Dale Murphy (born March 12, 1956) is a former center fielder in Major League Baseball, born in Portland, Oregon. Murphy is regarded by many as one of the premier players during the 1980s. His best years were with the Atlanta Braves, appearing in the All-Star Game seven times, and leading the National League in home runs and RBI twice; he also led the major leagues in home runs and runs batted in over the 10-year span from 1981 to 1990. He led the National League in games, at bats, runs, hits, extra base hits, RBI, runs created, total bases, and plate appearances in the 1980s. He also accomplished a 30-30 season in 1983, at the time only the 6th player since 1922 to do so. In addition he also won five consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and won two consecutive MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, making him one of only four outfielders in major league history with consecutive MVP years, and the youngest ever to do so at the time.
His professional baseball career began in 1976 and ended in 1993; he also played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies franchises. He finished his career with 398 home runs and a .265 batting average. He reached the playoffs only once, in 1982, where the Braves were eliminated in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals. His jersey number "3" was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1994.
Murphy's squeaky-clean habits off the diamond were conspicuous in a league racked by illegal drugs and salary controversies. A devout Latter-day Saint, commonly known as a "Mormon", Murphy did not drink alcohol, would not allow women to be photographed embracing him, and paid his teammates' dinner checks (as long as alcohol was not on the tab). For several years, the Atlanta Constitution ran a popular weekly column, where Murphy responded to young fans' questions and letters. Murphy's TV commercials usually had him advertising milk, ice cream, and Canon cameras. In a scene reminiscent of The Pride of the Yankees, Murphy once promised a disabled girl in the stands he'd hit a home run for her - and actually knocked out two. In 1987, he shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year" award with seven others, characterized as "Athletes Who Care," for his work with numerous charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Georgia March of Dimes and the American Heart Association.
Despite his career accomplishments, Murphy has become a highly debated candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Various reasons given for this are the lack of success of the teams Murphy played on, and his decidedly mediocre performance at the very beginning and end of his career, not to mention his high strikeout totals (he could neither resist nor hit a pitch that was low and outside). But perhaps the most influential negative argument is based in the explosion in offense in the 10-year period just after Murphy's retirement (1993-2002). For example, there have been 50 home runs hit in a season 30 times in the history of baseball: 18 times between 1921-1990 and 12 times between 1995 and 2000. Many attribute the general inflation in hitting statistics since the time of Murphy's retirement to the abuse of drugs such as androstenedione and steroids. Perhaps the prevalence of such drug use may cause the Hall of Fame voters to look again at the comparably amazing statistics of players such as Dale Murphy and contemporaries such as Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, and Jim Rice.
Interestingly, Murphy did not begin his career as an outfielder. He began as a catcher, but had difficulties throwing out runners attempting stolen bases. He was moved briefly to first base and left field before reaching the peak of his success playing center field and eventually right field, being widely considered the best all-around player in the major leagues for the 6-year span between 1982-1987.
After his baseball career ended, Murphy became more active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served three years as president of the "Massachusetts Boston Mission" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Murphy was at one point said to be considering a run for Utah governor in 2004, but failed to generate enough interest within the Republican Party. He now also lives in Alpine, Utah.