Rick Murphy

GREGORY FISHER — SPORTS THROUGH THE LENS

Pittsfield's Rick Murphy poses with one of the New York-Penn League trophies his Tri-City ValleyCats won. Murphy will be inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2022.

Rick Murphy is now a Hall of Famer.

Murphy, a Pittsfield native who led the Pittsfield Mets of the New York-Penn League and helped supervise the team’s move to Troy, N.Y., where the Tri-City ValleyCats have resided for two decades, will be part of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.

“I’ve been fortunate that, over the years, we’ve always had a staff that has been committed and really tried to put the best product, not only on the field but off the field and provide that memorable fan experience,” Murphy said in a phone interview with The Eagle. “I guess, what it means to me is we’ve been able to deliver that, and as we embark on having 3 million fans come through the turnstile at The Joe, at the end of the book, so to speak, is what it’s really all about.”

The statement from the Hall of Fame was short and sweet.

“For the past 30 years, Rick has been one of the most successful and well-liked minor league baseball owners/executives in the country.” Rene M. LeRoux , Exevcutive Director of the Hall, said in a release. “You won’t find a more hard working or nicer man in baseball than Rick.”

Murphy will be going into the Hall of Fame with a most star-studded group. Somehow, Sultan of Swat Babe Ruth is not in the New York State Hall of Fame. That’ll be remedied in 2022. Along with Murph and The Babe, Rich “Goose” Gossage, David Cone and Ron Blomberg will be inducted.

The induction ceremonies will be held sometime in 2022.

“When [LeRoux] sent me that voice mail that I was part of the class, it got me thinking about where it all started,” Murphy said. “In 33 years in the game, the number of people that I came in contact with and have had the pleasure of working with over the years. Having worked with Bill Gladstone, he was such a business mentor and partner, and the run we had in Pittsfield and then moving to the state of New York and seeing the design and build and development of the ValleyCats since it’s inception.”

Murphy has been part of baseball management and ownership since the Pittsfield Mets relocated from Little Falls, N.Y., for the 1989 season.

Eventually, the team lost its Mets affiliation when the Major League team moved its New York-Penn affiliation to Brooklyn after the 2000 season. In 2001, Murphy and team owner Bill Gladstone hooked up with the Houston Astros, an affiliation that followed the team from Wahconah Park to Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy.

The ValleyCats remained an Astros affiliate until the 2021 season, when Minor League Baseball did not invite Murphy’s team to be part of the realignment of farm systems.

The ValleyCats will begin their second season as a member of the independent Frontier League, a Partner League of Major League Baseball.

Murphy’s teams won three New York-Penn League championships, in Pittsfield in 1997 and in Tri-Cyt in 2010 and 2013. Six other times, his teams had been NY-P runners up.

Murphy was named the NYPL Executive of the Year in 2008 and was a 2011 New York-Penn League Robert F. Julian Community and Baseball Service Award winner.

“It’s interesting, because usually when you think of Halls of Fame, you’ve had the opportunity to be around for a while. The game, even though it’s America’s National Pasttime, the game has changed immensely over the years,” Murphy said. “Having the opportunity to see it evolve and change, and be a part of it, was an interesting ride. From where we were at Pittsfield to where we are today, having been affilitated with the Mets and the Astros and, as we’re having this conversation today, being in a Partner League and being an independent model, it just makes you realize that the game is ever changing. If you as a manager or executive, if you don’t change your style and your philosophy, then you may become irrelevant in a game that’s ever-changing.”

Murphy joined up with Gladstone when the franchise was purchased in 1992. Murphy and Gladstone became a team that survived until Gladstone’s passing in May, 2020, of complications from COVID-19.

“It started with the first day that Bill and I became partners,” Murphy said. “There’s the game, there’s the integrity of the game and we never wanted to diminish or interfere with that. As business executives, there is a tendency to lean more toward the promotional side of it. At times, you are faced with decisions that could impact the integrity of the game.

“We just never wanted to deviate from that mission statement.”

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. 

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.