Behind the photo: Murphy recalls great time in life

Dale Murphy, pictured at the young age of 22, often thinks back to his early years at Braves spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“I was a catcher, and I remember warming up guys a lot in the bullpen,’’ said Murphy, a former two-time National League MVP. “One that sticks out was Andy Messersmith. He was one of the first free agents, and I was so impressed with his bullpen sessions. He could move his fastball and curve anywhere on the plate. And then he moved my glove around on his changeup and hit it every time. I was wondering how the heck am I going to hit something like that.’’

But Murphy did, finishing with 398 home runs and 1,266 RBIs during a brilliant 18-year career. He became one of the most popular professional players to ever play in Atlanta. But it was not behind the plate where he made his career, but in the outfield, specifically in center field where he won five consecutive Gold Gloves.

“I remember Bobby (Cox) calling me in the winter of 1980 and telling me I was moving to the outfield,’’ said Murphy. “I had been at first base then and was running out of positions, so I was all for it.’’

Today, Murphy continues to chase his eight children and six grandchildren. His son Jake, who played at the University of Utah, recently signed a free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. But Murphy looks fondly on the days at the club’s spring training home in West Palm, where they worked from 1963, when they were in Milwaukee, until 1997, when the club moved to Orlando.

“Back then, it was a small and quaint town,’’ he said. “We used to go over to the mall across the street to a Sears where they had a breakfast counter, and of course we would eat at Manero’s a lot where everyone on the team would go. I also used to go over to Palm Beach a lot, and it just blew me away, all the Rolls Royce’s and beautiful homes. It was a great time of my life.’’