One of the finest all-round talents of the 1980s, Dale Murphy, the brawny blaster for the Braves, could do it all. Big Dale could hit for power, run well, had an exceptional throwing arm and won five Gold Glove Awards as well as back-to-back MVP Awards in 1982 and 1983. A terror in more than one aspect of the game, Murphy was a Freddy Krueger figure, lurking in the nightmares of National League pitchers in the 1980s.
Originally a catcher, Dale made his debut with Atlanta in 1976; having been their first round selection in the ’74 amateur draft. Murphy had small cups of coffee for the Braves in ’76 and ’77 but became a regular in 1978. Shifted to first base in ’78, Dale finished second to Big Willie Stargell in homeruns among NL inital sackers. Skipper Bobby Cox used Dale at first base in 1979 before shifting him to the pasture in 1980.
Dale enjoyed his breakout year in 1980, making his first All-Star appearance, and leading NL center fielders in homers, RBI and slugging average. That season marked Dale’s first over-30 homerun season (he would have six such campaigns, with no help from, as the Spanish speakers would say..drogas!). After the strike shortened ’81 season, Dale embarked on a string of monstrous seasons which labeled him the terror of the National League.
From 1982 to 1985, Dale played in every game and had at least 36 homeruns every season. In 1982, Dale was arguably the greatest talent in Major League baseball, winning the Silver Slugger Award for his position, earning his first of five Gold Glove Awards, making the NL All-Star team and most notably, winning the MVP Award. Dale led the NL in RBI in ’82, while slugging 36 homeruns (2nd in the league) and scoring 113 runs (also 2nd in the NL). Dale was the only National League player to both score and drive in 100 runs during the season.
Another MVP Award made its way to Murphy’s mantle in 1983 when he led the NL in RBI again as well as slugging average. From 1982 to ’85, Dale won A Gold Glove, went to the All-Star game and garnered the Silver Slugger Award for his position each year. The mighty masher from Atlanta led all Major League players with 252 runs created in his MVP season of 1983.
Although Dale didn’t win the MVP Award in ’84, he was, nevertheless, still producing at a far better clip than most All-Stars. That year Dale led the NL in homeruns, total bases and slugging percentage, while being the only NL outfielder to reach 100 RBI, but his Braves club finished below .500. Murphy, still on top of his game in ’85, led the senior circuit in runs, homeruns and walks. Big Dale hit a robust .300 while driving home 111 runs for a terrible Braves team that finished fifth in their division.
Dale led NL center fielders with 29 homers in 1986 before his monster year of 1987 when he had a career high 44 long balls while driving in 105 runs, hitting .295 and slugging .580. Murphy made his final All-Star appearance that year, walking and scoring an identical 115 times. It was his last great year.
Beginning in 1988, Dale had trouble raising his batting averages to respectable levels, even though he still showcased the power that made him the most terrifying hitter in the NL during the 1980s. He clubbed 24 homers in ’88 and an even 20 in ’89. During the 1990 season, at the age of 34, Dale was dealt to the Phillies for relief pitcher Jeff Parrett and outfielder Jimmy Vatcher–he hit 24 long balls between the two teams.
In his last year as a regular, Dale socked 18 homers in 1991 with 81 RBI but couldn’t lift his head above the Mendoza Line in 1992. The Phillies released him early in 1993 and he finished his career with the Colorado Rockies in that season.
G 2,180/R 1,197/H 2,111/2B 350/HR 398/RBI 1,266/BB 986/SO 1,748/SB 161/BA .265/SA .469