An embodiment of the All-American athlete, Dale Murphy was a shining star for Atlanta clubs, both pennant contenders and cellar-dwellers. Murphy was actually signed by the Braves as a catcher. His arm was so erratic that he had trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Equally unsettled offensively, he led the NL in strikeouts in 1978 (145) and 1980 (133). The Mormon was Atlanta’s starting first baseman in 1978 and shared the position with Bob Horner in 1979. When the Braves traded Barry Bonnell for Chris Chambliss, Murphy found a home in the outfield and Atlanta had a base for pennant contention.
Proving to be one of baseball’s most durable players, Murphy reached stardom in 1982, leading the Braves to a pennant with Gold Glove defense and All-Star offense. The following year, Murphy became the youngest of the four players in National League history to win back-to-back MVP awards. Possessing great opposite-field power, he also led the NL in slugging percentage for the first of two straight seasons.
Murphy played centerfield in 1981, moved to left for two seasons, returned to center for three years, and shifted to right in 1987. As the Braves drifted from contention, he continued his superb play. He was the top vote-getter for the 1985 All-Star Game and winner of the Lou Gehrig Award. Murphy was in Atlanta’s Opening Day lineup each year from 1978 to 1988 and played more games than any other Atlanta Brave. From September 27, 1981 to July 9, 1986, Murphy played 740 consecutive games, one of the longest streaks in baseball history. The skein should have ended after 676 games when Murphy received a nine-stitch wound after his right palm got caught in a seam of Atlanta’s outfield fence. But the next day, he hit a dramatic pinch home run to keep the streak alive. A complete player, Murphy won five straight Gold Glove awards and joined the elite 30-homer, 30-stolen-bases club in 1983. Always a streak hitter, with hot and cold usually balancing over a season, Murphy came back from poor numbers in 1986 with a career-high 44 homers in 1987.
After another subpar season in 1989, Murphy was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Tommy Greene for reliever Jeff Parrett and two other prospects. He enjoyed one more semi-productive season in 1991 when he hit 18 home runs. After missing most of the 1992 campaign with knee problems, Murphy signed with the expansion Colorado Rockies but was unable to produce and finally retired on May 27th, 1993. The Braves honored Murphy, who holds 13 franchise records, by retiring his number 3 during the 1994 season.