Harvey Dorfman

Harvey Dorfman’s Rolodex read like a “Who’s Who?” of baseball: Maddux, Halladay, A-Rod.But the famed sports psychologist, who passed away on Monday at the age of 75, reached far beyond his individual clients to any ballplayer who picked up one of his books.Ed Sprague said via Twitter, “I never met Harvey Dorfman but I read his book and I know he helped a lot of ballplayers.”

Dorfman wrote the seminal self-help baseball book, The Mental Game of Baseball, published in 1989. The next year he crossed paths with a young baseball coach named Pat Murphy.

“He was with the A’s and I brought my Notre Dame team down to Phoenix. He kind of laughed when he met me,” said Murphy.

“He said, ‘You’ve got a lot revving around inside that head.’ He gave it to me right between-the-eyes and I loved the honesty, the heated exchange. He didn’t always use appropriate language but he came right at you and I just love how much he cared.”

The two developed a friendship. After Murphy came to Arizona State, Dorfman would visit every year and occasionally sit in the dugout. His books were required reading for the Sun Devils.

Murphy learned of Dorfman’s passing on Monday while traveling in Birmingham, Ala.

“I’m happy my son and daughter knew him. Keli called me today and was crying. She knew how much he meant to me and what he’d done for me.”

“He was maybe the most special person I’ve ever met in my life.”

This year, Roy Halladay gave copies of Dorfman’s books to the young pitchers on the Phillies staff.

“Baseball is such a game about how you feel about yourself and how you feel during the time between performances, between at-bats, between season and dealing with all the outside influences,” said Murphy.

“He was great at not B.S.-ing you and what to address. He was great at helping you let go of the little things that weren’t important. He kept you focused on the big picture and at the task at hand. He didn’t believe in a lot of team meetings. He believed in one-on-one, he believed in encouragement, in telling the truth.”

“He was like a father figure to me after my Dad passed.”

Dorfman spent 27 years as a teacher and counselor before working in professional baseball.

Dorfman worked for two World Championship teams, the ‘89 Athletics and the ‘97 Marlins. (Some of the Oakland A’s trusted Dorfman more than their famed manager, Tony LaRussa.)
The Bronx native also worked for the Devil Rays and for superagent Scott Boras.

Jamie Moyer told the Philadelphia Enquirer, “Every team should have a Harvey Dorfman.”

Both Halladay and Rick Ankiel have credited Dorfman with resurrecting their careers.

“He was well intended in everything he did,” said Murphy.

“He didn’t have a lick of entrepreneurship or marketing. He hated if you wrote him a letter and told him what he did for you. He’d say ‘The less said, the better. Let’s worry about what’s important.’”

Murphy, now a manager in Padres minor league system, will have reminders of Dorfman for the rest of his life — meeting common acquaintances in the baseball world and there’s Murphy’s borrowed tradition of ending his letters with Dorfman’s signature closing: “Be well.”

Plus, anyone that meets Murphy in-person will see how important Dorfman was without even exchanging a word.

The initials H.D. are tattooed on Murphy’s back.


See Also:
Stay In The Moment (With Dr. Baseball)Men’s Journal, February 2009

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