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Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy

Position(s):
C, 1B, CF, LF, OF, RF
Nicknames:
The Murph
Born:
March 12, 1956
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
210 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-13-1976 with ATL
Allstar Selections:
1982 GG, 1982 MVP, 1982 SS, 1983 GG, 1983 MVP, 1983 SS, 1984 GG, 1984 SS, 1985 GG, 1985 LG, 1985 SS, 1986 GG, 1988 RC

Intro

One of the most talented and complete players of the 1980s, Dale Murphy won two Most Valuable Player Awards and clubbed 398 homers while maintaining a squeeky-clean image. He was one of the most respected and popular stars of his era. He led the National League in homers, RBI, and slugging twice each. Though he declined rapidly late in his career, in his prime Murphy was compared to Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Unform Number

#3 (1976-1993)

Quotes About

"If your a coach, you want him as a player, If your a father, you want him as a son. If your a woman, you want him as a husband. If your a kid, you want him as a father. What else can you say about the guy?" - Joe Torre

"He's one of the toughest guys I've ever pitched to" - Nolan Ryan

"When Murphy hits a ball in Georgia, I get the idea it might land in Florida" - Grant Jackson

"These days, anytime one of my pitchers keeps Murphy in the ball park, I pat 'em on the fanny" - Pete Rose

"Just look at him over there, Doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't take greenies, nicest guy you'd ever want to meet, hits the hell out of the ball, hustles like crazy, plays a great center field and isn't trying to get anything from anybody...Doesn't he just make you sick?" - Terry Forster

"If you can't be impressed by Murph, you can't be impressed. What really impresses me is how he started out as a catcher a few years back and ends up in center field with a Gold Glove. You've got to appreciate that kind of talent." - Andre Dawson

"I can't imagine Joe DiMaggio was a better all-around player than Dale Murphy." - Nolan Ryan

"The best player I've seen since Willie Mays." - Billy Connors

"Last year he was our league's most valuable player. And this year he may be the most improved player in the league. What does that make him?" - George Bamberger

"The guys respect him. He's more than Most Valuable Player - he's the Most Valuable Person." - Jerry Royster

"The only way to stop him is to throw him balls. Throw away, away, away. Even then he might hurt you." - LaMarr Hoyt

"You can put him in a class with a Mays and an Aaron because he can beat you with his glove, and he can beat you with a home run." - Joe Torre

"Dale may be the only guy I know who could call 24 guys in one locker room a good friend." - Don Sutton

"I've never known anyone like him. God only makes one like Dale every 50 years." - Chuck Tanner

"There's no doubt he's a great hitter who will get his home runs and RBIs, but the best thing about him is he also plays a great center field. In this age of specialization, when you get some guys who can steal, some who can hit, and some who can field, it's nice to see a guy who can play all the facets." - Ron Darling

"I don't challenge Murphy, even if he's 0 for 20. Not him, not ever." - Mario Soto

"I'd say he is probably the best all-around player in either league, probably the most valuable . . . in baseball right now." - Hank Aaron, in 1982

"It would be a different team without him. I don't think there would be too many people watching us play." - Zane Smith

"What's really special about him is that he knows how to run the bases. He gets up his speed, and he knows what his capabilities are. If he tries for a base, you know he's going to make it." - Hank Aaron

"If you could improve Andre Dawson, he would be Dale Murphy." - Jerry Royster

Quotes From

"My heroes are people who are working hard and trying to make a good living for their families. My heroes are people who put their families first." "Whether I'm hitting .100 or .300, I have resolved myself to at least enjoy every game"

Minor Leages

The athletic career of Dale Murphy got off to to a rocky start. Dale's parents enrolled him in Little League baseball at age 10 and Dale collected a grand total of one hit his first season. Not quite what you'd expect from one of the greatest power hitters ever to play baseball. But with Dale, you never expect the norm.

