Dwayne Murphy went from being a 15th round selection in the 1973 MLB Draft to being a key part of the Oakland Athletics success.
When the Oakland Athletics selected Dwayne Murphy in the 15th round of the 1973 MLB Draft, there was no question of his athletic potential. He had committed to a football scholarship at Arizona State University, in part contributing to his fall down the draft. However, the A’s were able to get him to walk away from that commitment for $6500.
That would turn out to be the best $6500 the A’s spent. Murphy steadily progressed through the A’s system, showing solid speed and an excellent eye at the plate. He made his major league debut in 1978, eventually joined by Rickey Henderson and Tony Armas to form what was considered one of the best young outfields in baseball.
While Henderson would go on to be the most exciting player of the 1980s, he was in left despite his blazing speed. That was due to the presence of Murphy, who quickly became one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
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From 1980 through 1985, he may well have been the best defensive center fielder in the game. He won a Gold Glove award in each season, leading the American League in runs saved, putouts, and range factor in center from 1980 through 1982. In that 1982 season, Murphy also led AL center fielders with 14 assists, the second highest mark amongst AL outfielders that season.
He eventually developed into another power and speed threat with Oakland. He had a strong all around season in 1982, hitting 27 homers and stealing 26 bases. Although he would never reach double digits in steals after that season, he did improve his pop, belting 33 homers in 1984. Overall, Murphy had a career .246/.356/.402 batting line, hitting 166 homers and stealing 100 bases, with his 31.7 bWAR ranking 21st all time in franchise history.
Those numbers would have been better, but his final healthy season came at just 30 years old. He was injured during the 1986 and 1987 seasons, playing in just 180 games combined. After two more seasons as a part time player, Murphy spent one final year in Japan in 1990 before retiring. Eventually, he went into coaching, earning a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dwayne Murphy may not have been a star, but he was a key part of the Oakland Athletics success in the early part of the 1980s. Had it not been for injury, he may have had a long career as one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball history.