A lengthy ESPN feature story published earlier this year posed the question this summer, “Where Have You Gone, Dale Murphy?”
The same question could be asked of many Latter-day Saints who have played Major League Baseball. After their time under the stadium lights is in the past, it is often difficult to keep track of baseball players as the majority seem to gradually fade from public view after retirement. This does not, however, erase what they accomplished on the diamond and it certainly doesn’t erase the memories fans carry from the stands of watching their favorite players play “America’s Pastime.”
In an effort to find out who the most memorable Latter-day Saint baseball players are, we posed the question, “Who are the all-time greatest Latter-day Saint MLB players?”
Readers responded with more than just names. Some provided their statistic WAR (Wins Above Replacement), some shared how different players were connected, and multiple people commented on the quality of Dale Murphy’s character. In no particular order (except for the most-requested Dale Murphy), here is your all-Latter-day Saint MLB team:
Before Dale Murphy was ever MVP of the U.S. baseball’s National League, he was playing on the Atlanta Braves’ farm team in Greenwood, South Carolina, with another MLB great Barry Bonnell when the two began to have religious conversations. Bonnell introduced Murphy to the missionaries and baptized him after the 1975 season.
Eight years later, Dale Murphy’s face graced the cover of the July 4, 1983, issue of Sports Illustrated, and the headline of the feature story read, “Murphy’s Law Is Nice Guys Finish First.”
“Here’s a guy who doesn’t drink, smoke, chew, or cuss,” Steve Wulf wrote. “Here’s a guy who has time for everyone, a guy who’s slow to anger and eager to please, a guy whose agent’s name is Church. His favorite movie is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s a wonderful ball player.”
In the words of ESPN’s Wright Thompson earlier this year, “You either idolized Dale Murphy or you don’t remember much about him.”
Murphy hit 398 home runs during his 18-year career and is one of four outfielders in baseball history to win back-to-back MVP honors.
The only current player on this list, Bryce Harper is one of the biggest names in Major League Baseball today and is preparing to enter free agency next week. Harper’s face was also seen on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but his appeared there before he was ever drafted first in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. Harper, a native of Las Vegas, made his debut for the Washington Nationals in 2012 and immediately made an impact on the diamond. When his contract expires, Harper is expected to become the highest paid player in MLB history. Two years ago, when asked by the Washington Post about his decision not to serve a mission, Harper replied, “Coming up to the draft and trying to make that decision, I always thought that my Heavenly Father upstairs always just wanted me to be a walking Book of Mormon, you could say. I knew I could touch a lot of people’s lives playing and trying to be the best Mormon that I can be on and off the field.”
In December 2016, Bryce Harper and his wife, Kayla, were sealed in the San Diego Temple. Recently, the couple shared photos on Instagram about their opportunity to meet President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf during general conference weekend. The slugger didn’t shy away from sharing his feelings about the experience.
Image from @kayy.harper Instagram
"President Nelson had me in shock," Bryce wrote on Instagram. "He had an overwhelming feeling around him of the Spirit. He walked into the room and I immediately teared up and began to think if it was even appropriate for me to be in the same room as this man because of how incredible he is. He came over and shook my hand, my wife’s hand, and family’s hands and we talked for a couple minutes. By the end I couldn’t help but think when this man talks it is the truth. It is the word of God & everything that I want to be part of."
Image from baseballreference.com
First baseman Wally Joyner was a BYU standout drafted in the 3rd round of the 1983 MLB June Amateur Draft. He went on to play 16 years in the major leagues during a career that both started and ended with the Los Angeles Angels (formally the California Angels). In 1986, Joyner was selected by fans for the All-Star Game, the first rookie in history to be voted into the game. Joyner made headlines earlier this year when his 40-acre Mapleton, Utah estate was listed for $7.9 million. The estate includes a 40,000-square-foot barn with 22 stalls and an 18,600-square-foot riding ring. He has also invested and appeared in several Latter-day Saint films, including The R.M. and The Singles Ward.