‘How you treat people,’ ‘don’t quit’ are Dale Murphy themes at HVA

Willing to go well beyond his allotted time to answer questions from Hardin Valley Academy baseball players, Dale Murphy also was eager to please autograph seekers while asking “did you get everything signed?”

In keeping with his pleasant demeanor, “Whether you’re a success or not and make all this money, people are going to remember your legacy — how you treated people,” this former Atlanta Braves star centerfielder said while addressing a mostly full HVA Auditorium during “An Evening with Dale Murphy,” a Hawks baseball program fundraiser Wednesday, Feb. 2.

“… To me, that’s the most important thing in life, is your relationships with each other,” added Murphy, one of Major League Baseball’s top hitters in the 1980s. “… Helping each other, I think, is the most important thing we can do in life.

“I wouldn’t have made it to the Major Leagues if there wasn’t someone there who believed in me.”

In praising Bobby Cox, longtime former Braves manager who led Atlanta to the 1995 World Series title, five NL pennants and numerous playoff appearances, “He didn’t give up on me” despite the struggles, Murphy said. “… He wanted us to succeed more than he wanted himself to be a Hall of Fame manager.”

Murphy also stressed the ability to overcome initial failures in baseball — and in life.

After all, if you’re dubbed “the next Johnny Bench” yet fall flat on your face as a catcher — then as a first baseman — at the MLB level, but rebound to become the youngest two-time Most Valuable Player in National League history at that time (1982 and 1983), who better to address the subject?

Starting his pro baseball career as a highly regarded catcher the Class A level in Kingsport in 1974 after being the fifth player picked in that year’s MLB Draft, “I got in Sports Illustrated,” said Murphy, a Braves player from 1976 to 1990 who led the Majors in home runs and RBI from 1981 through 1990.

However, by 1976, an inaccurate throwing arm was costly behind the plate in Atlanta. “I started throwing the ball all over the place,” he said. “… They moved me to first base, and I led the (National) League in errors at first” before he found a home in centerfield to begin the 1980 season.

“There were times I wanted to quit … that’s how bad I felt about what I was doing,” the seven-time NL All-Star added. “… Don’t quit, just keep on going. You may have to change professions — but don’t quit on yourself.”

As for the lighter moments, “Kingsport, Tennessee was the first time I ever had country ham — well, grits (too),” the Braves legend told the audience.

Among his finals thoughts, “Thank you for supporting the Hardin Valley Academy baseball program,” the ex-Braves star said to the gathering, as the evening also featured a silent auction fundraiser of Murphy memorabilia and other baseball items in the school’s Commons, where a pizza supper was held.