What started out as a seemingly normal family outing to the ballpark to take in some Major League Baseball this past weekend turned out to be a great moment of reflection for me. Not only was it one year to the day since I sat in that very same stadium and, sadly, saw my team lose, but I was also reminded of a couple of former players who made an impact on me. This particular game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians would turn out to be quite memorable, and no, not just for the rather large hot dog bun, filled to the edges with chili and cheese and corn chips. (I believe the dog itself was buried underneath, somewhere.)
As the Cleveland Indians lined up to bat in the top half of the 1st inning, I soon directed my attention to a familiar face, outfielder David Murphy. While I would say he was a significant fan favorite to the Rangers faithful, there was nothing about his stats in the seven seasons he played here which really stood out. He was a consistently inconsistent hitter and fielder, with moderately unimpressive numbers overall, but stats alone are not what makes every professional athlete popular with the fans.
Think for an moment about your personal relationships. What are the aspects that make one stand out? We tend to forget the good times when one bad moment occurs, and visa-versa. Either way, the relationship made an impact on your life, and the reason(s) why do not always matter. For me, Murphy was oddly similar to a former Rangers favorite from a generation ago: Dean Palmer. Now, I realize that one is a lefty while the other was a righty. They do not play the same position on the field, either, but when I think about what made me like Palmer versus what makes me like Murphy, that’s where I draw the comparison, and what ultimately makes Murphy memorable, regardless of his overall production.
I can point to specific moments, for both of these men, when the game was on the line and everyone in the world watching was thinking, “Oh, no. I’m not sure he can get it done.” Neither Murphy nor Palmer is the type of player who gives you total confidence that you can depend on, but that quality is actually what made those moments of pressure so much greater. You see, when a great hitter steps up, you expect greatness, no matter what. When a poor hitter steps up to the plate, you don’t expect anything. However, when a spotty hitter, such as Palmer or Murphy walks up, you really don’t know what to expect, even when their history has shown you exactly what you should expect. These guys are relatable because we as human beings are known to be unpredictable. We often say we don’t like drama, yet that is most often what we are drawn to.
As I continued digesting my chili cheese monstrosity, I soon discovered another reason why Murphy reminded not just me, but at least one other fan, of why he is reminiscent of Palmer. It came late in the game, the top half of the 7th, to be precise. The score was close, and Murphy was the batter for Cleveland. A fan to my right shouted something to the effect of, “I miss you, Murphy!” Someone behind him asked if he was serious, and the former rescinded his statement, explaining it away as a joke, proceeding to say that Murphy couldn’t hit. Whether I was just caught up in the moment and felt the urge to go on the defense, I posited with the quip, “He’s clutch.”
Much like Palmer, who, also, was not a consistently good hitter, he often delivers the goods when it really counts. Could it be that this is the crux of why fans miss a guy like Murphy? I don’t know, but we all enjoy feeling we are in the right when someone nods along and echoes your sentiment just seconds after you have made a claim and are proven correct.
As for the rest of the game, the big inning for the visiting Tribe came in the top half of the 9th. The bottom of the order was on deck, and it seemed that the Rangers should have the game in the bag, but closer Neftali Feliz gave up a crucial walk to an unimpressive batter, and a throwing error on a near game-ending double play kept the Indians alive long enough to send red-hot second baseman Jason Kipnis to the plate, who launched a two-run blast beyond right field, granting Cleveland a 10-8 lead. Texas had come from behind several times throughout the game, but came up short when they needed it the most.
By the end of the night, I had enjoyed a competitive game of Major League Baseball, and taken myself on an unexpected trip down memory lane with David Murphy and Dean Palmer. My parents were quick to retreat back home, and I merrily made my way with a flashback to where I was exactly one year ago to the day: At a double-digit Rangers drubbing at the hands of the Chicago White Sox. This May’s game was much more exciting, but in the end, a loss is still a loss. At least I have my memories… And the chili stains on my shirt.
Alex Moore is a Contributor at The Scoop.