07/24/2003 9:30 PM ET
Ceremony will be emotional one
A life's journey ends in the embrace of immortality this weekend for Gary Carter and Eddie Murray, who brush off the dust collected on the long and winding road to take up permanent residence in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The catcher and the first baseman, rewarded for their two decades of dedicated play and iconic status with election to the Hall in January, will officially move in as the shrine's 255th and 256th members during the Sunday Induction Ceremony that highlights Hall of Fame Weekend.
It will be one of the most emotional ceremonies in the long history of an event known to reduce tough men to tears, as both men eulogize deep personal losses surrounding their elections.
Tanja Murray, Eddie's younger sister, succumbed to kidney disease as he was awaiting the January 7 results of Hall of Fame balloting.
Jim Carter, the father with whom Gary desperately wanted to share his Hall of Fame induction, passed away at 84 on January 25.
"I'll have a tough time getting through my speech," Carter admitted, "as I talk about all that he meant to me."
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
This is the one weekend when Cooperstown becomes Mecca, the magnetic core of the baseball universe where generations assemble and nostalgia walks.
Carter began his journey in the suburbs of Southern California and Murray began his on the asphalt of Los Angeles and now they converge with forerunners and peers, and family, friends and fans who will gather to see them take the final steps.
In film, the legends walk out of a cornfield. In life, they walk into the pastoral anachronism of Cooperstown, celebrating a time when this was their game and welcoming their new neighbors.
Approximately four dozen Hall of Famers are expected to attend the induction, the centerpiece of a busy weekend agenda that includes book signings, interactive and charitable programs and, furthering the notion of a baseball continuum, a Class-A minor league game on Doubleday Field.
Carter and Murray are the headliners, but they won't be the only toasts of the town.
Also honored will be Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, presented with the 2003 Ford C. Frick award for broadcast excellence, and the Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy, recipient of the 2002 J.G. Taylor Spink award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
For the first time since 1993, no "oldtimers" will be inducted, as the Hall's revised Veterans Committee declined to elect anyone in its February balloting.
Murray and Carter were teammates only briefly, on the 1991 Los Angeles Dodgers, but now will again share a green lawn, this time of the Clark Sports Center, as they are joined in perpetuity.
Murray will be introduced by Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Hall of Fame. Carter will be introduced by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
For both, induction will validate their remarkable careers and also, thankfully, end 6 1/2 months of turmoil since their elections.
Murray, in his inimitable candor, said the waiting game had been "a pain in the butt. Everybody's been meaning well, obviously. But it's mentally tiring."
Carter, throughout his career infinitely more open and accessible, spent the week in New York making appearances that included a contribution to Wednesday's edition of the infamous David Letterman Top Ten List.
Climaxing a list of "Perks of being a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame" recited by shrine members, Carter deadpanned No. 1 into the camera, "One free swing at a costumed mascot of my choice."
Stark contrasts outside of the lines, Murray and Carter were blood brothers inside, two men who played to the bone and never cheated anyone. Their teams, their fans or themselves.
"If I'm remembered for anything, I hope most fans and media recognize me as a player who gave his all and played the game hard every day," said Carter, an 11-time All-Star who squatted behind the plate for 2,056 of a 2,296-game career from 1974 to 1992 that produced 324 homers and 1,225 RBIs.
Murray's career lasted from 1977 through 1996 and is engraved by 504 homers and 3,255 hits. An eight-time All-Star who appeared in 3,026 games, the switch-hitter consistently ranked in the Top Ten in voting for Most Valuable Player.
But Murray never actually won the award. Neither did Carter. But they specialized in making their teams better, not in towering above them.
Between them, they played on six teams that won 100-plus games (14 which won 90-plus) and contributed to seven postseason teams.
Each won the ring once, Murray with the 1983 Orioles and Carter with the 1986 Mets.
Both had noteworthy successes elsewhere and Carter will be inducted as an Expo. Murray will enter as an Oriole.
This weekend won't be about logos, but about legends. Two new ones join the ultimate lineup.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.