Memorable Moments From Eddie Murray's Orioles Career
Each week, PressBox baseball writers weigh in on a different topic. As the Orioles prepare to honor Eddie Murray on Saturday, Stan "The Fan" Charles and Jim Henneman share their most memorable moments from Murray's career in Baltimore.
By Stan "The Fan Charles
Although I enjoy watching the Baltimore Ravens, first and foremost I am a baseball fan, and have followed the Baltimore Orioles in particular. The past 10 years, there has been a painful lack of any singular player that rallied the fans emotionally around his little fingers.
I will be writing more on Eddie Murray and my take on his Baltimore career in the August print edition of PressBox, but this forum has simply asked me to answer the question as to what is most memorable about Murray?
First, was the noise, as fans would chant and scream "EDDIE…EDDIE.” The sheer decibel level and emotions in those moments spoke to the heart of being an O's fan, at a time when passion for the team was at its all-time highest.
Murray's greatness wearing No. 33 occurred at perhaps the perfect-storm moment of when baseball ascendency began to take over emotional center for sports fans in Baltimore, as it was the all-time lowest nadir of Colts support during the last five years of their Baltimore incarnation, and the first five years after they left, when there was no football. Nobody during those 10 years meant more to the sports populace of Bawlmer than one Eddie Clarence Murray.
That brings me to why the fans gravitated to him with almost a religious fervor. The man simply delivered the goods, and delivered them in a tangible way, which God may never be able to duplicate.
Among clutch hitters in the game, Eddie stands in the top 20 names on almost every SABR, ELIAS and Bill James list you can shake a stick at. One of the key things to remember about those first 10 years of his career is that he played for a team that was almost always playing meaningful games for 150-162 games per year.
That means that Murray's being clutch was one of the truest definitions of clutch there can be. Just as an example, if modern-day Orioles such as Brian Roberts or Nick Markakis exceeded Eddie as clutch hitters by the purest numbers (which they don't), what would that really have meant? The two best Orioles during the past 8-10 years haven't played in as many meaningful games combined during their careers, as Eddie did in one April.
An anecdote to shed light on my perception: my late mother was widowed at the age of 36. She was an attractive widow. Our neighbors were a somewhat older couple in their early- to mid-50s. I'll simply call them the Goldbergs to protect the innocent. The husband was a wonderful, hard-working guy and one of my original links to baseball. Let's call him Bennie. The wife we'll call Sylvia. Well, after we'd lived there next door to them for 3-4 years, Sylvia got it in her head that Bennie was having an affair with my mother.
My mother, Libby, when confronted, told Sylvia: "That is crazy. There is absolutely nothing going on with your husband." To which Sylvia shouted back, "Libby, I know what my eyes see."
I was reminded of this anecdote, because when it comes to the stats surrounding Eddie Murray, and the resultant fervor … I don't need no stinking stats., I know what my eyes saw.
By Jim Henneman
Trying to pinpoint memorable moments from a Hall of Fame career is a dicey proposition at best, because the odds of missing one are staggering. Having offered that as an alibi, here's a list of tidbits from Eddie's career -- some that you will remember, some facts that might surprise you, some with dates, some without, along with a favored one of a personal note:
* If there was one defining moment during Murray's career in Baltimore, it most likely came on Oct. 16, 1983, when his second home run off Charlie Hudson during Game 5 of the World Series hit the scoreboard in Vet Stadium -- in the exact place where the Oriole first baseman's name was displayed. Game, set and match.
* If "Oriole Magic" didn't debut on June 23, 1979, it was at least put in motion for good. One night after Doug DeCinces beat the Tigers with a late-inning home run, Murray hit a three-run shot off John Hiller (against whom he had gone 0-for-8 during his career) during the first game of what would be a doubleheader sweep. It was a welcome-back-to-Baltimore moment for Sparky Anderson, who had just taken over as Detroit manager and no doubt had visions of the O's beating up his Big Red Machine during the 1970 World Series.
* Murray hit home runs from both sides of the plate 11 times during his career (a record he shared with Chili Davis until Mark Teixeira broke it last year), and it's tough to single out one -- but he did do it on the same date twice, Aug. 26 in 1982 and 1985 and in back-to-back games May 8 and 9, 1987.
* He broke in as a designated hitter, finished the same way, and had a fling at third base, but how many remember that Murray played more games (2,413) and had more assists (1,865) than any first baseman in history? He also had three gold gloves.
* Oh year, did we mention grand slams? Can't leave that out -- he had 19, fourth all time. The leaders in that category are Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez, with 23.
* It would be folly to talk about Murray's career in Baltimore without touching on events that brought it to a premature end. That could be attributed at least in part to the football mentality that owner Edward Bennett Williams, who previously had been CEO of the Redskins, brought to the table. It was the only non-strike year that Murray played fewer than 140 games, as a hamstring injury landed him on the disabled list. Frustrated by the collapse that took his team out of contention and set the stage for the worst two-year stretch in team history, EBW implied that Murray, whose career was marked by consistency and reliability, was a principal culprit of the demise. It took two more years for the divorce to finalize, and, at his request, Murray was traded to the Dodgers after the 1988 season for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell -- one of the worst trades the O's ever made.
* Murray's ultimate return to the Orioles, part of a 1996 trade that sent Kent Merker to Cleveland, had its share of magical moments. He homered during his first game back, and again during his final game, the fifth game of the Division Series against the Yankees.
* In between was a special highlight, one that took on a personal meaning. My brother John is the biggest Murray fan I know, and he was in the stands on his son Jimmy's birthday, Sept. 6, when Eddie hit career home run No. 500 in 1996. They had been there the year before too -- when Cal Ripen Jr. played in his 2,131st straight game. You can accuse me of nepotism. It's OK. … But it was a special night for two people who are special to me, so therefore it more than qualifies as a personal favorite.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
Posted Aug. 8, 2012