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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting Traded to the Phillies--The Rest of the Story

I get a lot of questions about getting traded to Philadelphia in 1990, sometimes from Braves fans who tell me they were upset with the Braves just trading me away like that. Although I really appreciate the sentiment, I’ve always felt like I should kind of clarify exactly what happened. So, without getting into too many details, here’s how it went.

It was the summer of 1990, and things weren’t going that well. The previous two years (1988, 1989) hadn’t been that great either, honestly. The team was struggling, I was struggling. I saw some potential in a few of our young pitchers (like John Smoltz and Tom Glavine), but other than that I didn’t have much of a sense for where the Braves were heading. I talked to Nancy a lot about how frustrated I was and started to realize it might be time for me to move on. There had been trade rumors off and on through the mid-80’s (and even up through ’88 or so—the Mets were one team that always seemed to be mentioned) but I never paid much attention to them because, quite honestly, I could never see myself leaving the Braves. But by the end of the decade, that had changed. I started feeling kind of excited at the prospects of going to a new team. I wondered whether a change of scenery would rejuvenate me, and my career. At the same time, I was aware of what can happen when a long-time player has some success with one team and sticks around longer than he should: production eventually falls off and the team is left with the uncomfortable task of figuring out whether to renew his contract (even though his best years may well be behind him) or release him (usually against popular opinion.) The Braves had done so much for me through the years that I just didn’t want to put them in that position. And it can be equally awkward for the player himself, not knowing whether he can contribute enough to make it really worth keeping him. I sure didn’t want to wait around to find out what that felt like, so I decided it was time to get the ball rolling.

So I went in and talked to Bobby Cox that August. I told him that, with free agency coming up in a few months, I was thinking it might be time for me to move on. More specifically, I told him I was planning to leave as a free agent that winter but that if they wanted to try to trade me immediately I'd consider it (I had the right to either accept or reject any proposed trade since I'd been in the league for awhile with the same team.) I wanted the Braves to explore the possibility of getting something out of the situation, instead of me just leaving them as a free agent.

Soon after this discussion with Bobby, my agent called and told me the Phillies were interested. They had made a trade offer the Braves were willing to accept, and they would renew my contract with an additional two years guaranteed. Nancy and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to transition our eight children to a new city, but going to Philadelphia looked like a great option for us. Not only were the Phillies headed in a strong direction (in just three years, they would go to the World Series, in fact), but accepting a trade would also make it possible for me to avoid all the uncertainty of the free-agent process. So, with that, I accepted the trade.

The basic point I want to make here is that I actually initiated the trade—not the Braves. I hope this clarifies the issue for some folks who, occasionally even today, tell me they’re upset with Bobby and/or with the Braves for sending me to Philadelphia. What most people don’t know is that, even without the trade, I would have become a free-agent that winter and ended up somewhere besides Atlanta. It definitely wasn’t easy to make the move to the Phillies and the fact that the Braves went to the World Series the next year didn’t make it any easier. Still, I was glad I did it. It was time. I had a great experience with the Phillies. And as demanding as the Philadelphia fans could sometimes be, I really enjoyed playing for them and wish I could have performed better. My family and I were always treated well by the Phillies organization and we’ll always appreciate the friendships we made while we were there.

On a side note, I can’t tell you how weird it was to put on a new uniform after so many years wearing Braves blue. I’ll never forget stepping into the batter’s box for the first time at Veteran’s Stadium. I started getting into my stance, and then looked down to tap the plate to find RED shoes and RED stirrups staring back at me. Those new colors definitely took some getting used to.

I can’t leave this subject without saying one more thing. No matter where the years have taken Nancy and I and our kids, no matter how much we have enjoyed other places we have lived and the people we have known, there’s no two ways about it: Atlanta will always feel like home and I’ll always be a Brave.


  1. You're a class act, Dale.

    And to this Braves fan, you'll always be a Brave, too.

