Keeping Score: The legacy of Mike Murphy 

Published: 6/11/2021 9:02:55 PM
Modified: 6/11/2021 9:03:01 PM

Good morning!
The community lost a titan on June 1 with the passing of Mike Murphy, a man of deeds not words. Motivated by the role softball played in his daughters’ lives, in 1988, Murphy began raising money to build a softball complex where every father’s daughter could learn the game.

“That was very important to Mike,” said Turners Falls High School softball coach Gary Mullins. “There was plenty of room for the boys to play little league but not for girls. Mike made sure these fields were dedicated to softball. Having a central location was a much better option and Mike made it happen.”

GHS coach John Hickey concurred: “Murph and (wife) Donna made an immediate impact on girls’ softball and it continues to thrive because of them. He was humble and hard working and he was a great fan of GHS athletics. I’ll miss seeing him at my team’s basketball games, always with that smile.”

The powerfully built Murphy captained the 1965 GHS football team but turned down Memphis State’s scholarship offer to play in their new 50,000-seat stadium. He stayed home, married Donna and they raised a family.

Carpentry and teaching are intrinsic talents and Murphy was good at both. He had the gift of making people feel special and raised a half-million dollars to make Murphy Park a reality. His obituary said that of all the buildings his construction company put up, he considered Murphy Park to be his greatest accomplishment and this is its 30th anniversary.

Many a Franklin County All-Star has honed her skills on the dusty diamonds off Leyden Road. “Softball grew like crazy, it went to another level,” said Mullins. “We had several kids that went through over there. It was a one of a kind situation.”    

“His passing was front page news,” said former Greenfield Girls Softball League president Cam Ward. “I was shocked and saddened. I worked for Mr. Murphy when I was a kid. He was a kind and generous man. He was a gem.”

■■■■ 

The WMass schoolgirl softball tournament starts next week and Mullins said, “It’s possible if we get to the state championship it’s going to be played in Turners.”

Normally the MIAA puts its state championships in centrally located Worcester, but COVID protocols prevented that scenario. Under the new guidelines the higher seed will be the home team, and seedings will be determined by win percentage. If Turners Falls wins out, it will be 13-0 and almost assured of hosting every game throughout the tournament.

The only fly in the ointment is Hopedale High School, which is also undefeated. If the Blue Raiders win the CMass title, a coin flip will determine if the game is at Turners Falls High School or 83 miles down the road in Hopedale.

Meanwhile, Mullins is excited to have eighth-grade catcher Madison “Madi” Liimatainen on the roster. Liimatainen has a strong throwing arm, hits for power and most important of all, “she’s a great listener,” said Mullins. “She has the potential to be a Cadillac. We want to turn her throwing arm into a windmill gun.”

Liimatainen got two innings of mound work on Wednesday during a 14-0 win against Mohawk Trail. She allowed two hits, had four strikeouts and no walks.

On the other side of the river, Hickey said, “I’ve got an eighth-grader that’s going to be a stud, too.”

Mackenzie Paulin has already thrown a pair of one-hitters and can hit the ball out of the yard. “She hit a home run in her first varsity game,” said Hickey. “It was called back because the umpire said it went through the fence but it didn’t, we have it on tape.”

At this writing the Wave was 9-2, its only two losses coming against Turners Falls.

After Team Canada lost its first three games and was outscored 10-2 at the World Hockey Championship in Latvia, a Swedish commentator asked player-turned-analyst Dave Reid if he was embarrassed to be Canadian.

Reid got the last laugh when Canada regrouped and ran the table, beating the USA in the semis and Finland in the finals.

“I really thought the USA was going to take gold the way they were trending,” said Reid, a former Bruin. “In my mind, that was the gold medal game.”

SQUIBBERS: A 2.5 oz. bottle of Spider Tack cost $15.99 on Amazon if you’re looking to increase your spin rate; works for pitchers and weightlifters, not for politicians. … John Sterling said that the Tampa Bay Rays had begun to use reliever J.P. Feyereisen in big situations, then mockingly corrected himself. “Now it’s ‘high leverage’ situations.” … Michael Pineda was tall and lithe when he pitched for the Yankees, but now looks like the second coming of Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon. … On ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, neither Matt Vasgersian nor Alex Rodriguez bothered to mention that Christian Arroyo’s sacrifice bunt was scored 1-to-4. Yes it matters, because my grandson Chase is learning to keep score. … The good news for the Red Sox is they’re only paying Danny Santana $100,000. The bad news is he’s not the answer, not at first base or anywhere. … During the Boston series, Yanks manager Aaron Boone batted 27-year-old rookie Chris Gittens sixth in the lineup ahead of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and Brett Gardner. Gittens was 0-for-7, whiffed four times and left four runners on base. … It was great to see Hunter Renfroe beat the shift and plate a first-inning run against Houston on Wednesday. In the top half of the inning, he threw out Alex Bregman trying to score from second. “It’s been quite a first inning for Mr. Renfroe,” chortled NESN’s Dave O’Brien. … O’Brien’s on a kick that whenever a batter hits one out he says, “that would’ve been a home run in 10 ballparks.” Or five ballparks, or four, or whatever. So what? … There was yet another ‘Jackie woulda had that’ moment on Wednesday when Kyle Tucker’s fly ball fell between Kike Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe. … The Astros are playing with a grudge, like a motorcycle gang in baseball uniforms. … The NY Post reported that Yankees second baseman Rougned Odor is living in a $14,000-a-month penthouse on West 45th St. … Reds pitcher Wade Miley writes in the Players Tribune that the five toughest hitters in baseball are Jose Ramirez, Buster Posey, Mike Trout, Evan Longoria and (brace yourself) Pablo Sandoval. … If your great grandfather was a baseball fan, he probably watched the Hartford Wide Awakes and Lebanon (N.H.) Pretzel Eaters. … Former Red Sox (now Dodgers) broadcaster Tim Neverett, reminiscing about the Pirates playing at Forbes Field: “The outfield was so deep they left the batting cage out there during games.” … Rico Petrocelli on batting against Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series: “I had to face him three times and I think I fouled one ball off him.” … ESPN’s Elle Duncan, on Mason Rudolph’s chances of replacing Ben Roethlisberger. “He had 10 games filling in for Ben and his quarterback rating was a 36.” … Sports show host Adam Schein is kicking himself for picking the Angels to win the AL West. “Next time I pick them just Tweet me and tell me I’m a fool.” … Ditto for yours truly saying nice things about the 22-39 Orioles. … In the words of the great Roger Angell: “Baseball’s absolute unpredictability makes amateurs of us all.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet95@yahoo.com


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