With the support of his parents, Dale continued to play Little League (and other sports, including one season on his high school football team) and became a prep all-star and eventually the best high school talent in Portland, OR. By the time he was a high school senior, he was a 6' 4" catcher with a gun for an arm and a .400 batting average for good measure. The Phillies seemed the most interested in Murphy but the Braves chose Murphy in the June 1974 draft to be their catcher of the future. The press touted him as "the next Johnny Bench" but there would be many changes ahead for Dale.

Dale quickly climbed through the Braves minor league system. After 104 games in the Southern League with Savannah in 1976, Murphy was brought up to Richmond. He had a few defensive problems at first, but hit his way out of them. An extra-inning, pinch-hit grand slam helped the R-Braves to one of 12 victories in their last 16 games and earn a playoff berth on the last day of the season. Once the playoffs were over, Murphy was summoned to Atlanta to finish the season.

The Braves had drafted Murphy for his defensive abilities and athletic skills. Phillies scouts had said "It is doubtful that he'll develop into a power hitter." At this point it appeared both of these assessments were accurate (he averaged less than nine home runs in each of his first three seasons).

Dale's quick progression through the Braves system appeared to be a sign Dale would be an integral part of the Braves for many years. In fact, the Braves projected him to be their everyday catcher in 1977. But adversity swiftly struck Dale. The one thing he could depend on, his throwing arm, abandoned him and Dale found himself back in the minors. He could not throw out base runners anymore. One night he even hit his pitcher in the back while trying to throw out a baserunner. Dale became very disheartened and almost gave up baseball forever to become a missionary in the Mormon Church (of which he had become a member in 1975).

At the time, Murphy was unsure of his future. "I'm not happy about my baseball, but I'm trying not to let it bug me and let it get everything else in my life down. I try to forget (the problems) off the field, but it's hard. "It's come around," he said. "It's got to be in my head, not physical. It's been discouraging, but something I've got to forget." "I might have put the pressure on myself. I've got the talent and it's no reason they shouldn't say so.” "Everybody was trying to help during spring training. I'm not really looking back, now. I know that isn't me. I'm trying to look ahead." At the urging of the Church and Braves owner Ted Turner, Dale stuck with baseball. “I decided it was best to stay in baseball. By so doing, I would be able to reach a lot of young people." However, 1978 was another trying season for Murphy. Though his power numbers were up so were his strikeouts and errors. 1979 wasn't much better for "Murph", except for his marriage to Nancy Thomas, who he had met while attending Brigham Young University a year earlier.

Finally, the time had arrived. Bobby Cox took over as Braves manager in 1980 and moved Murphy from catcher and first base to the outfield. Murphy responded immediately by gunning out numerous runners at the plate and being named a NL All-Star. He finished third in the NL with 33 home runs and the season was topped off with the birth of Chad, the first of his seven sons.

Replaced By

The Braves converted Ron Gant to the outfield in 1990, prompting the trade of Murphy to the Phillies. In Philadelphia he played regularly in 1990 and 1991, but was released in early '93 when he struggled. After his retirement, the Rockies replaced him on their bench with Gerald Young.

Best Season

Murphy had very similar seasons in 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1987. His best OPS (1.000) came in '87, when he blasted a career high 44 homers. But he wasn't as strong a baserunner or as good a fielder by that time, as he had been in his MVP years. Basically for six seasons (1982-1987), he was the best all-around player in baseball (one could argue Rickey Henderson, but we'd take Murph). In '83 he led the loop in RBI for the second straight year (121), and in slugging (.540). He was excellent on the basepaths (30 of 34) and batted a career high .302 with a .396 OBP. He also won the Gold Glove Award as the best center fielder in the NL. He won his second straight MVP.

Factoid 1

Jack Dunn, Dale Murphy's high school baseball coach, is the one person Murphy credited the most for making him a big leaguer. Coincidentally, a man named Jack Dunn was responsible for discovering Babe Ruth.

Factoid 2

In 1983, Dale Murphy became the second Brave (joining Hank Aaron) to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. Murphy blasted 36 homers and stole 30 bases that season.