    Now one quick thing: what about the time the Braves and Phils had a little brawl and Glavine "threw" at you (with a 60 mph fastball)? :-)

  2. Dale, great post. As a long-time fan of the Braves, having become one during the 82 season, I was saddened by the trade. I was even more upset when 91 rolled around and you weren't there.

    That said, I never blamed the team. On an emotional level, maybe a little, but I knew that it was a solid move and that whether I wanted to admit it or not, my baseball idol wasn't what he once was. I always hoped the same as you, that a new environment might help things out. I never considered the health impact of the turf though.

    I had the same feelings when you got to Colorado. I just felt like you weren't quite given a fair shot there, especially considering how close you were to 400.

    Love the post. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Dale,
    You were my hero growing up as a kid in the 80's. I loved the Braves and Dale murphy more than my own dad....at least that's how he would tell it. We lived down in South Georgia and we didn’t have a lot of money but we loved the Braves and always wanted to go see you guys in person. So my Dad saved money for quite some time, bought two tickets, and surprised me with a trip to Fulton County Stadium. We showed up early for B.P. and I wanted so badly to catch a glimpse of my hero. Then, I noticed you signing autographs on the side of the field. My Dad and I raced down there only to be blocked by a smug, rude security lady. She told us she was only allowed to let 15 people go down there and that I was the 16th person. My dad looked at her and said "M'am, that is my son's hero right there and we drove a long way to get here. We aren't looking for any special treatment but I want to ask you to please make an exception and allow my son to walk down there and get his baseball signed". The lady said No and was VERY rude. My dad said a few choice words to her and loaded me up and we drove back home before the game even started. My dad's heart was broken as I cried for nearly the entire three hour ride. As a father now myself, I understand why he was so upset. I will NEVER forget that memory and the way that it all went down. In no way did it change my perception of you or the fact that you were my hero, but I always wanted my Dale Murphy autograph and I always will. Do you do any signings or anything like that? Sorry for the long story but I always wanted to tell you that story and now through technology we are able to communicate with our heroes. Thanks for your time!

  4. Dale,
    My oldest son came home yesterday and told me about your blog, your love of Wilco, and your new book. It was all too much as it was the anniversary of my fathers passing at age 46, 47 years ago.I had to reach out, although I have never blogged or tweeted in my life and this is a far more public forum than I am accustomed to or comfortable with. When you moved here to Philly, Nancy contacted me about getting the boys registered for little league because you "were late". I was thrilled to be able to be of assistance because we too had moved here from Atlanta where you had been my hero, and I along with a couple thousand fans would go to stadium to watch you and "Horns". I don't expect you to remember but we too had 7 children, I don't believe you had your daughter yet. You were most gracious and signed a number of bats and balls for my kids who like yours are now grown but treasure their personal notes from you. I was able to meet up with Nancy again in Colorado and then lost track other than hearing about some of your missionary work...in New England I believe. Tonight I am heading down to Wilmington to see Cutter play (your Dr Dirt and Mr Clean poster hangs 3 feet away). I am still involved in LL, and like your book, remind the coaches every year that these young people will remember their favorite coaches and teachers, as well as the ones that were "jerks". It will be up to them to determine how they are remembered.

    You are remembered very fondly,
    Buck Buchanan

  5. Thanks so much for all the comments! Great to hear from all of you!

    Anonymous: I'll have to do a blog post sometime and explain that brawl...it was crazy!

    wordofpie: Thanks for all the support through the years.

    Anonymous: Man I'm so sorry about how bad that experience was for you! If you feel comfortable, would you email me your contact info at info@dalemurphy.com or tweet me (@dalemurphy3) Just tell me you are the "disappointed little boy from the blog." Thanks!

    Buck: So great to hear from you!

    TCraig: Thanks for reading!

  6. Thanks, Dale. Please do.

    That (the brawl) had to be really awkward. Probably most awkward for Glavine. He looked really uncomfortable.

  7. I've read all of your posts here and I love your twitter trivia questions (bring on more!), and I just wanted to say... This is my favorite post yet. I love the backstories of the way things happened in your playing days.

