Rob Murphy had the perfect name for a Boston baseball player. A nice Irish boy who found himself coming out of the bullpen for the Olde Towne Team.
As it turned out he was a reliable reliever for the Cincinnati Reds who narrowly missed being part of a championship pen.
Murphy was born and grew up in Miami. He was a star high school baseball player and football player for Christopher Columbus High. He passed on a chance to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers and attended the University of Florida where he continued to put up big league numbers.
In 1981, when there still was a Secondary Draft, the Reds picked him in the January pool 3rd overall. This time he signed.
However his first two seasons in the minors were misfires. He put up mediocre numbers for Tampa and Cedar Rapids, not getting far as a starter.
Then a switch to the bullpen put him on a fast track to the majors. In 1985 he made his debut with the Reds for manager Pete Rose. In 1986, as a reliever for AAA Denver, he posted a 1.90 ERA, almost unheard of in the high altitude of Colorado. He got called to the Reds, this time for good.
In 1986 and 1987, he played for talented Reds teams that just couldn’t make it over the hump to the Division Title. (Remember this was when Pete Rose was gambling on baseabll. Use those facts anyway you want to.)
He dazzled in 1986, going 6-0 with 12 saves and an eye popping 0.72 ERA in 50 1/3 innings of relief. It was the lowest ERA for any pitcher with at least 50 innings for the season. That record still holds for the National League. He followed with another solid campaign in 1987, where his 87 appearances set a record for left handed relievers.
Murphy pitched along side John Franco and eventually a young Rob Ribble as the Cincinnati bullpen became one of their core strengths. He led the league in appearances in 1988 and remained one of the steadiest relief performers in Cincinnati history.
But the Reds went through a little bit of a facelift between 1989 and 1990, one that would include the suspension of Pete Rose. Murphy and first baseman Nick Esasky were sent packing to the Red Sox for Todd Benzinger and Jeff Sellers.
Murphy continued to pitch well in Boston, winning the team’s Fireman of the Year award in 1989 and being part of the 1990 AL East champions. In his lone post season appearance in his career, he allowed a run in 2/3 of an inning, giving him a whopping 13.50 ERA.
As Boston’s post season was 4 and out against Oakland, Murphy’s old team was stampeding to the World Series title. Their bullpen was again their strength, but John Franco was replaced by Randy Myers while Murphy’s old role was supplanted by Norm Charlton. If Murphy was still there, would he have been a valuable member of a World Series winning pen? Or was the Nasty Boys combination just the perfect combination of talent and personalities?
We will never know. Murphy bounced around between the Mariners, Astros, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers before going full circle to Miami where his career ended with the Marlins.
His post baseball career has revolved around raising horses and racing them. Murphy had a solid career where he got to set a few records, if not win that World Series ring.
Not bad for an Irish kid from Miami.
FYI, I love this card because I had that exact jacket.