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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Dale Murphy

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Dale Murphy started his career as a catcher but was switch to the outfield after his promotion to the Major leagues.

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 bench-riding 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 as a first baseman, Murphy had led all National League first-baggers 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 MilwaukeeBraves.[2]

Playing in the decade before the Braves began their dominance of the National League East, Murphy also made his only postseasonappearance in 1982. He succeeded although the eventual World Series-champion St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Braves in the1982 National League Championship Series. The league’s most valuable player failed to translate his regular season preeminence into October success, hitting safely but three times and scoring only one run. Murphy rebounded from the postseason sweep with another MVP award in 1983. The 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.[2]

In 1988, however, despite being voted to what would be his final All-Star appearance, Murphy’s production began an inexorable slide downward. Never a particularly high average hitter, 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 even 25 home runs in a season.

The Braves traded Murphy after fifteen seasons to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990. Murphy’s three seasons with the Phillies were mostly uneventful. In his final season (1993), Murphy took a pay cut of over $2,000,000, down to the major league minimum, to join the Colorado Rockies for their inaugural season. During his last two years in the majors Murphy’s batting average lingered well beneath baseball’s Mendoza Line.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Dale Murphy.

MLB debut
September 13, 1976 for the Atlanta Braves
Last MLB appearance
May 21, 1993 for the Colorado Rockies
MLB statistics
Batting average .265
Hits 2,111
Home runs 398
Runs batted in 1,266
Career highlights and awards

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