When the Atlanta Braves released an announcement after their game on August 2, 1990, that they had traded Dale Murphy, there was silence in the press box at Houston’s Astrodome, where the team was in the middle of a weekend series against the Astros.
“I will look out at right field for ten years and see Dale Murphy,” said former Braves’ pitcher Phil Niekro, then a bullpen coach for the team.
The deal had been rumored for a few days, but when it actually happened, it was a shock to many.
“There’s definitely an air of sadness here,” shortstop Jeff Blauser said. “Losing the game, and now losing Murph. He wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes.”
Murphy was drafted by Atlanta fifth overall in the 1974 MLB Draft. He was a high school catcher from Portland, Oregon. A skinny, tall catcher, which was unusual for that time, or really any other. Within a few years it became clear that wearing the equipment and managing a game behind the mask was not his thing. He was a much better fit chasing fly balls. In 1978 when he was 22, Murph hit 23 home runs. Four years later, playing center field, he won the Most Valuable Player Award. But that was just the beginning.
Lean but muscular, with a great arm, Murphy won his first Gold Glove in 1982, the first of five straight for his play in center. He won the MVP a second time in 1983, when he also became a 30/30 (homers and steals) guy. He was even better in 1984 and 1985, and again in 1987, when he belted a career-high 44 homers. For about five or six years, he was in the discussion as baseball’s best player.
But Murphy started to break down a bit, missed some games after having played every one for five-plus years. His bat slowed, his feet got heavy. Just when the Braves were getting better, they sent their popular team leader to the Phillies.
There have been few (if any) players more popular in Atlanta, than Dale Muprhy. When he came back to the city in 1991 for his first series against his former team as a member of the Phillies, the Braves held “Dale Murphy Night.” The video below chronicles that emotional evening at Fulton-County Stadium.
Dan Holmes is an author and baseball historian. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Major League Baseball. He once defeated George Brett in Texas Hold Em poker and faced Phil Niekro's knuckleball. He has two daughters and he writes regularly about baseball and many other topics.