Tuesday, February 5, 2013

#496 - Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy revives a few things for us. The less offensive one is the for-real Traded card. Around this point in his career Tom could have had one of these cards just about every season. The other one is the under-jersey windbreaker that he maximizes to full effect at Candlestick in his impersonation of that kid in those Bazooka Joe comics. But maybe Topps liked that since that bubble gum was another of their products. They sure liked it enough to give us two nearly-identical shots of him. ’73 was a year worth forgetting for Tom. After being returned to the minors from KC in spring training that May he was sent to the Cards for pitcher Al Santorini, who’d spent most of his up top time with the Cards and the Padres. He then got some time in the rotation for St. Louis, though not a lot of it with only 13 starts. That was due in part to finally finishing off his military obligation on a couple weekends. But his record sucked and his other numbers were just OK, certainly not the big bailout the Cards needed on the mound that year. So they sent him packing again back to the AL. At least there he had rosier times for a while.

Tom Murphy would have gotten along pretty well with Roger Nelson from a few posts ago as the two of them spent their high school sports time pursuing hoops, baseball, and cross country. I have read on a couple sites that Tom went to Euclid High School outside Cleveland but baseball-reference has him attending Lufkin in Texas, so one of us is way off. Tom had a twin brother who opted for the football route, first at Northwestern and then at Montreal in the CFL. In the meantime Tom stayed close to home also educationally by going to Ohio University where his sophomore year he was the team’s star pitcher with a 10-0 record, a 2.32 ERA, and 99 K’s in 93 innings. That summer of ’65 he was selected by the Astros in the draft but he opted to remain in school. His junior year he went 6-1 with a 3.46 ERA and 94 K’s in 69 innings and was again selected, this time by the Giants. He again passed and finally signed when California made him a first-rounder in January ’67. He kicked things off pretty well that year, going a combined 7-10 with a 2.96 ERA in all three levels of the A leagues. In ’68 he went 3-1 in eight starts split between Double and Triple A and then got moved to Anaheim. That year was a good one in which to be a rookie pitcher – or any pitcher – and around his first serious military time Tom threw some nice ball in his 15 starts, keeping opponents to less than a base runner an inning.

In ’69 Murphy’s ERA got inflated a bunch, probably due more than a little to his leading the AL in both wild pitches (16) and hit batsmen (21 – a team record). So his record was pretty understandable. In ’70 even though his ERA continued to rise he was a beneficiary of a potent offense that pulled the Angels way up in the standings and nearly reversed his ’69 numbers. He got paid back for that in spades in ’71 though, as even though his ERA tumbled by half a run, his record sank like a stone as all the team turmoil knocked the Angels hard. After a start to the ’72 season that saw him exclusively in the pen he was sent to KC for Bob Oliver. For the Royals things got markedly better as Tom was used in a swing role in nine starts and a few games in relief. He did that after he spent some Triple A time in which his rotation work was quite good with a 4-6 record and a 2.61 ERA. Two trades and one season later he was in Milwaukee.

For the Brewers Murphy found a solid niche as staff closer for a season in ’74. He went 10-10 with 20 saves while leading the AL in games finished with 66. His ERA fell all the way to 1.90 and even though he missed some time with a sore shoulder he was now described as a star in local papers. But in ’75 Milwaukee could not continue its climb to respectability it had initiated the past couple seasons and Tom’s numbers fell hard. He still recorded 20 saves, which was pretty impressive, because that soreness in his shoulder turned out to be tendinitis and he ended up missing nearly half the season to the DL. When he pitched, though, his non-save numbers were pretty crappy: a 1-9 record and a 4.60 ERA. In ’76 after an equally bad start to the season he was sent to Boston with Bobby Darwin for Bernie Carbo. Like the move to Milwaukee, the move to Boston did Tom a world of good as he lowered his ERA over a run from his ’75 one and went 4-5 with eight saves. But also like his Brewers experience the success was short-lived and after going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 16 games in Boston the Sox tried to demote him to the minors. Tom refused, and a few weeks later he was sold to Toronto. Again a new home produced better numbers as he went 2-1 with two saves and a 3.63 ERA the rest of the way. In ’78 he won six and saved seven in the pen and in ’79 after a weak start he was released from his final home. Tom finished with a record of 68-101 with 22 complete games, three shutouts, 59 saves, and a 3.78 ERA.

Murphy had finished his degree in ’69 at Ohio U with a bachelors in education. By ’77 he’d purchased some rental properties in Laguna Beach, CA and he’d already planned to pursue real estate after he played. That he did, establishing his own firm that has since specialized in commercial properties in San Capistrano.

Tom gets some pretty good star bullets and there are some pretty good other ones as well. When he began his career he hit a batter with his first pitch which set the tone for that double he pulled off in ’69. His brother, who after football became a lawyer, and he were fond of doing switches whereby Roger (his brother) would go kicking and screaming into management suites to demand new contracts whenever Tom was going well. I could see making a habit of that if you were Jim Palmer but I think Tom was treading on thin ice on that one.

Nothing too much is going on with the back of the Traded card. I’d say that based on the ’74 numbers Milwaukee made out better in this deal.

This one’s a bit of a surprise but it works:

1. Murphy and Willie Horton ’78 Blue Jays;
2. Horton and Dick McAuliffe ’63 to ’73 Tigers.

1 comment:

  1. I found the neck thingee kinda interesting too:


    What's really funny about the TRADED one, though, is the fact that it's PAINTED! Yup, it was just a variation of the first one, but the Michaelangelos at Topps decided they'd turn him into a Brewer. Nice ...