July 4, 1983
Dale Murphy still smiles at thoughts of his Atlanta Braves superhero days, when he patrolled centerfield and launched tape-measure home runs deep into the night at Atlanta- Fulton County Stadium. Now, in a different ballpark, his new team surrounds him, dressed sharply in uniform white shirts or dresses. "This is Fenway Park," he instructs a group on a recent field trip. "It's baseball's hallowed ground."
On Murphy's new team there are no quick shortstops, rangy outfielders or fireballing closers; his current compatriots are missionaries—male and female, aged 19 to 21—giving 1� to three years of service to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At 43, Murphy is no longer a cleanup hitter driving in runs but a mission president trying to make sure things run smoothly. "I'm sort of like a general manager," says Murphy with a hopeless laugh. "It's my job to make sure everyone's happy."
Missionary work might be closer to what Murphy, who retired from baseball in 1993, was interested in doing all along. Although the two MVP awards, the five Gold Gloves and the 398 homers he accumulated during his 18-year career were impressive, he gained added renown—and designation as one of SI's 1987 Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year—for the breadth of his charity work. His wife, Nancy, occasionally had to remind him that he had a growing family at home, a clan that now includes eight children aged six to 19. "It's always great when you're really needed," says Murphy. "I've been lucky to have a lot of opportunities to help people."
Helping has become Murphy's full-time gig as he assists in training and deploying about 200 missionaries at the Belmont, Mass., Mormon mission—where the young volunteers can't do things like date, go to movies or watch TV. "It has been a great honor to work with people who are so dedicated and selfless," says Murphy, who became a Mormon while in A ball at age 19. Two years ago, having been selected by church leaders for a three-year tour of duty, Murphy relocated his family from Utah to a house seven miles northwest of Fenway.
In mid-July, Murphy was at the All-Star Game, an honored guest observing the nominees for baseball's All-Century Team. Eighty-year-old Ted Williams sat near the Fenway Park mound as flashbulbs popped around him, and Murphy smiled, knowing that he would always have his own memories. Will there be a return to baseball when his assignment ends next year? "I always think about the possibility of going back in some way," says Murphy. "I miss baseball."