Great Braves Through The Ages: Dale Murphy

In his latest "Great Braves Through the Ages" Dan Pace takes a look at the career of arguably one of the greatest Braves ever, outfielder Dale Murphy.

Growing up my hero was Dale Murphy. I had a special shoe box for his baseball cards because I felt they were to classy to be in a box with my others. I had his personal model Lousiville slugger and when I played wiffle ball everyone knew it wasn't Danny coming to the plate, it was Dale Murphy. But if you were a Braves fan in the 1980's chances are your favorite player was Dale Murphy. How could you not like the guy? Offered tons of endorsment deals he did commercials for milk of all things.

In those less than stellar years by Atlanta Murphy became for many the only reason to watch the Braves. It all began in 1974 when Dale was expecting to be drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. He and his family had been in contact with Phillies scouts and thought they would take Murphy in the first round. The Phillies scouts didn't think Murphy would develop into a power hittner and the Phillies instead drafted Lonnie Smith over Murphy, and the Braves then claimed Dale as the 5th pick overall.

Dale was sent to Kingsport of the Appalachian league where he played in 54 games as catcher. In 181 at bats Murphy hit .254 with 7 doubles, 5 homers 31 rbi and scored 28 times. In Dale's first full pro season (1975) he was sent to Greenwood of the Western Carolina league where he struggled at the plate hitting only .228 with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs, 48 rbi and 48 runs scored. Dale spent that season at both catcher and first base.

Despite his subpar season Murphy was moved up to Savannah of the southern league for the 1976 season. Murphy would play in 104 games for Savannah hitting .267 with 13 doubles, 5 triples, 12 home runs, 55 rbi and 37 runs scored. Dale was called up to triple A Richmond of the International league where he would split time between catcher and outfield playing in 18 games for Richmond. In those 18 games Dale hit .260 with 1 double, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 8 rbi and 10 runs scored. It was enough for the Atlanta team to include Murphy in the late season call ups and Dale made his MLB debut on September 13th 1976. In that game Murphy collected his first MLB hit off Dodger pitcher Rich Rhoden in Dodger stadium. Dale hit .262 with 6 doubles, 9 rbi and 3 runs scored in 19 games with Atlanta. Around this time Dale a devout Mormom was thinking about leaving baseball and becoming a missionary. Along with pleas from Braves owner Ted Turner the Mormon chruch told Murphy he could reach more people by playing baseball. So only 2 months prior to the 1977 season Murphy decided to stick with baseball.

Murphy began the 1977 season back with Richmond splitting time between catcher and first base. In 127 games Dale hit .305 with 33 doubles, 4 triples, 22 home runs, a league leading 90 rbi and 71 runs scored. Murphy once again was part of the late season call ups this time playing in 18 games for the Braves. He hit .316 with 8 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 14 rbi and scored 5 times.

Despite being drafted for his defense behind the plate Murphy spent the majority of his time playing first base for the Braves in 1978. Dale had developed a problem of throwing ballsl into the outfield whenever a runner tried to steal second. But his defense at first wasn't much better as Dale led the league in errors with 20. Despite hitting only .226 Dale managed to have 14 doubles, 3 triples, 23 home runs and 79 rbi while scoring 66 times.

In 1979 Murphy only got into 104 games, but he improved greatly at the plate. In only 384 at bats Dale raised his average 50 points from 1978 to .276. He also had 7 doubles, 2 triples, 21 home runs, 57 rbi and scored 53 times. His defense was horrible once again as he commited 15 errors in only 76 games at first base and 5 errors in only 27 games behind the plate.

In 1980 the Braves moved Dale to the outfield where in 154 games he commited only 6 errors. Dale also continued to improve at the plate hitting .281 with 27 doubles, 2 triples, 33 home runs, 89 rbi and scoring 98 runs. Murphy was named to his first NL all star team and in the all star game he went hitless in one at bat.

The 1981 season was cut short due to a players strike and Dale never really got his bat going. In 389 at bats Murphy hit .247 with 12 doubles, 1 triple, 13 home runs 50 rbi and 43 runs scored. Murphy showed he could be a threat on the basepaths aswell as at the plate by stealing 14 bases in 19 attempts.

In 1982 Joe Torre took over as manager of the Braves and the team won it's first 13 games of the season. Murphy had a breakout season hitting .281 with 23 doubles, 2 triples, 36 home runs, 109 rbi, 113 runs scored and 23 stolen bases. His 36 home runs and 113 runs scored were both good enough for 2nd among National leaguers and his 109 rbi tied for the league lead. Murphy was named to his second NL all star team where he went hitless in two at bats but scored a run. The Braves went on to win the NL West and face the St.Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. The Cards took the series three games to none and the Cardinal pitchers were able to contain Murphy. Dale went 3 for 11 (.273) but had no extra base hits, no rbi, scored 1 run and stole 1 base in 2 attempts. The Cardinals went on the win the World series over the Brewers. Murphy was named NL MVP and was the first Brave to win the award since Hank Aaron in 1957. Dale also won his first NL gold glove.

