ATLANTA -- Dale Murphy understands that he will likely be disappointed when the next batch of Hall of Fame inductees is announced soon after the new year arrives. But as the holiday season approaches, he finds himself overwhelmed by the love and support shown by his children and the loyal fans who will forever view him as a Hall of Famer.
"It's been like Christmas and Father's Day times 100," Murphy said from his Utah home. "It's just an emotional and tender feeling of what the kids have put together in their efforts. They've just gone the extra mile for me. 'Thanks' does not sound like the adequate word."
Other than Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones, there might not be another former Braves player who is more beloved than Murphy. Fans remember him as the two-time National League MVP, the iconic figure on those otherwise forgettable teams that were beamed into living rooms across the county on a nightly basis via TBS.
There was a time during the 1980s when it seemed Murphy was destined to one day be enshrined alongside baseball's greats in Cooperstown. But the past 14 years have provided reason to believe that history will remember him as one of the greatest players to never be elected.
This year marks the 15th and final time that Murphy will be included on the Hall of Fame ballot. Players need to be included on 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction. Murphy has never received more than 23.2 percent of the votes, and that total came in 2000, his second year on the ballot.
"I thought I would get a higher percentage than I have over the years," he said. "To be honest with you, that has been a little disappointing. But don't misunderstand the word 'disappointing.' To be on the ballot and be considered and to have people be very supportive, that's a tremendous feeling."
Murphy's spirit has been lifted over the past few weeks as his children campaigned for him to gain election to the Hall of Fame. His oldest son, Chad, wrote a compelling letter to the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His 25-year-old son, Tyler, started an online petition, 27-year-old Tyson showed his artistic talents with a cartoon tribute to his father.
The only daughter among Murphy's eight children, 19-year-old Madison, penned an essay titled "My Dad Is a Super Hero" on the baseball blog hallofverygood.com.
"The kids know it's been a little uncomfortable for me to toot my own horn," Murphy said. "But I can't say I'm not out there now being a little more aggressive with it. They've really motivated me to get out there and start talking.
"The response has been great. The kids have made me and [my wife], Nancy, proud. I'm just glad they inherited all of these good genes from their mom."
There is certainly some irony in the fact that Murphy's final year on the ballot comes the same year that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are on it for the first time.
While Bonds, Clemens and Sosa have become three of the most vilified players of the steroids era, Murphy has maintained his squeaky-clean image, dating back to when the Braves took him with the fifth selection in the 1974 First-Year Player Draft.
This has created some to wonder: If Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are punished for character issues by Hall of Fame voters, then should Murphy's candidacy not be enhanced by the tremendous character he has continued to show during his retirement years?
Many fans will remember that Murphy won consecutive NL MVP Awards (1982-83), made seven All-Star appearances and earned five Gold Glove Awards. Along the way, he also received the Lou Gehrig Award (1985), the Roberto Clemente Award (1988) and the Bart Giamatti Service Award (1991).
Sports Illustrated named him one of its Sportsmen of the Year in 1987, and the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame inducted him in 1995.
"I think one thing that has been beneficial has been the timing with the discussion -- just to revisit careers, qualifications and the guidelines for voting," he said. "It appears the guidelines for voting are much more than just statistically based or how long [a player's] peak years lasted. All of those things are good. You've got to have the numbers, but maybe if the numbers are debatable, then overall, take away how guys handled their careers and the other things that maybe give them a boost to get in."
Murphy compiled more total bases than anybody during the 1980s. Over that 10-year span, Mike Schmidt was the only player with more homers, and Eddie Murray was the only one with more RBIs. Both have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
In addition, Murphy led all Major League outfielders during the 1980s in home runs (308) and RBIs (929). He ranked second among outfielders during this span in hits (1,553) and extra-base hits (596).
But his candidacy has been hindered by his .265 lifetime batting average, which was damaged as he battled knee injuries late in his career. He hit .289 from 1982 to 1987, but just .238 from 1988 until the end of his career in 1993.
Logic indicates that Murphy will not receive the record-shattering increase in votes he would need to gain election to the Hall of Fame, but his children and the power of social media have provided the iconic figure at least some hope that this January will prove to be a little different from the previous 14.
"I think there are guys that I'm comparable to that are in," Murphy said. "I think there are guys that I played in the same era with that should be in. I believe there is a spot there. It's not a Hank Aaron spot or a Babe Ruth spot, but I think there's a spot in there."