"Maybe I am naive about certain things," says Murphy, who resembles John-Boy Walton in all things, even to the mole on his cheek. "But I'm glad. I know all I want to know."
The TV lights don't come on in Murphy's cubicle until he's fully dressed. "If somebody in the dugout hollers, 'Check out that girl in Section 36,' " says teammate Bruce Benedict, "Murph won't even look." Murphy also won't allow a female admirer to so much as put an arm around him for a snapshot. There are other things Murph just can't see fit to approve: bitching, brooding, bragging or backing out of games. Murphy hasn't missed one since 1981.
"If you're a coach, you want him as a player," says former Braves manager Joe Torre. "If you're a father, you want him as a son. If you're a woman, you want him as a husband. If you're a kid, you want him as a father. What else can you say about the guy?"
If you're a National League pitcher, you want him to move back to Walton Mountain. Murphy's numbers extrapolate out to 43 homers and 134 RBIs for the year.
You want testimony? We've got testimony. "I can't picture Joe DiMaggio being any better an all-around player than Murphy," says Houston pitcher Nolan Ryan. "He's one of the toughest guys I've ever pitched to."
In April, Murphy, or "the Heat," as teammate Claudell Washington calls him, was one of the toughest guys in history. He knocked in 29 runs, which tied Ron Cey's April record. Except that Murphy did it in 19 games, while Cey took 20. Murphy drove in three more on May 1—his 20th game—for a total of 32, exactly double the next highest total in the NL at the time. Even through the Braves' disastrous May slump, Murphy kept alive a 15-game hitting streak. "When Murphy hits a ball in Georgia," says Pittsburgh pitching coach Grant Jackson, "I get the idea it might land in Florida." This is not the way Murphy sees it. To listen to Murphy, every home run he has ever hit was owed to odd and lucky circumstance. Speaking of a home run he hit in the Houston Astrodome, where he has belted two already this season (six last year, more than any visitor and all but one Astro), Murphy explained to the press what happened, in his usual postgame guilt conference—head down, size-13 feet pawing at the carpet, heavy into his Jimmy Stewart stammer. "Ah, well, uh, you seeeeeeee, that wouldn't have been a home run if they hadn't moved the fence in."
He once actually apologized for a home run he hit off Bruce Sutter in Atlanta when Sutter was with the Cardinals. "What can I do?" he groaned. "If it goes over the fence, I guess it's a home run." Yes, well, those are the breaks.
If Murphy needs a postgame speech-writer, his game speaks for itself. "I think it will be virtually impossible the next three or four years for anybody to be a better player than Dale," says San Diego infielder Jerry Royster, a former teammate of his on the Braves. The Expos' Andre Dawson, hitting merely .261 as of Sunday, figures Murphy has this year's MVP iced. "He's a shoo-in," Dawson says. If Dawson's right, Murphy might be a shoo-in for Cooperstown, because it would be his third such selection in four years (though he hasn't found time to hang the plaques yet). He would be the third man in National League history to win it in triplicate. The other two were Stan Musial and Roy Campanella. In the AL four men have done it—Yogi Berra, Jimmy Foxx, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Murphy is 29.
Murphy has already hit 211 career home runs, won three Gold Gloves and become only the sixth member of the 30-home run/30-stolen base club, a feat he performed in '83. He is a masterpiece, and his canvas is half complete.
Even more amazingly, Murphy has pulled it all off as a majority of one. With his strict Mormon beliefs, he is a moral Weight-Watcher in a House of Pies. Murphy will pick up teammates' dinner checks, but usually won't buy their beer, on moral grounds. Often, on team plane trips, cards and obscenities fly while Murphy reads the Bible. But he stays true to himself without sticking in everybody else's craw. "The guys love Murph," says second baseman Glenn Hubbard. "They respect him for what he believes, and he respects them."