Powerful Character

Murphy set example on and off the field

December 19, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Dale Murphy (NBHOF Library)

When most teams can’t get a draft pick to sign his contract, it’s because the player wants more money.

Not Dale Murphy.

The Atlanta Braves drafted Murphy with the fifth pick in the first round in 1974 and offered him a number.

“He told me it was too much money, to take it back and reconsider,” said longtime Braves scouting supervisor Paul Snyder.

The Braves cut the offer by $5,000, and Murphy then accepted. By the end of his career, Murphy had proven to be one of the biggest bargains the Braves ever had.

Murphy is one of 37 players on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Murphy returns to the BBWAA ballot for his 15th-and-final year after receiving 14.5 percent of the vote in 2012. If Murphy is not elected this year, he will be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee for the Class of 2017.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives votes on at least 75 percent of all BBWAA ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born on March 12, 1956, in Portland Ore., Murphy began his professional career as a catcher, moved to first base and eventually the outfield, where he would find the most success. In 1980 – his first season as a full-time outfielder – Murphy earned his first All-Star Game selection and finished 12th in the National League MVP voting.

From 1982 to 1987, Murphy was elected to the All-Star Game six times, won two MVP Awards (back-to-back in 1982 and 1983) and finished in the top 10 two other times, won five Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards.

"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," said Joe Torre, one of Murphy’s managers in Atlanta.

During his peak six years from 1982-87, he led all of baseball in homers (218) and total bases (with an average of almost 318 per season). He ranked in the top three in runs, hits, RBI and slugging percentage. He also stole 105 bases. He led the league in RBI in 1982 and 1983 and homers in 1984 and 1985.

"He's one of the toughest guys I've ever pitched to," said future Hall of Fame pitcher and strikeout king Nolan Ryan.

In 1983, Murphy became only the sixth player since 1922 to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. That same season, he became the first player in major league history to compile a season with a .300 batting average, 30 homers, 120 RBI, 130 runs scored, 90 walks and 30 stolen bases with fewer than 10 times caught stealing.

His consecutive MVP awards in 1982-83 made him only the fourth outfielder with consecutive awards and at the time, the youngest to do so. After playing with the Braves from 1976-1990, Murphy was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in August of 1990. He played the following two seasons with the Phillies and one with the Rockies before retiring in 1993 with 18 seasons of major league service.

Murphy was also known for his character on and off the field. A devout Mormon, Murphy abstained from alcohol, commercially endorsed family products like milk and ice cream and spent countless hours in community service and charity work in Atlanta.

“People used to ask me, ‘Is Dale Murphy as great a guy as you read about him being?’” said former Braves catcher Bruce Benedict. “I’d always say, ‘It’s all true.’”

Murphy has also founded a nonprofit organization called iWontCheat foundation. Its mission is to promote ethics in youth athletics. Murphy sees this charitable work as possible because of his baseball career.

“I am just grateful that baseball gave me the opportunities it did,” Murphy said. “To be able to go out there and play baseball, it’s a dream come true.”

Murphy finished his career with 2,111 hits, 398 home runs, 1,266 RBI, 1,197 runs scored and a .265 batting average. He reached the playoffs only once, when the Braves were eliminated in the NLCS in 1982. His jersey has been retired by the Atlanta Braves.

“He’s a player’s guy, he’s an owner’s guy and he loves the game,” said Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay.

Samantha Carr is freelance writer from Rochester, N.Y.