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Former NY Mets Chaplain Celebrates 50 Years as a Priest

Father Murphy (center) with some of his classmates from St. Augustine H.S. in Brooklyn (Photo: Ed Wilkinson)

Father Daniel Murphy is such an avid baseball fan that it’s only fitting to look back on his more than five decades of priesthood using some baseball terminology.

He’s been quite the “journeyman” throughout his priestly “career,” and he’s developed lasting relationships with lots of great “teammates” along the way. He’s not “hanging up the spikes” just yet, but he instead enjoyed a recent “milestone” moment.

On May 21, Father Murphy celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest at St. Saviour, Park Slope, where he served as pastor before his retirement from the Diocese of Brooklyn several years ago. Nearly 400 people enjoyed the celebration Mass and ceremony.

Technically, this year marked Father Murphy’s 52nd year as a priest, since he was ordained on May 30, 1970. Yet like so many things, the COVID-19 pandemic postponed not one but two potential celebrations. Still, “52 in ’22” does have a nice ring to it!

Father Murphy grew up attending Our Lady of Angels parish, Bay Ridge. He loved all sports, especially baseball, basketball, softball, and even bowling. At St. Augustine H.S., Park Slope, he played four years on the Lancers basketball team, and he’s now a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.

Though he loved playing basketball, Father Murphy’s first love was always baseball. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, it was obvious what team he gravitated toward.

“My whole family…we were die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan,” he said. “We lived and died with the Dodgers.”

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season, Father Murphy stuck with them for a few years. Unlike today where fans can still follow along with every pitch from anywhere in the world, Father Murphy relied solely on newspaper box scores and the occasional nationally televised games to keep up with the team.

As was often the case, Dodgers fan soon became New York Mets fans with the birth of the Amazins’ in 1962 – because everyone knew it would be a cardinal sin to convert to the New York Yankees.

“I looked at the Dodgers roster, and there was nobody really left from my boyhood days,” Father Murphy said. “Then the Mets came into town, so I said my guys on the Dodgers are done and I moved on to the Mets.”

After graduation from high school, Father Murphy entered Cathedral College, Brooklyn, and then the Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I. Once ordained, he had several stops around the diocese including St. Mary Star of the Sea, Far Rockaway; St. Brigid, Bushwick; Resurrection-Ascension, Rego Park; Our Lady Help of Christians, Midwood; St. Andrew the Apostle, Bay Ridge; Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill; and St. Saviour.

As a Mets fan though, one of the thrills of his tenure as a priest came during a seven-season span as the Mets’ team chaplain from 1984-1990. It all came about thanks to the late great Catholic ballplayer Rusty Staub.

Several weeks before Easter Sunday in 1984, Staub approached then Mets general manager Frank Cashen saying the Catholic ballplayers needed to go to Mass on Easter, even though the team would be playing in Philadelphia against the Phillies. Cashen called Father Murphy to ask if he would come to Veterans Stadium to say Mass.

Sure enough, Father Murphy made the trip. From there, Staub suggested that Father Murphy say Mass during all Sunday home games at Shea Stadium. So for the next seven years, that’s exactly what he did.

Maybe it was divine intervention that let the ball trickle through Bill Buckner’s legs during the Mets’ improbable come-from-behind victory in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Or maybe it was Father Murphy’s devout prayers! Either way, he thoroughly enjoyed being part of that magical World Series season.

This experience also allowed him to develop a deep connection with the ballplayers. He presided over Mets lefty pitcher Sid Fernandez’s wedding and baptized one of second baseman Wally Backman’s children. He even facilitated relief ace Jesse Orosco being confirmed by Aux. Bishop Joseph P. Denning.

Looking back on 52 years as a priest, the Mets years undoubtedly standout for Father Murphy, who was able to intersect his passion for baseball with his vocation. It doesn’t get much better than that!

These days, Father Murphy serves at Holy Cross parish in Vero Beach, Fla. – coincidentally the former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ spring training complex “Dodgertown.” Things have surely come full circle for this former fan of Dem Bums.

To use another baseball term, you could say his journey has truly taken him fully “around the horn” and back again.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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