By Anthony Rhoads
Since I have been in the business of sports writing, I have never been in awe of pro athletes.
I have had the opportunity to interview pro baseball players, pro football players and professional race car drivers but I don't hold them in high esteem or put them on pedestals just because they are talented in a particular sport.
However, there was one exception.
In July of 2000, I had the chance to go to the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby held at Turner Field. Prior to the contest, my colleague Bud Ellis and I were on the field interviewing players and just taking in the experience.
Then, Dale Murphy, the honorary captain of the National League All-Star team walked onto the field. Reporters, including me, flocked around him.
I maintained my composure but I kept thinking ?This is Dale Murphy!'.
As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I idolized Murphy.
I was a Braves fan for as long as I could remember but I really got hooked on the Braves in the spring of 1982. Who can forget the Braves' 13-game winning streak to start the season and who can forget the Braves winning the N.L. West Division title?
That year I really began to follow Murphy. He could do anything. He could hit for power, hit for average, could steal bases and he had a heckuva glove in the outfield.
Now the years have passed by and Murphy has been retired for 10 years. Each year that he has been eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has been overlooked.
How can you not want No. 3 in the Hall?
Let's look at the raw stats. In his career, he hit 398 home runs and 1,266 RBIs. From 1982-86, he played in 740 consecutive games, which ranks 12th on the all-time list.
In 1983, he became one of the few players to hit more than 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season. That year he became the third player in baseball history to notch 30 homers, 30 stolen bases and hit .300 in a season (the other two in that category were Willie Mays and Hank Aaron).
From 1982-87, Murphy was no doubt one of the most dominant and maybe even the most dominant player in the Major Leagues. He led the league in home runs twice (36 in ?84, 37 in ?85), RBIs twice (109 in ?82 and 121 in ?83), total bases once (332 in ?84) and slugging percentage twice (.540 in ?83 and .547 in ?84).
In his MVP seasons, he put together masterful years on the baseball diamond. In 1982, he hit 36 home runs, knocked in 109 RBIs, posted a .281 batting average and stole 24 bases.
In 1983, he had an even better year with 36 homers, 121 RBIs, a .302 batting average and 30 stolen bases. His season in ?83 prompted former New York Mets manager George Bamberger to say Murphy deserved both the MVP and most improved player of the year that season.
By the end of the 1980s, Murphy ranked second in home runs and RBIs in the decade.
In addition to his two MVPs, Murphy also snagged five consecutive Gold Glove and was an All-Star selection seven times (he was a starter five times).
But beyond all the stats and accolades as a player, Murphy was and is a class act. He was one of the most respected people to have ever played the game of baseball.
Murphy definitely proved that character counts and that nice guys can finish first.
Put No. 3 in the Hall of Fame!
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.