Transition

Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the first round (5th overall pick) in the 1974 June draft out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, OR; Traded, along with Tommy Greene, to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jeff Parrett, Jim Vatcher, and Victor Rosario, August 4, 1990; Released by the Philadelphia Phillies, April 3, 1993; Signed by the Colorado Rockies as a free agent, April 3, 1993; Retired May 27, 1993 In 1990 the Atlanta Braves did the unimaginable – they traded fan favorite and team captain Dale Murphy. The trade to Philadelphia came on August 3, although it seemed like it had been coming for a few years. Murphy's name cropped up in trade talk in each of the last couple winters. Atlanta dangled him in front of other organizations. Murphy's statistics were down, and the team was worse. Murphy hadn't even approached his standard eye-popping offensive statistics since 1987. The Braves hadn't approached a pennant race in nearly a decade.

The Braves were in Houston when the unthinkable happened. The team left Atlanta with Murphy. It returned without him. At first fans in Atlanta were in disbelief, but then they became angry. General Manager Bobby Cox was blamed.

"We've got our fans so mad right now that I'm surprised you don't see snipers in the stands," an Atlanta starting position player said when the team returned to Atlanta. "Of course, if someone came with a rifle I'm sure you could spot him since we got about 300 angry fans showing up."

The two Atlanta metropolitan newspapers were flooded with angry letters to the editor. Fans promised they would not attend another Braves game.

The outrage may have seemed surprising considering Murphy was batting .232 at the time with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs. But he had played his entire 13-year career in Atlanta and was 33rd on the all-time homer list at the time with 371. Atlanta fans took for granted that #3 would be in their outfield as long as he could swing a bat.

Murphy spent nearly as much time giving of himself to the community as he did at the ballpark: Co-chairman of the Braves' "65 Roses Club" for Cystic Fibrosis research, chairman of the Atlanta chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, member of the national board of the Huntington's Disease Society of America, spokesman for the Georgia March-of-Dimes, the American Heart Association, the Georgia PTA, the Arthritis Foundation and the Atlanta school district's drive to encourage reading and summer school enrollment.

He was the Most Valuable Player in the National League twice, in 1982 and 1983. He played in seven All-Star Games. He won five Gold Gloves. From 1982 to 1987, he averaged 36 home runs and 105 RBI per year. "I feel like I haven't produced like I feel I can in recent years," Murphy said at a press conference after the trade. "Maybe with a new direction, I feel I can play a few more years." The Braves acquired pitcher Jeff Parrett and shortstop Victor Rosario for Murphy and pitcher Tommy Greene. In Parrot’s initial Brave appearance against San Diego on August 7 the crowd chanted, "We want Murph! We want Murph!" His replacement, Dave Justice, squirmed.

"You know, you'd think I'd be happy because I get to play everyday with Murphy gone," Justice said. "But I'm miserable. He meant so much to me. It feels strange without him." Murphy, meanwhile, is taking his hopes to Philadelphia. General manager Lee Thomas was only too happy to acquire him. "He's a good defensive outfielder, and he still has all of his hitting capabilities," Thomas said. "We gave up a guy who won 12 games a season the last two years and a shortstop and got Murphy. A year or two ago, there's no way we could have gotten him for that.

Strengths

Murphy was a very intelligent and thoughtful player, who approached the game with all of his faculties, not just his physical attributes. "Baseball and chess are the two greatest games in the world

Weaknesses

None, really, but even in his best seasons, Murphy struck out an awful lot.

Milestones

Murphy hit his first home run on September 15, 1977, almost exactly one year to the day that he debuted in the big leagues. It came off Padre hurler Randy Jones.

Feats

Hit home runs in six consecutive games in 1978... Belted two three-run homers in the same inning, July 27, 1989, vs. the Giants... Walked five times in a single game, May 23, 1987.

Notes

Murphy's Hobbies: gardening, chess, sailing, ham radio, reading, golf, eating... Favorite Food: Broiled Salmon... Favorite Book: Baseball's A Funny Game... Favorite TV show: "The Dick Van Dyke Show"... Favorite Movie: "It's A Wonderful Life"... Favorite Actor: Jimmy Stewart... Favorite Music: Easy Listening and Instrumental Jazz.

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