01/16/2003 7:04 PM ET
Murray relies on family ties
Eleven siblings challenged him from the start
NEW YORK -- For Eddie Murray, it's always been about family. That's why his election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame will always remind him of a tragic event in his life -- the recent death of his sister Tanja.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Murray grew up in Los Angeles with 11 brothers and sisters, all of whom played baseball and pushed him to become the
player he became. Murray's accomplishments on the field are well documented -- 504 home runs, 1,917 RBIs, 3,255 hits,
three Gold Gloves and a World Series ring -- but as he addressed the media for the first time since his election into the Hall,
Murray repeatedly credited his family for his success.
"I had an edge that I had at home, not only at the ballpark," Murray said of the backyard games with his family. "We had games that we invented -- we tore up a garage with a game of 'strikeouts', and that was with a tennis ball."
His older brother, Charles, played in the Houston organization when Eddie was young, giving him a chance to watch players
such as Doc Ellis, Bob Watson and Reggie Smith up close.
"I played baseball because of my older brother. He's always been my hero," Murray said. "Anyone who ever saw all five of us
play would say that Charles was the best. I saw him play, and that was what I wanted to do."
As much of a learning experience as it was to shag fly balls with big-leaguers during batting practice, Eddie believes that
playing with Charles and their 10 siblings at home was even more valuable.
All four of Murray's brothers played pro ball in the minors. His younger brother, Rich, made it to the Majors, playing two stints
with the San Francisco Giants in the early 1980s. On more than one occasion, Murray used the term "ballclub" in reference to
"The games at home, you just can't beat what I had as a kid growing up. It was really awesome to always have someone there
to challenge you," Murray said. "Those other brothers weren't going to let you win -- you had to play to their level."
Just days before his election into the Hall, Tanja, 38, died after a battle with kidney disease. Murray attended her funeral on the
day the Hall results were announced, making it a bittersweet day for him and his family.
"I haven't had a real chance to celebrate yet. I'm getting more and more comfortable with this," Murray said. "I've had a tough
week, so I hope this gets the ball rolling the other way."
Murray, 47, is the 38th player to be inducted in his first year on the ballot, and rightfully so. He along with Hank Aaron and Willie
Mays are the only players to collect 500 homers and 3,000 hits, though Murray was hesitant about putting himself in the same
category as those two all-time greats.
"I still don't know if I should be mentioned with them," Murray said. "Those were two great ballplayers. It's tough for me to speak
of myself in those terms."
Murray never hit more than 33 home runs in a season, but he topped 25 homers in 12 of his 21 years. He said he never
thought he would get to 500 in his career, and is most proud of that achievement.
"The 500 home runs is still mind boggling to me," Murray said. "I never considered myself a very strong hitter, I just called
myself a hitter. I was labeled as a home-run hitter, and I didn't like that term. I thought I was a complete hitter, and I enjoyed
beating you with a double as I did with a home run."
It's a little ironic that Murray was elected to the Hall by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on his first try, given his
shaky relationship with the media throughout his career.
"Nobody in this room would want to talk to me if I didn't play. That's the bottom line," Murray said. "I have pride. No one could
dictate to me what I could do between those lines. My thing was to play ball. I wanted ownership, my teammates and the guys
in the other dugout to know what I was doing. That's what was important to me."
Listening to Murray talk about himself, one almost gets the feeling that he would be happy if no one with the exception of his
family showed up for his induction July 27 in Cooperstown, though that's obviously a long shot.
"I never considered myself a very strong hitter, I just called myself a hitter. I was labeled as a home-run hitter, and I didn't like
that term. I thought I was a complete hitter, and I enjoyed beating you with a double as I did with a home run."
-- Eddie Murray
"It's always been 'we' and 'us' in my household," Murray said. "To speak in the 'I' is something that bothers me. Notoriety is not
something that everybody seeks."
When a player puts up the numbers in a baseball career that Murray did, however, fame comes packaged in the deal. Fame
also comes with being a World Series champion, and Murray calls 1983 the greatest year of his career, the year of the Orioles'
last Series title.
But Murray believes induction day has a chance to rival the day he and his Orioles celebrated a world championship.
"That was the one year where we, as a team, put it all together," Murray said. "That was a tremendous feeling, and from talking
to some Hall of Famers, they say that this July 27 will rank with that moment."
It will no doubt be a family affair. For Murray, it always is.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major
League Baseball or its clubs.