Between 1910 and 1914 the Philadelphia Athletics won four American League pennants and three World Series titles. Today they’re primarily known for their manager, Connie Mack, their infield (McInnis, Collins, Barry, Baker) and their pitching (Plank, Bender, Coombs). But they also had a pretty decent outfield during the period. One of their better players in the pasture was Danny Murphy.
His name was Daniel Francis Murphy and he was born in Philly in 1876. He moved to New England while still young, started playing ball and was signed by the Giants in 1900. A second baseman by trade, he got into 27 games in 1900 and 1901, then went back to the minors. In July 1902, Mack bought him for $600 and he settled in as the A’s second baseman. Murphy is a minor cog in the great Nap LaJoie scandal of the era. LaJoie, the Phillies second baseman, signed with the A’s when the AL was formed. The Phillies sued, LaJoie ended up in Cleveland, and Murphy became his replacement.
Murphy was good. He wasn’t LaJoie, but almost no one who’s ever played the game was LaJoie. The new second baseman hit reasonably well, did a good enough job at second, including a six for six debut and hitting for the cycle, and smacking two hits on his wedding day (which leads to the question didn’t he have something better to do on his wedding day?). He became a fixture in Philly between 1902 and 1913. In 1902, the A’s won the second ever AL pennant with Murphy hitting .313 in 76 games while scoring 46 runs. The A’s won again in 1905, this time having to face Murphy’s old team the Giants in the second World Series. They lost in five games, Murphy hitting a buck-18 with a double and no runs scored or RBIs.
Murphy remained the primary second baseman through 1907 when the A’s added Eddie Collins to their roster. Murphy was good enough, but Collins is a top five all-time second baseman. Mack’s decision was to shift Murphy to right field. It worked. Collins went on to a Hall of Fame career and Murphy continued to contribute. In 1912 he was appointed team captain. He led the AL in fielding once (.977, which isn’t all that bad in 1909) and continued to hit well. In 1910 and 1911 he hit over .300 and slugged over .425 both seasons. In World Series play he hit .400 in 1910 and .304 in 1911. Combined for the two Series’ he drove in 12 runs, scored 10, had 15 hits, eight for extra bases (including one home run). His OPS in 1910 was 1.129 and .739 in 1911.
By 1912 he was still good. He was also 36. In June he broke his kneecap sliding and lost the rest of the season. In 1913 he only got into 40 games. He hit well when he played (.322/.365/.441) but he simply couldn’t play that much. The A’s went back to the World Series, winning again, but Murphy sat on the bench the entire Series. He was through in Philadelphia. In 1914 and 1915 he tried his hand with the fledgling Federal League. He hit .304 for Brooklyn in 1914, .167 in 1915, and did some scouting work. After 1915 he stopped playing in the Majors. He coached some in the Minors, got back to the A’s as a coach through the 1924 season. He coached one more year, then retired to run a hardware store and later work in a hospital. He died in 1955. In 1948 Mack named him to the All-Time A’s team as the right fielder.
For his career, Murphy hit .289, slugged .404, had an OBP of .336, and an OPS of .742 (OPS+ of 124). He hit 44 home runs, scored 705 runs and knocked in 702 RBIs in 1563 hits. He had 2188 total bases, 289 doubles, 102 triples, and walked 335 times. For his postseason career he hit .305 with an OPS of .791. He had 18 hits, eight for extra bases (7 doubles and a home run).
Murphy is hardly a great player, but he’s certainly a good one. He is, to me, emblematic of a type of player that constantly gets overlooked in baseball discussions. He’s not a star, not the best player on his team, but he is a major cog in a winning team. He’s the kind of player good teams have a lot of when they win. Take a look at winning rosters and you’ll find a lot of Danny Murphy’s, which is a pretty good legacy for him.