When Dale Murphy retired in the summer of 1993, he stepped aside as a member of what was then a newly minted Colorado Rockies franchise, missing the 400 home run milestone by just two.
Consecutive National League MVP awards (1982-1983), seven All-Star game appearances, five consecutive Golden Gloves, four consecutive Silver Slugger awards, 398 career home runs, 1,266 RBIs, 2,111 hits and 161 stolen bases. Those are the measurable numbers that Murphy attained during his 18-year major league career, but his impact on the game, especially during his 15 seasons in Atlanta, can’t be gauged by mere numbers.
Hall of Very Good
Despite his impressive on-field accomplishments, Murphy’s voting numbers among eligible voters for selection into the Hall of Fame have consistently fallen far short of the minimum 75% required. Several of his contemporaries (Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Paul Molitor, Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson) have already been enshrined, but Murphy’s voting totals peaked at 23% in his first season of eligibility (2000), and his numbers have continued to shrink in subsequent years. In the most recent Hall of Fame balloting (January 2013), Murphy received 18.9% of the votes. Because 2013 was his final opportunity to gain the necessary votes for election on the regular Hall of Fame ballot, the road to Cooperstown must now go through the Veteran’s Committee.
Dale’s Dual Rookie Cards
Another puzzling aspect surrounding Murphy is the remarkably affordable prices that his baseball cards command. A nice example of his 1977 Topps rookie card (#476) can be purchased online for between $20-25. Speculation for this relatively low price is at least two-fold: First, other than his 1982-83 back-to-back MVP seasons, Murphy’s career was at best, All-Star level, with a lifetime batting average of .265 while playing for mostly mediocre teams. Secondly, Murphy had the misfortune of playing just prior to the Steroid Era and although there has never been any controversy or suspicion as to whether or not he played “clean,” his overall numbers still appear to be lacking when compared to the video game-like numbers that certain players put up following his retirement in 1993. He never enjoyed the inevitable bump that comes with Hall of Fame election.
Interestingly, Murphy came up through the Braves organization as a catcher and is one of those players who appears on two rookie cards. He shared the ’77 card (#476) with Rick Cerone, Gary Alexander and Kevin Pasley. In ’78, he was back on the same four-player Rookie Catchers card (#708) with future big leaguers Lance Parrish, Ernie Whitt and Bo Diaz.
For its part, PSA has graded more ’77 Murphy rookies than ’78: 1,772 to 1,156. The number of cards graded 10 is about equal, with 324 PSA 9s in 1977 compared to 297 in ’78. PSA 9 1977 Murphy rookies have been running in the $70-80 range. You can usually snare a 9 from the ’78 Topps issue for $20-30.
Plenty of Cards; Plenty of Collectors
Murphy doesn’t have any other cards issued during those years so for collectors wanting to start collecting him from the beginning, it’s pretty easy. He does have a lot of cards to collect, though, since his career was relatively long and he was still playing when regional sets were the rage and the number of licensed manufacturers grew. Beckett’s database shows a total of 3,100 different Murphy cards issued over the years.
Why is he so popular? Besides his easy-going, down-to-earth nature and his talent, Murphy was the first superstar of the cable era. Fans across the country got to watch him play every night on “The Superstation” back in the late 1970s through the late 80s, as the Braves became—justified or not—‘America’s Team’.
At least one collector has even taken the time to put together a Murphy baseball card-themed video tribute:
Dale Murphy’s legacy among collectors remains strong, and his tireless community service and willingness to interact with fans both during his playing days and kept his profile among the best of the post-War era.
You can check out all of Murphy’s cards on eBay here.