Stepping Up to the Plate

When Yankee fans head south on I-95 to the stadium, James Murphy drives north to Harbor Yard.

Photographs by Visko Hatfield

Since their founding in 1998, the Bridgeport Bluefish have showcased some impressive on-field talent, but the presence at the ballpark at Harbor Yard this year of Greenwich’s James P. Murphy is a milestone of a different kind.

Although Murphy never made it past high school as a baseball player, in the world of corporate marketing, he is an All-Star. He orchestrated the successful branding not once but twice of a globally recognized management consulting firm, first in 1988 at Andersen Consulting, then in early 2001 at Accenture, an initiative that won him numerous plaudits by year’s end and the title “marketer of the year.”

Since then, he has pursued a double-barreled career, as Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer and as head of his own public relations firm, Murphy & Co. On the walls of his corner office off West Putnam Avenue, there are photographs of Murphy with Tiger Woods, whom he doggedly pursued for months before signing him up for an Accenture advertising campaign. Murphy helped create one of the PGA Tour’s signature events, the Match Play Championship, as an Accenture sponsorship vehicle. Chances are if you know the name Accenture, Murphy made it happen.

A genial, soft-spoken man, Murphy has a disarmingly humble way of discussing his career. After studying journalism at the University of Illinois, he pursued a career in public relations, serving over time as the senior corporate communications officer for three prominent businesses: Owens-Corning Fiberglass, Beatrice and Merrill Lynch. He then became involved with developing Andersen Consulting, a spin-off of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, albeit operated independently. Accenture and Murphy & Co. followed.

So what led him back to baseball, as a member of the investor group that bought the Bluefish last December?

“I think it’s a great game,” he shrugs. “I think it’s a wonderful sport for kids. It’s a big analogy for life because you are always going home.”

For the Bluefish, the arrival of Murphy and a team of other down-county investors represents a chance to redefine home beyond Bridgeport’s city limits. As part of the Atlantic League, a minor league not affiliated with Major League Baseball that attracts some of baseball’s biggest former stars, the Bridgeport Bluefish shocked and thrilled the Park City in its first three years of record-setting success, only to flounder in recent years. The team drew under 200,000 people last year, a fifth less than it did in 2004 and well under the Atlantic League average.