07/26/2003 5:42 PM ET
Murray ready for 'electric' day
Hall of Fame: Complete coverage
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN -- Eddie Murray sat in the place he least likes -- the spotlight -- looking down on an audience of the people he least likes -- reporters -- and, as they say backstage, killed.
Mr. Warmth for one endearing, special Saturday afternoon, Murray gave his questioners a sense of the pride he felt on the eve of his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I had a little outing during Spring Training, took a little tour [of the Hall]," Murray said. "To see my name on the Top 10 list for RBIs ... as a kid, it's something you can't even think of.
"So to walk in there and see that ... you stick your chest out a bit."
In the ensuing months, as the ever-private Murray coped with the renown of being a Hall of Famer-elect, the chest wasn't the part of his anatomy with which he was most concerned.
"That waiting has been a pain in the butt. But right now, I'm fine," he said, speaking 24 hours before the spotlight would find him delivering his induction speech at the Clark Sports Center. "I reached the point four, five days ago of 'Let's get it on.'
"I'm ready to do it. I'm tired of the build-up."
Murray has always had difficulty accepting accolades for -- and, clearly, discussing with media -- a 21-year career that produced 504 homers, 3,255 hits and 1,917 RBIs in 3,026 games.
Now, he offered new insight into why "Eddie Murray" was his least favorite topic. It had a lot to do with that necklace he wore his first few years in Baltimore, the one that spelled out "Just Regular."
"As a kid growing up, a lot of people thought of me as a butt-hole," he said, drawing laughs from the audience in the Cooperstown High School auditorium. "A lot of you probably still think I am one.
"But it was about not letting becoming a Major League baseball player affect the way I was raised, change the things that had to be done. Be 'Just Regular,' go about life doing your job."
Eddie Murray's Hall of Fame plaque
Of course, he did that job regularly enough to earn the nickname Steady Eddie. He played 150-plus games in 16 of his 19 non-abridged (by play stoppages) seasons.
Murray considered that the worst possible reason of all to be celebrated, for showing up to do what he was being paid for.
"When I signed my contract, it was to play 162 games. That was my number," he said. "I don't know where that came from, though I guess it had a lot to do with how I was brought up.
"We weren't allowed to skip a day of school. So that's what we learned to love to do. My belief remained, you have to go out there every day.
"If you don't go out there, you aren't able to put up numbers."
This brought up Murray's least-favorite subject today -- the dedication level of some of the game's young players.
Many outstanding players have a difficult time fading into teachers, as the old saw goes, because they have a hard time dealing with pupils who lack their level of commitment.
This doesn't apply to Murray, who described with a gleam in his eyes his triumphs as batting coach for the Cleveland Indians.
"It's like trying to get electricity," he said, simulating screwing in a light bulb. "You twist and twist, not knowing when they'll get it.
"In Cleveland, you start to see the light coming on with four kids, and it's nice to see them grow up. You really see there's progress being made."
Still, Murray misses in most young eyes the fire and hunger that burned in his.
"I don't think a lot of kids today think of 162," he said. "They don't look at that open date in June and say, 'That's my day off.'
"I have some problems with what goes on out there because of how I approached the game. It's tough sometimes to watch today.
"The game is being taken for granted by a lot of kids. Anybody can walk through that door, but you have to stay here awhile to accomplish something."
Murray stayed long enough to stroll into baseball's Valhalla as the greatest switch-hitter of all time. A flat-out statement like that can inspire subjective debating, but the fact is he is one of only three men with 500 homers and 3,000 hits and the other two (Willie Mays and Hank Aaron) were pure right-handed hitters.
Which Murray also was, until a few months shy of his 20th birthday. Now that he is a Hall of Famer, this story becomes part of his legend.
Jim Schaeffer, manager of the Orioles' Double-A Nashville farm club in 1975, had a pet way of helping his young players out of batting slumps. He'd have them take batting practice from their flip side, reasoning they'd feel so much better when they returned to the natural side.
Except, when he tried it, Murray began raking as a left-handed hitter. But it remained a BP exercise until later that season, which he was winding down with Triple-A Rochester.
"One day, I was called back from the on-deck circle," Murray picked up the story, "and asked, 'Have you ever thought of hitting left-handed?' "
Murray's confident response: "I can hit left-handed."
"I went up left-handed and hit a double," Murray went on. "I continued to switch-hit for the last 10 games of that 1975 season and went 10-for-31. And I switch-hit ever since."
He did so with stoic resolve and a clenched jaw, ice in his veins and intent in his eyes. Those eyes will glisten with something else Sunday afternoon.
The mere thought of many Orioles fans making the pilgrimage from Baltimore caused Murray to shake his head.
"I can't even tell you the number of friends who came ... but there'll be a ton of people there tomorrow," he said. "It gets to the point of being a little intimidating to see the love of what you gave them during your career.
"It's their way of letting you know they appreciated it. The hillside's gonna be full.
"It'll be a matter of getting through it. It will be an emotional time as I try to express myself. Those people," Murray added, referring specifically to the masses who used to chant "Ed-die! Ed-die!" in Memorial Stadium, " ... you never know how they'll respond.
"But I've dealt with that crowd before. They can be electric."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.