If there ever was a role model in professional sports, Dale Murphy is it.
Good old No. 3 gave the Atlanta Braves more than belly-flopping, sliding catches in center field and towering home runs at Fulton County Stadium. For 15 years, Murphy brought a clean-cut image to the ball yard.
A dedicated Mormon, Murphy didn’t smoke or drink. But he did give Braves fans someone to admire. He was as real as his five Gold Gloves and his 371 home runs, all with the Braves.
Murphy was authentic and dynamic. Not even stardom in the Major Leagues ever put this man on a pedestal. Murphy was there to serve, play, perform and remain approachable for the kids and their parents with the general admission tickets.
The man was an ambassador and a prince of a baseball player. Murphy made time for his fans. Murphy related with the Braves faithful. He never gave the impression that he was better than anyone else.
But he was. Even today, at 61 years of age, Murphy, the Braves crowd-pleaser, remains one of the all-time Atlanta baseball greats. Murphy never turned down an autograph request. Not then or now.
The man was there to please and make plays. From 1976-90, Murphy played all out for the Braves. He never gave less than 100 percent effort. He delivered like the Merita bread man.
Murphy played 1,926 games with the Braves. He took 7,098 at-bats for Atlanta. He finished his Braves tenure with 1,901 hits, 1,103 runs and 1,143 RBI’s.
Good old No. 3 was a devastating hitter with a long, smooth swing and graceful strides for legging out doubles. Murphy had 306 of those with the Braves.
He was also a 7-time All-Star with Atlanta. While wearing the Braves baby blue uniforms back in the day, Murphy won two National League home run titles in 1984 and ’85. He had 36 homers in the 1984 season and 37 more dingers in the 1985 campaign.
Murphy, a tall drink of Kool-Aid at 6-foot-4, also led the National League in RBI’s in 1982 and ’83. He had 109 RBI’s in 1982, and he followed that up with 121 RBI’s in the 1983 baseball season.
“Mr. Clean Living” was also named the National League Most Valuable Player twice while with the Braves. Murphy had an MVP season in 1982 with 168 hits, 23 doubles and a .281 batting average. He also had his 36 homers and 109 RBI’s.
Murphy would win backto- back National League MVP’s. His astounding numbers in the 1983 season included 131 runs, 178 hits, 24 doubles, 36 home runs and a .302 batting average. And don’t forget the 121 RBI’s.
He was a professional on the field and off. In the 1984 season, Murphy was good for 100 RBI’s and 32 doubles. Murphy was consistent. He hit for a .295 average in the 1987 season with 27 doubles, 44 home runs and 105 RBI’s.
Murphy got some of the biggest ovations in the history of Fulton County Stadium, the ball park of yesteryear. Murphy is retired now, but he is long remembered as a good guy and a great player.
He always did have a winning demeanor. Dale Murphy is an Atlanta Brave for life.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer