Humble Hero

Posted: October 8, 2003 in Everything

Being from Atlanta, and a Braves fan, October always brings me a sense of fulfillment or resentment about my hometown team. The truth is I was a Braves fan before my family moved from the coast of Mississippi to the capital of Georgia. I started young. I can still name the starting lineup for the Braves from 1982–I was in second grade.

In the summer, our lives dripped baseball like a cold glass of water on a sunny Mississippi afternoon. And each night as we returned home, my mom would flip on the television to the SuperStation. Intermingled with countless commercials from Georgia companies compelling consumers to buy outdated records, were the Atlanta Braves–and they were terrible. They did much more losing than winning, except for the occasional offensive break-out wherein they might score 18 runs. That would be soon followed by an a ten game streak of minimal scoring.

The only bright spot for the Braves was Dale Murphy, my hero. I loved Murphy! He was tall, great with the glove and batted in the four spot. I batted in the four spot, too. He was the clean-up man. He was the guy responsible for driving in the runs, producing the offense–he was “The Man.” Every little boy wants to be THE MAN! I was no exception. Dale Murphy hit home runs, won Gold Gloves and won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award two consecutive years.

Boy, did I want to be Dale Murphy. What could be better than getting paid to play baseball for a living? On my first trip to Atlanta, I found an autographed baseball signed by Murphy under the bed of the hotel. A day later I got the real thing. Dale Murphy signed it for me before my family watched the Braves fold like a cheap accordion at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. I love those balls. Even today they sit alongside myriad Little League trophies my brother and I won as children. They are trophies unto themselves. Something about those balls belongs with my childhood–they are too precious of memories to be tarnished by “maturity.”

Dale Murphy was more to me than a picture of a great ball player. When the Braves traded him as his career was coming to a close, I remember feeling hurt and betrayed (kids do not know and do not care about the business side of heroism). I pledged to never watch the Braves again. In search of their own redemption, the Atlanta Braves celebrated ‘Dale Murphy Day,’ shortly after the slugger retired. I watched every minute of it. The team showed a montage of highlights from Murphy’s career. There were great catches, terrific throws, and of course, hundreds of homers. Any sane person would question why the Braves traded him in the first place. Then I remember very distinctly what Dale Murphy said immediately after the highlight reel. He said, “they only showed the good stuff, I probably struck out one-hundred times for every home run.”

It was at that moment that Dale Murphy taught me his greatest lesson: humility. I learned in an instant that it was okay to fail at something, but it’s not okay to stop trying. Murphy attributed all of his success to God, not his own abilities. Truthfully, I don’t remember any plays Dale Murphy made, but I do recall what he said. And every time I feel a twinge in my ego to take a little credit for something I may have done well, I hear Dale Murphy in my ear telling me, “it wasn’t your ability, it was God.” I think that’s what heroes are supposed to do!

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