomercial from the 80s, there’s probably a 90 percent chance I had it. I would always pick up the latest issue of Popular Science when I went on road trips and turn right to the only section that interested me—the “What’s New” section (I noticed that the online version of Popular Mechanics calls this section, “Gadgets”) And the gadgets didn’t stop. I even bought one of the first mobile phones (though “mobile” is something of a misnomer). I would literally have to “park” it right in the middle console of my Cadillac Deville, plug it into my cigarette lighter with the antenna going behind my head and out the window (and then held in place on the roof of the car with some sort of magnetic base). I remember driving to Fulton County stadium one day and passing Ernie Johnson on I-285 while I was talking to Nancy on this gignatic carphone (I was surely telling her how about how awesome this new phone thingy was). I looked over and saw Ernie just burst out laughing and then shook his head as if to say, “what kind of crazy space-age gadget is Murph into this time?” I didn’t stick to only computers and phones, however. I’ve also had a number of PDAs—the supposed greatest devices ever created, which we all know now is probably one of the overstatements of the century.

For whatever reason, I didn’t ever get into any Apple products back in those days. In fact, I haven’t been an Apple user for very long, and once again I have my kids to thank for getting me interested. These days, however, I’m neck-deep in all things Apple. Just a couple of nights ago, in fact, I had a nice visit with my mom and dad on iPhone’s Facetime, all of us sitting in our respective living rooms, with me texting them photos of their great-grandchildren at the same time. What an amazing device, right? I told people when I got that iPhone that I’d never lose it because it literally never leaves my hand. And now that I’m on Twitter all the time, too, that iPhone has become even more impossible to put down.

As for Steve Jobs the person, I really didn’t know much about him until just recently. Clearly he’s done some remarkable things, but I didn’t know much about his history. For example, it’s been amazing to find out that he started college in my hometown of Portland, Oregon (he was at Reed College). And (clearly), he was someone who had vision. But more than that, he had the hallmark of a true visionary: he inspired other people to see the world differently. People followed and admired him not only for what he did, but for what he inspired them to be. To challenge the status quo, to remove the blindfolds, to “never settle”—that’s what a true leader moves others to do in order to realize their potential. I’m sure there have been many creative people at Apple responsible for their amazing success over the years, but in my view it takes someone like Steve Jobs to oversee such a process and see it through to the end. By the way, if you haven’t seen his Stanford commencement address, then go check it out right now. If you have kids, make sure they watch it, too. It’s one of those rare speeches that makes you incredibly motivated to take on new challenges and to try things that you’ve always been hesitant to do.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from that address:

“Death is one of the great motivators of life—it keeps you from thinking you have something to lose”

“Stay hungry, stay foolish”

Finally, I want to add my voice to the many others around the world whose lives have been impacted by his work:

Thank you, Steve.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Twitter, Chipper, and the Futuristic Terrapins

A few thoughts today about three (mostly unrelated) topics: 1) my continuing adventures in social media; 2) the Braves and their playoff chances; 3) Maryland’s new football uniforms. See, I told you they were unrelated.

First of all, I want to say a big thank you to everyone involved with the recent launch of DaleMurphy.com. So many people put so much time and energy into making it great, and it’s been a lot of fun to watch it come together. Before the launch I told someone it was like the Murphy family was about to have another baby, though one that would hopefully be a little easier on Nancy :) I’m so pleased with how the site turned out, and I hope you can all enjoy it, too.

