There they were side by side again -- former Orioles greats and Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.
Murray and Ripken, who were teammates from 1981-1988 and again in 1996, continue to be linked in their post-playing careers, as the pair was on hand Nov. 15 for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the James Mosher Baseball league's newly renamed Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park, adjacent to James Mosher Elementary School in West Baltimore.
A gathering of more than 200 people -- including local politicians, baseball dignitaries, business representatives and members of the James Mosher Baseball league -- were in attendance for the unveiling of the first youth baseball field named in Murray's honor.
"You start to think about this city getting back together and baseball is a wonderful way to do it," Murray said as he prepared to cut the ribbon for the field dedication. "Here's to getting our kids in the city of Baltimore back to dreaming again."
Murray, pointing toward a newly placed red-brick monument along the third-base line adorned with bronze plaques honoring him, Cal Ripken Sr. and the founding members of the James Mosher Baseball league, added: "I'm honored to have my photo next to Cal Sr.'s over there."
Calvin Butler, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, was among those who spoke and participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and was instrumental in creating the partnership among all of the entities involved.
"We want to leave a legacy here in the city in West Baltimore," Butler said, "and then to name it in honor of Eddie Murray, an African-American Hall of Famer who played in Baltimore, and to have the kids who come play here every day understand what that means and that they can dream big.
"... Cal Ripken Jr. and I sat down and talked about why Eddie was a natural for us, because he can connect with these African-American boys and girls, and it gives them a chance to connect back to history as they become our future."
The creation of the Ripken Foundation's 74th field was the culmination of two years' worth of planning to refurbish the main diamond and home field for James Mosher Baseball, which is believed to be the oldest continually operating African-American youth baseball league in the country.
"Not only did I think it couldn't happen in two years' time, I couldn't believe they got it fixed as fast as they did in three-months time," said James Mosher Baseball president William Neal, "because we finished our season in July. The construction crew arrived on Aug. 1, and you see what we got here today. It's an amazing transformation within a 90-day period, and, yes, I was surprised, but I am happy."
A joint effort of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and its primary sponsor, BGE, the inspiration for the new synthetic turf baseball diamond, with enclosed covered dugouts and large digital scoreboard, came in the in the aftermath of the civil unrest in the city in the days following the death of 25-year-old African-American and West Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.
"After the rioting, we knew we had to do something," said Steve Salem, president of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. "It's not a solution, but as you can see, it's a start."
Said Ripken: "The communities love the ballparks and protect them and make then a safe place to play."
The James Mosher Baseball league got its start in 1960 when a group of men, known as the James Mosher Associates, created the youth baseball league "to address the social and personal problems facing youth in the city of Baltimore."
Founding member Al Meacham Sr. has witnessed the league's evolution.
"We never imagined a day like this," Meacham said. "We felt if we got it started and we kept on nurturing, there was a possibility that it would continue, and with our ups and downs and all of that it wasn't an easy job, but we survived. Having this field in place guarantees that this will continue."
Issue 240: December 2017