In 1983 Murphy proved that 1982 was no fluke as he put up even better numbers. Dale led the league for the second straight season in games with 162 and hit .302 with 24 doubles, 4 triples, 36 home runs, 121 rbi and scored 131 runs. Murphy also stole 30 bases making him a member of the 30/30 club which no Brave had accomplished since Hank Aaron in 1963. Murphy would go on to lead the league in rbi with 121 and slugging percentage with .540. He also came in second in the NL with with 36 home runs and 131 runs scored. Once again named to the NL all star team Murphy finally got a hit and drove in his first rbi in the mid summer classic. The Braves came in second in the division but Murphy won his second straight NL MVP award and Gold Glove.

Dale continued to be consistant at the plate in 1984. Hitting .290 he led the league in home runs with 36, slugging percentage with .547, total bases with 332 and extra base hits with 76. Murphy also had 32 doubles, 8 triples, 100 rbi and 94 runs scored. In his fourth all star game Murphy went 2 for 3 with his first all star home run. Dale also won his 3rd straight NL Gold Glove. The Braves finished 3rd in the NL West.

In 1985 the Braves were no longer a contender but Murphy still put up great numbers. He led the league for the 4th straight season with 162 games played and hit .300 while leading the league with 37 home runs, 90 walks and 118 runs scored. His 111 rbi was second best in the NL. Murphy also had 32 doubles and 2 triples. Named to his 5th NL all star team Dale also won his 4th straight Gold Glove award.

In 1986 Dale finally had a off year. Hitting .265 with 29 doubles, 7 triples, 29 homers, 83 rbi and 89 runs scored Dale was still selected to the NL all star team (his 6th) and won his 5th (and last) NL gold glove. Murphy's consecutive game steak ended on July 9th 1986 with a total of 740 straight games played. Dale still played in 160 games.

In 1987 a rejuvenated Murphy attacked NL pitching. On August 5th he collected his 1500th career hit and on August 21st he hit his 300th career home run against the Pirates. Hitting .295 with 27 doubles, 1 triple, 44 home runs, 105 rbi and scoring 115 runs Dale was selected to his 7th and final NL all star team. His 115 runs scored was the 5th best in the NL, his 115 walks were 3rd best and his 44 home runs were 2nd in the National league.

Murphy struggled at the plate in 1988 hitting only .226. He still managed to have 35 doubles, 4 triples and 24 home runs but only drove in 77 rbi and scored only 77 times aswell. 1989 was a disappointment to Murphy at the plate aswell hitting .228 with 16 doubles, 20 home runs, 84 rbi and scoring 60 times.

After 65 games into the 1990 season Braves general manger Bobby Cox fired field manager Russ Nixon. Cox decided to take over as field manager for the rest of the season. In the next few weeks Dale got reaquainted with Cox who had managed the Braves during Murphy's first 3 full MLB seasons. Murphy told Cox he thought it was time to move on. Not wanting to let down the Atlanta fans, his teammates and having been in Atlanta for so long it was a decision that Murphy had been agonizing over for quite some time. But only 30 games after taking over as Braves field manager Bobby Cox traded Dale to the Phiiles on August 3rd. Dale played in 97 games for the Braves that year hitting .232 with 14 doubles, 17 home runs, 55 rbi and scoring 38 times.

Murphy would play the rest of 1990 and all of 1991 with the Phiilies. A injury limitied him to only 18 games for the Phils in 1992. In 1993 Dale signed as a free agent with the expansion Colorado Rockies where he played in 26 games before announcing his retirement on May 27th 1993. I personally was hoping for a 1 game return to the Braves for Murphy like Phil Niekro did in 1986 but it never happened.

Dale's uniform #3 was retired by the Braves and Dale was one of the first inductees into the Braves hall of fame in 1999. Murphy puts his Braves uniform back on every spring as he joins the team in Florida as a coach during spring training. He currently spends time as a public speaker, missionary and there have been rumors that he may throw his hat into politics. And so I give you Dale Murphy one of the Greatest Braves of all time.
Dale Murphy career Braves hitting stats
Games: 1,926 (3rd in franchise history)
At Bats: 7,098 (3rd in franchise history)
Hits: 1,901 (4th in franchise history)
Doubles: 306 (3rd in franchise history)
Triples: 37
Home Runs: 371 (3rd in franchise history)
RBI: 1,143 (3rd in franchise history)
Runs: 1,103 (5th in franchise history)

Awards with Braves
1982 NL MVP
1983 NL MVP
NL All star: 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987
NL Gold Glove: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986

Dale Murphy Career hitting stats
Games: 2,180
At Bats: 7,960
Hits: 2,111
Doubles: 350
Triples: 39
Home Runs: 398
RBI: 1,266
Runs: 1,197

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