    Sidenote: Sometimes I wish I were just a little bit older. I'm only 29, so my first baseball cards were in 1990. I only wound up with 3 or 4 of your cards as a Brave before you were traded. I still studied your stats on your Phillies and Rockies cards, and followed your career until you retired!

    And that brings us back to the blog topic, sort of: How did your arrival with the Phillies compare to signing and playing with the Rockies?

  8. I was at that game with the brawl in '91 I believe, we had driven over from Athens where I was a sophomore in college, and you could still buy gen admission tickets and then work your way down to prime seating, and we had done just that. We had made it all the way down to just behind the phils dugout (so I could be as close to my idol DM as possible!) and then the whole "brawl" unfolded before our eyes. I can't recall which Brave got plunked, but just like it was yesterday I remember Dale stepping up to the plate the next half inning and everyone in the stadium holding their breath to see what Glavine was going to do. Probably the most difficult pitches he ever threw I would guess. And very likely the slowest softest plunk pitches ever thrown in MLB history.

  9. I was the manager of the Kmart in West Palm Beach where you and other Braves shopped during spring training in the 80's. You were so gracious to sign autographs for the kids while Nancy shopped. As always,a class act.

  10. Great post Dale! I always wondered about the specifics that took you to Philly. I became a baseball fan around '88 (the same year you were hawking Donruss baseball cards as their spokesperson...hehe), and while I wasn't a Braves fan, I became a fan of yours right away due to your passion and hustle.

    I remember how weird it was seeing you in a Phillies uniform for the first time, and I"ll never forget seeing Tom Glavine pitching inside to you in that one game (and getting tossed from the game in the process).

    Thanks for doing this awesome blog!


  11. I was serving a mission in So Cal when you got traded. I got a phone call the next day after you were traded from my buddy in a different zone telling my of the trade. Needless to say that day sucked. Well the next Pday we had a multi-zone activity and what do you know there were 5 elders with there wearing their Murphy ‘3’ Braves jerseys. We sat around drowning our sorrows with 7-up and some homemade root beer.

  12. Murph, I'll never forget the day you were traded. I was 11 years-old and I remember sitting on the stairs and crying my eyes out. I vowed that day to never watch another Braves game for the rest of my life. Yeah, that lasted about three days. Now that I've read this (that it was your idea), I'm sure glad I didn't follow through with that! I was so sad for you the next year that you didn't get to experience the '91 team. Thanks for the blog and, moreso, the MEMORIES!

  13. I am glad to know this... I just hated not to be able to see my favorite player on television (TBS) every night!

  14. I bought a Phillies hat the next day and swore off the Braves. I understand the awkward red. But everyday as I opened the sports page, I couldn't help but check the Braves box score first.

    Thanks Murph, you are an inspiration.

  15. I would love to hear about the brawl as well. I was just a kid when that happened but I'll always remember the pitcher (I didn't know until now that it was Glavine) soft-tossing it because he obviously didn't want to hit you.

  16. Hey, Dale. One year later and we're still waiting on the Philly brawl blog. :-)

  17. I have Befriended Jeff Blauser , And he told me had you ben on that 91 team , even if you were not playing full time, that you could have ben the one that could hit Jack Morris, and the outcome may be Differnt.

  18. Dale,

    I grew up a die-hard Phillies fan. You won me over when you signed a baseball for me after a game while you were still with the Braves. You were on top of the dugout talking to someone. I was around 9 years old, walked over to the Braves dugout, and asked you for an autograph and you signed my ball. The next year or so you came to the Phillies and became one of my favorite players. It breaks my break thinking that you weren't on the 1993 team. I believe that team could have won the WS with you on it, even if you were just a reserve. Would have been cool to have you be on that team and watch you hit that 400 HR milestone as well. Too bad neither ever happened! Regardless, I hope the Hall of Fame voters wake up and put you in the Hall one day!

    Thanks for all of the great memories!