01/16/2003 8:20 PM ET
Murray, Carter meet the press
Hall of Famers talk to media gathering in Manhattan
NEW YORK -- Gary Carter held court. Eddie Murray held his ground. And, together, the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame held center stage at their formal unveiling on Jan. 16.
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Decked out in identical Hall of Fame uniform jerseys and caps, Carter and Murray, who last week became the 96th and 97th players elected by a vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America, took their first public bows in front of a Manhattan media assembly.
A little news came out of the event: Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey's announcement that Carter will be depicted as a Montreal Expo on his plaque when he and Murray are inducted on July 27.
And Carter took time to address the uncertain fate of that stressed Montreal franchise.
But emotions, reflections, and expressions of gratitude and pride flowed far more freely.
"I'm definitely honored and pleased to be joining this group," said Murray, the 38th player ever, and only the second first baseman, to be elected in his first year of eligibility. "I'm looking forward to being there. I'm getting more comfortable with this, and it should be a wonderful day, July 27."
Echoed Carter, "I thank God for this honor. I'll be able to savor this the rest of my life."
Carter effervesced through the occasion in his own inimitable way, wearing the same grin that creased his face through 19 seasons and a National League-record 2,056 games caught.
Murray, also true to his playing persona, chose his words carefully and delivered many of them with fixed stares on the media, with which he had an often contentious relationship during a 21-year career that produced 3,255 hits and 504 homers.
And both spoke from the heart.
"Notoriety is not what everyone seeks," said Murray, tidily capturing his essence. "I was always all about the pride of being on that field, and not letting anyone affect that.
"There's a time to listen, and a time to focus. I was all about that, too. Nobody in this room would want to talk to me if I wasn't playing well."
When brought to his attention that, despite their history, baseball writers made him a first-ballot electee with 83.2 percent of the vote, Murray simply said, "Absolutely. That's what it was all about, no?"
"I'm extremely proud to share this podium with Eddie Murray," said Carter, who was a teammate of Murray's with the Dodgers in 1991 and quickly came to appreciate his motivations.
"Eddie felt it was important for him to prepare for the game, and he resented the media's intrusion," Carter recalled. "He liked to stay totally focused.
"To me, the media was never a distraction. I always thought it was part of the game."
During their careers, Murray was often criticized for his sullenness and Carter for being the opposite. Between the lines, however, they had no detractors.
As Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, said of the men: "Their teammates loved them. The opposition hated them. That's what they said about Frank Robinson, too."
The Museum's pick of the cap logo to be depicted on Carter's plaque, a subject of curiosity and debate since his election Jan. 7, received the former catcher's hearty endorsement.
"I'm so honored and proud to go in as an Expo," said Carter, who achieved most of his numbers while spending his first 11 seasons in Montreal before finding greater fame and World Series glory in five seasons with the Mets. "There's a place in my heart for every team I played on.
"It'd be nice if I could wear a split hat, that would be the most noble thing. But with the fact that I had my major accomplishments in Montreal, it would be wrong to do anything else."
Petroskey defined the rationale of the Hall, which has begun to forcibly exercise its right to determine the plaque logos of multi-team inductees.
"What team best expresses a player's career, where he had his greatest impact," Petroskey said. "The mere facts made this choice indisputable. But the only place in the world where that's going to matter is on that wall in the Museum. Both of these guys are Hall of Famers for everybody."
Carter will became the Expos' first Cooperstown representative, a milestone that was cheered in Montreal.
"We were delighted to hear Gary will enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Expos," said Tony Tavares, the Expos' club president. "His successful career will always be associated with our organization and we are honored to know the Expos will forever be represented in baseball lore.
"This is a moment that is shared not only by the Expos' organization, but also with all baseball fans throughout the province of Quebec, as well as all of Canada."
Murray, naturally, will be inducted as a Baltimore Oriole. Although he played for five different teams, Murray spent his first 12 seasons in Baltimore, where he returned in 1996 to strike his milestone 500th homer.
Carter, who both began (1974) and ended (1992) his career in Montreal, spoke sympathetically about the endangered team.
"I'm disappointed and frustrated by what has transpired there," said Carter, who referred to Montreal of the '70s and '80s as "a city of champions."
"If it's the best thing for the game for the team to be contracted or moved, it's one of those things we'll have to accept."
Carter, the Mets' newly-appointed roving catching instructor, was heartened to see numerous current and former members of the organization attend the function in his honor. They included club owner Fred Wilpon, Davey Johnson, who managed Carter's 1986 club to a World Series championship, former coach Bud Harrelson and former teammate Bob Ojeda.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.