Bill Murphy announcing

Bill Murphy announces a recent American Legion District 17 All-Star game on July 4 at Waters Field in Vienna. (Photo by Dave Facinoli)

He was a longstanding youth sports and stalwart of summer baseball presence in Vienna - from his versatile and busy involvement in Little League, then his position as the dedicated and caring commissioner of the American Legion District 17.

Bill Murphy, 80, died Jan. 3 from various and lengthy health issues.

Known fondly as "Big Murph," he coached for more than 35 years in Vienna Little League in addition to holding every office in the league at various times, sometimes twice. His Blue Jays and all-star baseball teams were perennially successful, winning multiple championships, even state titles.

If not coaching or running VLL in a gentlemanly and kindly fashion with an easy manner, Murphy announced LL, high-school, American Legion all-star and playoff games and was an announcer for the old Clark Griffith League Vienna Senators when they played at Waters Field. He announced with what was described as a clear, easy, gentle and "golden voice", saying so much with few words.

A familiar baseball description from announcer Murphy went like this: "With two away, batting for Vienna, the shortstop, No. 22, John Doe."

"The sound of his voice will never be forgotten," longtime area baseball coach Jimmy Linza said on his Facebook page.

Ray Zdankewicz, the manager of the Falls Church Post 130 Legion team agreed. "When Murph announced games, it made the occasions so much better and gave it more of a baseball feel. We have big holes to fill without him."

In addition, Murphy coached youth football and baseball in Vienna. For years he was the club manager of Vienna Post 180 on Center Street, spending hours on the job, then returning late at night to make sure the workers got away safely. 

During his involvement in the town, Murphy touched the lives of hundreds and was known by  many more, once owning his a cleaning business.   

"He wore a lot of hats in Vienna and did everything. He coached everything," Madison High School baseball coach Mark Gjormand said. "He was one of those guys we don't have around anymore. Bill Murphy was a hall of famer of Vienna sports."

Russ Pahl coached Little League together with Murphy for years, with their teams enjoying significant success.

"He truly was the nicest guy I ever met,"Pahl said on his Twitter page. "He gave everything he had to the community, was always well organized and reliable. Murph was a nose grinder and he made coaching fun. He has to be on the Mount Rushmore of Vienna Little League."

Murphy spent the last number of years as the Legion's District 17 commissioner, doing all the detailed administrative work few would want, and helped to expand the number of teams in recent years from as low as five to possibly nine this coming summer.

"He has done more for American Legion baseball in the district than anybody," Arlington Post 139 manager Bob Romano said. "He was so dedicated to what he did."

In an email to his fellow District 17 manager, Romano said the league "lost a warrior."

Zdankewicz said Murphy stabilized the District 17 and held it together, until the league returned to its recent upswing.

Nick Good is Vienna Post 180's manager and knew Murphy for years, even coached against him. Good was at the Post 180 Legion hall the evening of Jan. 3 when he learned of Murphy's death.

"It was a pretty sober place there, because so many there knew Bill," Good said. "I can't thank him enough for putting in the time over the years to coach Little League, then getting involved with Legion. Bill was really excited about this upcoming season with a ninth team and seeing legion grow. It will not be easy to replace him. We have a lot of things to think about regarding moving forward without Bill."

Al Vaxmonsky of Springfield Post 176 is the senior manager in District 17. Over the years, he grew to have a strong working relationship and friendship with Murphy. Vaxmonsky knew more about Murphy than most, explaining how Murphy's persistence to try out as a player for the Villanova men's basketball team in the late 1950s, eventually earned him a position as team manager.

"What a remarkable man with a gentle soul, and what a remarkable life he had. He was so committed and dedicated to American Legion baseball," Vaxmonsky said. "Nobody wanted the job he had. Despite his health conditions, he continued to forge on, doing everything positive for our league, and he handled things with such dignity and commitment. I never heard him say an unkind word to anybody. This is a tremendous loss for our league. He is irreplaceable.

Linda Norman served on the Vienna Little League board with Murphy and her son, Matt, was coached in Little League by him.

"He was a calming, supportive person and did what was best for Vienna Little League, and he knew how to coach young players, and did it well," Norman said. "Matt talked about how he was so calming as a coach, not like some of the other crazies."

Alexandria Post 24 baseball manager Jim Glassman said Murphy will be "sorely missed" and replacing him as Legion commissioner will be difficult.

"Bill was dedicated to what he did for Legion," Glassman said.

Bob Dix coached many games with and against Murphy’s teams.

“He was more than a successful coach, leader and mentor,” Dix said. “Bill set a great example for all of us about what it means to care about your community and give back to others without expecting anything in return. I am honored to have know him for so many years.”

Starting at age 16, Chris Burr lived with Murphy's family for a time and later coached baseball with him for a year. When Burr became the manager of the Vienna Senators, he convinced Murphy to announce at some of the games.

"I was fortunate to be part of his family," Burr said. "His was such a good citizen and everything was positive with him. It was amazing his layer of his citizenship."

McLean Post 270's manager is Keith Horenstein. He worked with Murphy closely to restart the Post 270 baseball program four years ago after years of the Post not fielding a team.

"I can't tell you how much of a help he was in resurrecting our team," Horenstein said. "Bill was a big proponent to make that happen. It would not have happened without him."

A celebration of Murphy's life will be Saturday, Jan. 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Vienna Post 180 hall on Center Street. It is open to all.

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