Phil Sheridan | Dale Murphy takes action on steroids

Posted: June 09, 2007

It's OK to dream, even if your dream has little chance of coming true.

Watching Barry Bonds last weekend in Philadelphia, and seeing that he sat out his next two games with sore and swollen legs, you couldn't help wondering: What if his body just didn't have enough left to hit the 10 more home runs he needs to break Hank Aaron's career home-run record?

Bonds, who will turn 43 next month, has hit just one home run in the last month. After hitting 11 in the season's first month-and-change, Bonds simply can't seem to hit a baseball over a fence anymore.

Thing is, this happens. Ask Dale Murphy, who finished an injury-plagued 1992 season with the Phillies with 398 career home runs. The two-time National League MVP, who had played the bulk of his career in Atlanta, came back in 1993, fully expecting to boost his total over 400.

"The Phillies came to me and asked me if I wanted to keep going," Murphy said yesterday in a phone interview. "They said they would move me. They traded me to Colorado, where there was some excitement because it was the Rockies' first year."

Murphy played 26 games for the Rockies before retiring - with 398 home runs.

"If you were a righthanded hitter and couldn't hit one out at Mile High Stadium, it was time to retire," Murphy said.

He was 37, which is right around the time most of baseball's great power hitters lose their home-run stroke. From Jimmie Foxx to Willie Mays to Harmon Killebrew to Mike Schmidt, it seems that great home-run hitters lost their power virtually overnight.

It is nature's way, which is what brings us to Bonds.

"When I was 37, I had to retire," Murphy said. "The year Bonds turned 37, he hit 73 home runs. That's pretty good."

Murphy, now 51, has gotten tired of reading and hearing about steroids in baseball. That doesn't make him different from most fans of the game. The difference is that Murphy has decided to do something about it. As a believer in the game and as a father, he felt compelled to start a foundation devoted to teaching young athletes that performance-enhancing drugs are simply wrong ethically, as well as physically disastrous.

"We want to challenge young players on the ethical side," Murphy said. "This is cheating. This is not the way to live your life. We need to challenge them on that level, because otherwise, they see dollar signs, they see scholarships, they see guys getting away with it at the highest levels of sports."

Murphy has a Web site (iWontCheat.com) with testimonials from players such as Dwyane Wade and other sports figures, including Eagles coach Andy Reid. That's just a start, as Murphy seeks sponsorships and develops strategies to reach young people.

"It's a combination of being a father and getting frustrated with what I have to read about my sport every day," Murphy said. "People are still getting caught. . . . We want to work on young people and hope there's a trickle-up effect, because the trickle-down message is not positive.

"It is an integrity-of-the-game issue. We can't stop talking about it, because it's still happening. Let's clean this thing up. We should handle cheating the way we handle gambling. You get caught, you're banned for life. That's it. You can play baseball somewhere, but not major-league baseball. Then we'd see real progress."

As for Bonds, Murphy said he was "disinterested" in the pursuit of Aaron's record.

"I was hoping he would retire last year," Murphy said. "Then the record would stand just where it is. In my mind, it is tainted. Bonds made some decisions in his career that leave a huge asterisk by his career. This is my personal opinion. I'm not a court of law, but I've seen a lot of circumstantial evidence that makes me wonder about him."

Bonds started cranking home runs at an unprecedented rate right about the time other power hitters, including Murphy, experienced their sudden loss of power. He beat nature before he got within range of beating Aaron's home-run record.

It would be poetic justice if Bonds' body let him down before he could get to 755. He said this week that he would not go on the disabled list again, raising the possibility he could choose to stop playing if the Giants asked him to do so.

It isn't likely - Bonds is just too close - but it's still OK to dream.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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