He was a catching prospect then. Just a 20-year-old kid from Portland, OR who seemed to have a little pop in his bat. Forty-five years ago today, as the Atlanta Braves played out the string of what would be four straight last place finishes in the National League West, Dale Murphy made his major league debut.
After flying out in his first at-bat against the Dodgers, Murphy collected his first big league hit—an RBI single against Rick Rhoden. He added another hit later in the game.
They were the first of 2,111 hits and 1,266 runs batted in during a career that lasted until 1993. Those numbers aren’t likely to get him into Cooperstown, but he was clearly among the best players in the game during his prime, winning two N.L. MVP awards.
That 1976 debut didn’t mean he was in the majors to stay, though. Murphy spent much of the next year in the minors, seeing action in only 18 big league games but that call to the big leagues did lead to his first appearance on a baseball card.
Murphy shares his 1977 Topps rookie card with three other players—and oddly, he was given the same treatment again in ’78– appearing alongside future Detroit Tigers star Lance Parrish, Ernie Whitt and Bo Diaz. His ’77 rookie card is among the most popular in the set.
Murphy moved to the infield in 1978, leading all National League first basemen in errors. Not wanting to give up on his promising bat, the Braves shifted him to the outfield where he developed into a standout.
From 1982 through 1986, he won a Gold Glove, made the All-Star team and placed in the top ten in voting for the MVP, winning it in ’82 and ’83.
Still popular with collectors today, especially those who remember watching him on the Atlanta cable “Superstation” long before satellite TV and streaming video, Murphy is active on Twitter, where he often shows off pictures of the latest batch of Topps cards he continues to sign on a regular basis. His carefully penned autograph remains one of the best among any former or current players who sign cards.
A live list of the 30 most watched Dale Murphy baseball cards on eBay is below.