Dale Murphy in 2007
|Born: March 12, 1956|
|September 13, 1976, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 21, 1993, for the Colorado Rockies|
|Runs batted in||1,266|
|Career highlights and awards|
Dale Bryan Murphy (born March 12, 1956), is an American former professional baseball player. During an 18-year career in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1976-1993), he played as an outfielder, catcher, and first baseman for the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Colorado Rockies; Murphy is best noted for his many years with the Braves. His entire big league career was spent in the National League (NL), during which time he won consecutive Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards (1982-1983), the Silver Slugger Award for four straight years (1982-1985), and the Gold Glove Award for five straight years (1982-1986). Murphy is a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
In 1976, Murphy began his major league career with a nineteen-game stint catching with the Atlanta Braves. He appeared in only eighteen games the following season. In 1978, Murphy played first base mostly; at the plate he had a .226 batting average, though he also showed hints of his future power by hitting 23 home runs.
Murphy switched to the outfield in 1980, a move that would help initiate a decade of highly productive play in the National League. Beginning in left field, he soon switched to center field, the position at which he would find his greatest success. By 1982, the most decorated year of Murphy's career, the former catcher had transformed himself into an All-Star MVP outfielder who appeared in each of Atlanta's 162 games. His turnaround as a fielder was equally stark. In 1978, Murphy led all National League first basemen in errors. In 1982, spending time at each of the three outfield positions, he won his first of five consecutive Gold Gloves, as well as the first MVP award by a Brave since Hank Aaron, in 1957 with what were then the Milwaukee Braves.
Playing in the decade before the Braves began their dominance of the National League East, Murphy also made his only postseason appearance in 1982. Although he performed well, the eventual World Series-champion St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Braves in the 1982 National League Championship Series. The league's most valuable player failed to translate his regular season preeminence into October success, hitting safely only three times and scoring one run. Murphy rebounded from the postseason sweep with another MVP award in 1983. This time period ultimately proved the high-water era of Murphy's career. Each year during the four season span from 1982 to 1986 he won a Gold Glove, appeared in the All-Star Game, and placed in the top ten in MVP voting.
In 1988, however, despite being voted to what would be his final All-Star appearance, Murphy's production began an inexorable slide downward. Murphy saw his batting average free-fall from .295 in 1987 to .226 in 1988. Only once more, in 1991, would Murphy bat above .250. Once a consistent source of power at the plate, he never again hit 25 home runs or more in a season.
During his 15th season with the Braves, Murphy was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on August 3, 1990. Murphy's time with the Phillies was mostly uneventful. A degenerative, arthritic condition in his left knee limited Murphy to only 18 games in the 1992 season with the Phillies, although he did hit two home runs in that time to bring his career total to 398. He was released by the Phillies at the end of 1993 Spring Training and, on the same day, signed a Minor League contract with the Colorado Rockies for their inaugural season. He was used mostly as a pinch hitter.
After going 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the Rockies' 8-0 road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 21, 1993 (a rare start and, even more rare, only the fourth time all season he was in a game from the first pitch to the final out), Murphy did not play in the next 4 games. On the morning of May 27, 1993, while the Rockies were in Houston to begin a series with the Astros, he suddenly announced his retirement from baseball at age 37. He explained the Rockies were needing to make a 25-man roster move and informed him ahead of time he was going to be released. The team gave him the chance to retire instead of being released, which he did. He cited "many reasons" for retiring instead of trying to catch on with another team, but ultimately knew his performance had degraded due to injuries.
Murphy finished at 398 career home runs, failing to homer for the Rockies in 49 plate appearances and reach the 400-homer milestone. At the time of his retirement, he was 27th on the all-time home run list and 4th among active players, two behind Andre Dawson of the Boston Red Sox.
Murphy finished his career with 398 home runs, 1,266 RBI, and a .265 lifetime batting average. His MVP awards in 1982 and 1983 make him one of only four outfielders in MLB history with consecutive MVP years; at the time, he was the youngest to have accomplished the feat. His many honors include seven All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers. Murphy led the National League in home runs and runs batted in (RBI) twice; he also led the major leagues in home runs and RBI over the 10-year span from 1981 to 1990.
One of the most productive and decorated players of the 1980s, Murphy led the National League in games, at bats, runs, hits, extra base hits, RBIs, runs created, total bases, and plate appearances during the decade. He also accomplished a 30-30 (30 home runs with 30 stolen bases) season in 1983. Murphy played in 740 consecutive games, at the time the 11th longest such streak in baseball history. His jersey number ("3") was retired by the Atlanta Braves on June 13, 1994, in his honor as opposed to that of even Babe Ruth, who wore Boston Braves number 3 during the partial season with which his career concluded. Murphy was inducted into both the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Murphy's clean-living habits off the diamond were frequently noted in the media. A devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Murphy did not drink alcoholic beverages, would not allow women to be photographed embracing him, and paid his teammates' dinner checks as long as alcoholic beverages were not on the tab. He also refused to give television interviews unless he was fully dressed. Murphy had been introduced to the LDS Church early in his career by teammate Barry Bonnell.
For several years the Atlanta Constitution ran a weekly column, wherein Murphy responded to young fans' questions and letters. In 1987 he shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year" award with seven others, characterized as "Athletes Who Care", for his work with numerous charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Georgia March of Dimes and the American Heart Association.
