ADVERTISEMENT

Mike Murphy Field made its debut Saturday to all but unanimous approval.

There was, after all, that one isolated and undocumented protest from above.

“He’s probably calling me names,” Don Morris, head of the Hertel North Park Youth Baseball League, said of Murphy. “He’s up there somewhere saying ‘Don’t do this.’ ”

In between the choice words, Morris added, his old friend is no doubt secretly smiling.

And so were a lot of others Saturday as friends and family gathered at North Buffalo’s Shoshone Park to honor Murphy’s 35 years as a baseball coach and mentor to hundreds of kids.

The man everyone called “Murph” died in January at age 56.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Morris said of the decision to name Shoshone’s main diamond after Murphy. “He gave 35 years of his life to our league and the kids of the City of Buffalo.”

And he did it despite never having a son or daughter of his own.

“He loved baseball and he loved kids,” said Robert Minor, a friend and co-worker for more than 30 years.

Like Morris, Minor thinks his longtime fishing buddy would have cringed at all the fuss, all the bother.

“He’d shrug it off,” said Minor. “He’d probably say it was nothing. He wouldn’t like the attention.”

But if anyone deserves it, it’s Murph.

Morris says people will never know what Murphy did for kids, but if Dan Greene is any indication, his former ballpayers do.

Greene, a federal public defender, played for Murphy as a young boy. So did his brother, and they both remember Murphy as a coach who loved to win but whose first priority was always the boys on his team.

He also remembers the first time they crossed paths after he joined the public defender’s office and began working at the U.S. District Courthouse downtown, where Murphy spent 32 years as a maintenance worker.

“I probably played for him 20 years ago, and he stopped me the first or second week I was on the job,” Greene said. “He called me by name, asked what I was doing and asked about my brother. I think that speaks volumes about the man and the coach.”

Not surprisingly, Murphy was just as beloved by the people he worked with at the courthouse.

More than a few of them were on hand for the ceremony and the unveiling of a plaque commemorating Murphy’s contributions to the Hertel North Park league.

Even now, months after his death, they talk about the big man with the gentle soul, the guy who always had a smile and a joke to tell.

And they also talk about how much they miss all of it.

“He looked imposing, but he was just a big teddy bear,” said Darryl Harris, a court security officer for the U.S. Marshal’s Office and a friend for the past nine years. “He had an infectious smile. He was just a big pussycat.”

email: pfairbanks@buffenws.com