And then, Twitter. Thanks everyone for their continuing interest in my many tweets (I was told recently that I tweet more than a Kardashian, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what a Kardashian is :). It’s always a little frightening as a 50+ year old to air my thoughts out in cyberspace (wait, “cyberspace”? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?). It’s one thing to go out in public and do something you’re comfortable with, but it’s been an entirely different experience to get into social media the way I have. It’s been so much fun to reconnect with fans, both from days gone by as well as current Braves fans. Re-emerging into the so-called public eye has brought back so many great memories. For example, a guy a little while back tweeted at me saying that he remembered my career in the 80s, but more than that he remembered that we (the Murphy family) never returned our movies to Blockbuster on time (he had been the manager at our local Blockbuster). He was right! We probably averaged a month or so overdue per rental! Talking about my interests beyond baseball, such as movies and music, has been really exciting as well. The reaction to my interest in current music has really been a lot of fun. In fact, I’ve been thinking about getting into touch with a local independent radio station here to see if I might be able to moonlight as a DJ (maybe a show like “Dale Helping Other 50+ Year Olds Move Past 70s Classic Rock”). I’m a convert to the new music of today, so it’d really be fun to share that with other folks my age.

Next, a few thoughts about the Braves. It’s been great to see them weather the ups and downs of a whole season. I really like the make-up of the team, their attitude, and the additions that they’ve made throughout the year, especially Michael Bourn, who brings speed on offense and on defense. The young players, too, are a solid group. Craig Kimbrel, in particular, has had an amazing rookie year, breaking the record for saves by a rookie. He’s got to be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, and he may even get some votes for the Cy Young Award (in my opinion, the Cy Young should be given to the most valuable pitcher—the same way the MVP is given to the most valuable player, usually a non-pitcher—and Kimbrel is right up there with anyone). He’s been basically unhittable this year. In fact, he’s exactly the type of pitcher I would have had a lot of trouble with as a batter. I liked fastballs, but I had a tendency to chase them out of the strike zone. Kimbrel’s got a lot of velocity on his fastball anyway, but when he puts it just out of the zone, nobody I’ve seen has been able to catch up with it.

Lately a few people have asked me about Chipper and whether he can get to 500 home runs. Well, first of all, with the way he’s playing, I better stop calling him “pops.” He’s not playing like an old man by any means: his bat speed looks as good as ever, and his defense is solid. I definitely think he has a chance at 500, seeing as how he’s sitting at 450 right now. If he comes back next year (and I think he’s already announced that he will), he could be even healthier than he was this year (he was recuperating in spring training this year, if you remember). In fact, not only do I think he could he get to 500 home runs, but I think he could get to 3,000 hits and finish his career with some truly impressive numbers (either way, he’s still a Hall of Famer, no question about it). When I think about Chipper, I’m always reminded of a quote by Bum Phillips, who, when asked to describe the talent of the great running back Earl Campbell, said, “Well, he may not be in a class all by himself, but it doesn’t take long to call roll.” That’s Chipper to me. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game, and he’s been a treat to watch over the years.

Anyway, back to the Braves. I, for one, am really looking to the playoffs. I think that if the Braves stay healthy, they can beat anyone in the league in a 5 or 7 game series. I do hope JJ’s knee heals up quickly and he’s ready to go before we get there, though.

And now for something completely different: Maryland’s controversial football uniforms, courtesy of Under Armour. Most of the comments about the uniforms were not very favorable, as you may have heard. I wasn’t watching the Maryland game on Saturday (I was watching a music documentary about the Pixies, another band I really like), but I started noticing a bunch of funny comments about Maryland coming through on Twitter. After awhile, I checked out some of the highlights to get a glimpse of these supposedly horrendous uni’s. I thought about this for awhile, and here’s my take: they’re awesome. I thought the design was clever, incorporating the state flag as they did, and most of all it was a refreshing change of pace from the usual college football uniform. It was bold, interesting, and in my opinion a sign of things to come (Under Armour is probably way ahead of the curve on this one). Think about it this way: remember when James Carville came up with Clinton’s winning slogan “It’s the economy stupid”? Here the applicable phrase might be something like, “It’s the demographic stupid!” In other words, if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 34 and you like those wacky Maryland uniforms, then Under Armour has done its job. I haven’t asked my kids about Maryland specifically (my kids actually fill that 18 to 34 demographic almost perfectly), but if those Oregon Ducks uniforms are a comparable standard, then I’d bet they were pretty excited by the Maryland uniforms, too. And isn’t it a good thing to see a little creativity, a little risk-taking in uniform design anyway? Without it, we probably wouldn’t have ever had some of those classic designs of the past that we look back on so fondly today (baby blue Braves uniforms anyone?)