Before a home game against San Francisco on June 12, 1983, Murphy visited in the stands with Elizabeth Smith, a six-year-old girl who had lost both hands and a leg when she stepped on a live power line. After Murphy gave her a cap and a T shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. "I didn't know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled 'Well, O.K.,' " says Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves' runs in a 3-2 victory.
He was ultimately granted several honors because of his integrity, character, and sportsmanship including, Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1985), "Sportsman of the Year" (1987), Roberto Clemente Award (1988), Bart Giamatti Community Service Award (1991), and World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame (1991 Induction).
Despite his reputation as a star five-tool player superstar and multiple MVP awards, Murphy did not get elected to the Hall of Fame. He first appeared on the writers' ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, the earliest possible year of consideration. He has failed to gain election, joining Barry Bonds, late New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris and recently eligibile Juan González as the only Hall of Fame-eligible recipients of multiple MVP awards not in the Hall. His failed candidacy has drawn particular notice due to his reputation as a clean-living player whose career was immediately followed by baseball's scandal-plagued "steroids era".
Baseball writer Rob Neyer feels that the former MVP's candidacy has been hurt by a career that "got a late start and suffered an early end." Stuart Miller, baseball writer for The New York Times, also notes the "sharp decline" in production that plagued Murphy after the age of 31 in arguing, "Players who were great for a short time do not receive much [Hall of Fame] recognition." Finding "one of baseball's best players in the 1980s" to be "undervalued", Miller nonetheless writes that the Brave great "is typically considered a 'close but no' guy." Bill James, father of sabermetrics, says of Murphy, "It certainly wouldn't offend me to have him in the Hall of Fame. I just wouldn't advocate it." James's "current metric for Hall induction was 300 Win Shares (a complex mathematical equation weighing what players contribute to their team's victories)...." Murphy stands at 253 Win Shares. James ranks eight Hall of Famers below Murphy.
However, others contend, "Murphy's incredible nine-year run in Atlanta was every bit as good as anyone else during his era," with many pointing out the fact that he was a rare bright spot of many miserable Braves teams in the 1980s. Neyer notes that the explosion of power during the steroids-fueled era that began after Murphy's retirement may have caused Murphy's numbers to pale in comparison for many voters. Some have argued that Murphy's reputation for clean living may encourage voters to "look more favorably on what Murphy did without using performance-enhancing drugs." (Murphy weighed in on the steroids issue in asserting that career home run leader Barry Bonds "without a doubt" used performance-enhancing drugs.) Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski has endorsed Murphy as an "emotional pick . . . a larger-than-life character who signed every autograph, spoke up for every charity and played brilliant baseball every day for mostly doomed teams."
Nonetheless, though he continued to earn the requisite 5% to remain on the ballot, Murphy averaged only 13.6% over the first twelve years of voting. (Election to the hall requires 75%.) In the first decade of his eligibility, he "peaked at 23% in 2000 and fell to 11.5% in 2009." Moreover, as writers may only vote for ten players each year, some have argued that the candidacy of stars from the 1980s--such as Murphy, pitcher Jack Morris, and outfielder Tim Raines--will become imperiled as a wave of more recently retired players with more statistically impressive credentials becomes eligible in the 2010s. Noting his low vote totals, Murphy has said, "Since I'm not that close [to election] ... I don't think about it that much." On January 9, 2013, his 15th and final appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, Murphy secured 18.9% of the vote, falling well short of the 75% necessary to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on the BBWAA ballot. Since Murphy's removal from the BBWAA ballot, his Hall of Fame candidacy has been considered twice by the Modern Era Baseball Committee, in 2018 and 2020.
In 2005, Murphy started a non-profit organization called the iWontCheat Foundation to promote ethical behavior, and deter steroid use and cheating in youth athletics. Since 2008 all players from the participating teams at the Little League World Series wear the "I WON'T CHEAT!" embroidered patch above the Little League Baseball logo on the left sleeve of their jerseys.
In 2008, he was appointed to the National Advisory Board for the national children's charity, Operation Kids. Murphy serves as a national advisor to ASCEND: A Humanitarian Alliance. Murphy is a long time supporter of Operation Smile and also currently serves on the organization's Board of Governors.
During the 2012 MLB season, Murphy was a part of the Atlanta Braves TV broadcasting crew and participated in the telecast of at least 14 games.
Murphy has written three books. The first, The Scouting Report on Professional Athletics, elaborates details of the professional athlete's lifestyle. Murphy discusses balancing career and family, working with agents, managing business affairs, serving one's community, and preparing for retirement. In his second book, an autobiography titled Murph, he talked about his religious faith. He discussed the struggles of his early baseball career and how he overcame problems. In 2007 Murphy wrote his third book, The Scouting Report for Youth Athletics, in response to what he saw as the increase in negative behavior in youth sports resulting from poor examples set by professional athletes. Included with each book is a 50-page insert which includes contributions from, among others, Peyton Manning, Dwyane Wade, Tom Glavine, and Danica Patrick. In a question-and-answer format, they discuss the lessons they learned from youth sports and how they apply the lessons today. There is also a physician-penned section about illegal performance-enhancing drug use in sports.