SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - There isn't much Mike Murphy hasn't seen in a big league clubhouse. After all, he's been running one for more than 50 years.
He is known as "Uncle Murph" to the players and staff of the San Francisco Giants, who have been his employer since they moved West from New York in 1958. He started as a bat boy, but has been in the clubhouse since 1960.
He has seen countless players come through the big leagues, and he can understand why the dream of making it to the majors is such an enticing one.
"Once you hang around the clubhouse, there’s nothing like it," said Murphy, taking a short break from his duties at the Giants' spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. "You just love it. Just talking baseball and what you did all winter. The guys are happy to see you, they hug you when they come through the door.
"I’ve got a lot of memories of people who have come through this organization."
He remembers them all, from Willie McCovey to Robby Thompson, from Orlando Cepeda to Bob Brenley.
He remembers Will Clark hitting a home run off Nolan Ryan in his first major league at-bat and being "happy as a lark." And he remembers having to put Gaylord Perry in his place when the pitcher complained too much about the job he was doing, telling him "I'll be here long after you're gone."
His favorite player is Willie Mays, both for his talents on the field and his personality off it, saying the great is "like my father."
And Murphy says it is always a pleasure to see a new player arrive, chuckling at how wide-eyed they can be with their first look at the fancy trappings of his clubhouse, but happy to see them beginning down the road to earning their major league pension.
"I’ve seen a lot," Murphy said. "The ballplayers are getting better and better, and you can see it. They’re getting taller, stronger. Years ago they never had gym equipment. Willie said he used to just run every day on the beach, and that’s what he did."
Murphy enjoyed the team's run to the 2010 World Series championship — the Giants' first since moving to San Francisco — and hopes for a repeat in 2011.
But most of all he cherished the relationships he's built, even from the opposition. Murphy says he received congratulatory calls not only from Perry and other former Giants, but opposing managers like Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox. Murphy said Cox even sent him a signed baseball that alluded to a running joke between the two over who would last longer in baseball.
"Coxy sent a baseball to me just before we left Atlanta (in the playoffs last season)," Murphy said. "And he says ‘To Murph, I retired before you, you son of a bitch.’”
When it comes to baseball, it's tough to outlast Uncle Murph.
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Bob Harkins is the baseball editor at NBCSports.com and a writer for HardballTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/Bharks
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