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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting Traded to the Phillies--The Rest of the Story

I get a lot of questions about getting traded to Philadelphia in 1990, sometimes from Braves fans who tell me they were upset with the Braves just trading me away like that. Although I really appreciate the sentiment, I’ve always felt like I should kind of clarify exactly what happened. So, without getting into too many details, here’s how it went.

It was the summer of 1990, and things weren’t going that well. The previous two years (1988, 1989) hadn’t been that great either, honestly. The team was struggling, I was struggling. I saw some potential in a few of our young pitchers (like John Smoltz and Tom Glavine), but other than that I didn’t have much of a sense for where the Braves were heading. I talked to Nancy a lot about how frustrated I was and started to realize it might be time for me to move on. There had been trade rumors off and on through the mid-80’s (and even up through ’88 or so—the Mets were one team that always seemed to be mentioned) but I never paid much attention to them because, quite honestly, I could never see myself leaving the Braves. But by the end of the decade, that had changed. I started feeling kind of excited at the prospects of going to a new team. I wondered whether a change of scenery would rejuvenate me, and my career. At the same time, I was aware of what can happen when a long-time player has some success with one team and sticks around longer than he should: production eventually falls off and the team is left with the uncomfortable task of figuring out whether to renew his contract (even though his best years may well be behind him) or release him (usually against popular opinion.) The Braves had done so much for me through the years that I just didn’t want to put them in that position. And it can be equally awkward for the player himself, not knowing whether he can contribute enough to make it really worth keeping him. I sure didn’t want to wait around to find out what that felt like, so I decided it was time to get the ball rolling.

So I went in and talked to Bobby Cox that August. I told him that, with free agency coming up in a few months, I was thinking it might be time for me to move on. More specifically, I told him I was planning to leave as a free agent that winter but that if they wanted to try to trade me immediately I'd consider it (I had the right to either accept or reject any proposed trade since I'd been in the league for awhile with the same team.) I wanted the Braves to explore the possibility of getting something out of the situation, instead of me just leaving them as a free agent.

Soon after this discussion with Bobby, my agent called and told me the Phillies were interested. They had made a trade offer the Braves were willing to accept, and they would renew my contract with an additional two years guaranteed. Nancy and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to transition our eight children to a new city, but going to Philadelphia looked like a great option for us. Not only were the Phillies headed in a strong direction (in just three years, they would go to the World Series, in fact), but accepting a trade would also make it possible for me to avoid all the uncertainty of the free-agent process. So, with that, I accepted the trade.

The basic point I want to make here is that I actually initiated the trade—not the Braves. I hope this clarifies the issue for some folks who, occasionally even today, tell me they’re upset with Bobby and/or with the Braves for sending me to Philadelphia. What most people don’t know is that, even without the trade, I would have become a free-agent that winter and ended up somewhere besides Atlanta. It definitely wasn’t easy to make the move to the Phillies and the fact that the Braves went to the World Series the next year didn’t make it any easier. Still, I was glad I did it. It was time. I had a great experience with the Phillies. And as demanding as the Philadelphia fans could sometimes be, I really enjoyed playing for them and wish I could have performed better. My family and I were always treated well by the Phillies organization and we’ll always appreciate the friendships we made while we were there.

On a side note, I can’t tell you how weird it was to put on a new uniform after so many years wearing Braves blue. I’ll never forget stepping into the batter’s box for the first time at Veteran’s Stadium. I started getting into my stance, and then looked down to tap the plate to find RED shoes and RED stirrups staring back at me. Those new colors definitely took some getting used to.

