Back in college in 1982, I had a friend named Melvin, who through the course of human events* came to be known as “Raise Hell Mel.” My crowd was enough easily amused that we began to incorporate this concept to various Atlanta Braves, and so begat Raise Hell Claudell, Raise Hell Rafael, Raise Hell Pascual, and, most ludicrously, Raise Hell Dale. The joke is that Dale Murphy was widely renowned as a straight arrow, and one of the nicest guys in baseball and possibly planet Earth. Murphy certainly raised heck with National League pitching, though.
Murphy had cups of coffee with the Braves (undoubtedly decaffeinated) in 1976 and 1977, debuting as a 20 year old catcher. In 1978 he moved to first base and solidified a starting spot, hitting 23 home runs. In 1980, he moved to the outfield, and at 24 his career really began to take off, finishing with 33 home runs and making his first All-Star team.
For the ’82 Braves, Murphy won his first MVP award, hitting 36 home runs with 109 RBIs and winning the first of 5 consecutive Gold Glove awards. In 1983, Murphy won his 2nd consecutive MVP award, again hitting 36 home runs, but this time solidifying his grip on the title with a .302 batting average, .393 OBP, and .933 OPS. He stole 30 bases in 34 attempts, led the league with 121 RBIs, and scored 131 runs.
From ’82-’85 Murphy had virtually identical seasons, playing 162 games each year, and only marring a streak of 36 homer seasons by hitting 37 in ’85, while maintaining consistent on-base and slugging percentages.
In 1987, Murphy hit a career-high 44 home runs, along with a .295 batting average; this marked the end of his peak. Beginning in 1988 he fell off a cliff, hitting .226, then .228 in 1989. He spent the bulk of the remainder of his decline years with the Phillies, because then, as now, and as it ever shall be, Phillies gonna Phillies.
Murphy is the only person from that era who I remember regularly hit opposite-field home runs. As we know, it was soon to become a different game. Not even 49 plate appearances in Colorado could help Murphy get the two home runs that he needed to reach 400, and he hung it up in 1993, not even making it through May. Murphy remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the entire 15 years of his eligibility, but never gained more than 23% support.
I wonder how much the 1981 strike hurt Murphy’s Hall of Fame chances? It cost him at least 50 games, and at a minimum he certainly would have gotten the two home runs needed to reach 400. Furthermore, Murphy was not having a great 1981, and for appearances sake, a chance to pad his 1981 stats could have stitched his excellent 1980 season more seamlessly onto his 1982- 1987 peak.
Dale Murphy will be 60 years old in March. Raise some heck, Dale.
* Not literally a course in Human Events.