UT Tyler Baseball Supporter, Legendary Scout Red Murff Passes Away

Saturday, November 29, 2008
by Tyler Morning Telegraph

John Robert "Red" Murff, a supporter of the UT Tyler baseball team who was best known as the baseball scout who discovered Nolan Ryan, died Friday in Tyler.

UT Tyler baseball coach James Vilade, a family friend, said Murff passed away along-side his wife, Sara, at a Tyler nursing home.

"“Red Murff was a great ambassador of the game. Even after he retired he still found ways to encourage young men to be great baseball players and great citizens. He is a true baseball legend and we will all miss him," said Vilade.

Before his career as a major league scout, Murff was a minor league and major league pitcher.

Murff discovered Ryan when the Texas fireballer was a junior at Alvin High School and signed Ryan for the New York Mets. He is also known for encouraging Phil Niekro to use his knuckleball in game situations.

Ryan noted his friendship with Murff in his 1999 Hall of Fame Speech, saying, “Red Murff, the scout that signed me for the Mets, is here with us today, and I am proud to say that Red is a friend and that Red took more of an interest in me at an early age.

“He thought when he saw me at 6-foot-2 and 140 pounds, he wasn’t discouraged by my build and by the way I threw the baseball as many other scouts were. And I appreciate the fact that Red spent so much time with me and worked to help me become a better pitcher. Thank you, Red.”

Murff began his professional career in 1950 as a pitcher with the Baton Rouge Red Sticks. He played in A and AA ball, being named Minor League Player of the Year in 1955 with a 27-11 record while playing for the Dallas Eagles of the Texas League.

He also pitched for the 1952 Tyler East Texans where he won 21 games.

In 1956, Murff made the Milwaukee Braves as a 35-year-old rookie, and on opening day he relieved for Lew Burdette and was credited with a save. Warren Spahn pitched the next day with Murff’s first starting assignment the following day in St. Louis where he pitched five innings before rupturing a disc in his back.

In 1957, he was 2-2 with the Braves, when they defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series. After stints with the Wichita Braves and Louisville Cardinals, he became player-manager with the Jacksonville (Fla.) Braves.

He then became a baseball scout who signed such notables as Ryan and all-star catcher Jerry Grote. He retired from scouting in 1991 after 34 years and retired to Tyler.

Murff was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame in 1999.

He helped start the baseball program at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, and in 1994 the school’s ballpark was named Red Murff Field.