I can’t leave this subject without saying one more thing. No matter where the years have taken Nancy and I and our kids, no matter how much we have enjoyed other places we have lived and the people we have known, there’s no two ways about it: Atlanta will always feel like home and I’ll always be a Brave.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beatco Playlist--And Some New Songs You're Going to Love

Several people have asked me to post the entire Beatco playlist (see Murph Listens to What? post)...so here it is:

Come Together (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Kamera (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Something (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Radio Cure (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Oh! Darling (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
War On War (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Octopus’s Garden (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Jesus, Etc. (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Ashes of American Flags (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Here Comes the Sun (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Heavy Metal Drummer (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Because (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
I’m the Man Who Loves You (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Pot Kettle Black (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
You Never Give Me Your Money (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Poor Places (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Sun King (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Reservations (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—Wilco)
Mean Mr. Mustard (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Impossible Germany (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Polythene Pam (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
You Are My Face (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Golden Slumbers (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Hate It Here (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Carry That Weight (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
On and On and On (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
The End (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
Let’s Not Get Carried Away (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Her Majesty (Abbey Road—The Beatles)
What Light (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Getting Better (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—The Beatles)
Shake It Off (Sky Blue Sky—Wilco)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Magical Mystery Tour—The Beatles)
She’s a Jar (Summerteeth—Wilco)
I’ll Fight (Wilco The Album—Wilco)

If you like Wilco, you must like great music...so here's some more great music by my son, Chad. He records under the name "Markarians": (PS...you're going to love it!)
For a free download of his latest album: http://markarians.bandcamp.com/album/ten-means-heaven
Music video for "Rip Through Sunsets": http://vimeo.com/26542032
Music video for "Strangers II": http://vimeo.com/25932177
Take a second to "like" Markarians on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/markarianstheband

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Niekro and Matthews: Major-League Mentors

Who did you look up to in the early days of your career?

Early on in my career I was lucky to rub shoulders with a number of great players, but there were two guys, in particular, that really had a lasting impact on me: Phil Niekro and Gary Matthews, or “Knucksie” and “Sweet,” as we called them, respectively. In Phil’s case, one thing I admired was how he managed his career, namely, his contract negotiations, which were always done professionally, avoiding any conflict. On the field, he was a great example to us young guys (me, Bob Horner, Glen Hubbard, etc.) of how to play hard and endure to the end. For instance, I saw him pitch a bunch of times when he wasn’t feeling 100%. He may have had a sore back or arm, but he’d get out there anyway and give it his all. He also hated getting pulled from games. Contrary to many pitchers in the game today (which fact is partly due to the rise of the middle-reliever), Knucksie expected to pitch all nine innings every time he got on the mound. A couple of years ago, in fact, he told me that he genuinely felt like he had failed the team every time he didn’t pitch a complete game. Another thing about Knucksie was that he could hit. He took his hitting very seriously, and he was always on the lookout for ways to help the team win. In short, Knucksie was a true gamer. And, watching his example, I decided that’s how I wanted to be known, too—-as someone who’d put the game and their team ahead of himself.

A few posts ago I mentioned going to a Giants/Phillies game the night before my pre-draft workout in Philadelphia back in 1974. If I remember right, Gary Matthews was a young player on the Giants at the time. And like Knuckise, Gary was a true player’s player. His effort and enthusiasm on the field really set him apart, in my eyes, from so many other guys. Every time Gary would put the ball in play, you just knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied with a single. He’d often knock his helmet off running to first so he could at least try for second base (in fact, he’d hit with his baseball cap folded up in his back pocket, a habit I think came from his early career when it was typical to run without a helmet). Gary was aggressive, always talking and motivating everyone, and he’d push us young guys to be better. We all really looked up to him. I can remember, for instance, when I heard we’d traded Gary to the Phillies in the spring of 1979. I was taking batting practice in spring training, and I hurried in to John Mullen’s (the general manager) office and asked him if it was true that we traded Gary. I remember first stopping in the clubhouse, to grab a Gatorade or something, all the while debating in my mind whether it was appropriate for me to go express my disappointment to the GM! It was the first time I’d ever gone in to management to voice my opinion on one of their decisions. That’s how much I admired Gary. In a way, trading Gary was a compliment to the younger players—the Braves obviously felt we’d be strong enough offensively that we could trade him to get some pitching. Still, we missed his energy on the Braves, and he went on to great things with the Phillies and Cubs, where he was given the nickname “Sarge” for saluting the bleacher bums out in left field before every game. I was very fortunate to have had him and Knucksie showing me the way during the critical early stages of my career. I’ll never forget their examples.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Memories of 1980 (and why MLB has the best all-star game...)

My first all-star game was in 1980 at Dodger Stadium. It was my first year playing centerfield, so making the all-star team really confirmed for me that I’d found a home in the outfield. It was such a thrill to be out there with so many great players, many of whom I’d been watching on TV as a high school kid not that long before. Johnny Bench, for example, was the starting catcher for the National League that year, making his 13th all-star game appearance. Steve Garvey was making his 7th appearance, and Pete Rose, his 14th. J.R. Richard was our starting pitcher, and before the game I remember thinking the AL guys had absolutely no chance of hitting him (not only was J.R. one of the toughest pitchers around, but the game started at 5 p.m., which meant the shadows would make seeing the ball even more difficult than usual). And I was right: J.R. got through the first three innings pretty easily, if I remember right. Ken Griffey hit a home run and was named MVP—little did I know I’d be playing with him on the Braves a few years later.

I was lucky to get in the game that year, which doesn’t always happen for everyone (I remember that Jose Cruz, for example, didn’t get in the 1980 game). I played centerfield for a couple of innings and also got to hit against Goose Gossage. Well, I say “hit,” but I think I just tapped a little dribbler off the end of the bat, right back to the mound. (I did hit a pretty long foul ball right before that, though).

One thing I’ll never forget about that day was a brief encounter I had with Pete Rose in the tunnel between the dugout and the locker room. As I was walking back he stopped me and said, “Hey congratulations on making the All-Star team, Murph.” Then he continued: “Remember, though, don’t do anything any different out there tonight than you would during the regular season.” Right then I had this image of Pete running over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star game, and I knew without a doubt that he meant what he said. It was a perfect example of Pete’s attitude toward the game.

This leads me to one of the reasons why I think Major League Baseball has the best all-star game in professional sports. Baseball all-stars (on average) really want to do well in the game. In my experience, I never really got the feeling that there was anyone out there that didn’t want to win. I was fortunate to be on a lot of winning NL teams, but when we lost it was tough to take. In the 1983 game at Old Comiskey Park, for example, we got pounded by the American League, and it wasn’t easily forgotten by any of us, believe me.

There’s another reason, I think, why the MLB All-Star game has an edge on other sports. Given the nature of the game of baseball, players almost have to treat it like regular season game. Unlike many other team sports, baseball’s a game of one-on-one episodic play wherein the course of a game can drastically change every single time the ball’s in play. As a player, then, you can’t ever just not play defense. Pitchers aren’t ever going to throw half-speed nor will shortstops ever just not dive for a close ball. You could slack off, of course, but not without it being totally obvious that you’re phoning it in. In football, though, I’d argue it’s much easier to blend in if you’re not giving 100% on defense, as we’ve seen in the Pro Bowl. In the NBA All-Star Game, it’s even something of a norm to play as little defense as possible. To be fair, I don’t really blame NFL players for not playing full-speed defense in the Pro-Bowl—they go through so much pain and injury in the regular season already that they’re bound to slow down a little bit in an exhibition game. In fact, in my opinion the Pro Bowl should go the way of the dodo. Why not hold some sort of big awards banquet or golf/bowling exhibition with NFL players instead? I’d bet fans would really enjoy this sort of televised event, and I’d suspect players would welcome the change.

Baseball is fortunate to have a system of norms and rules that keep defenders on their toes, and the MLB All-Star Game is all the better for it, both for fans and players alike.