The father carrying the young boy pointed to the fellow in the turtleneck shirt who was signing autographs and said: "See that man? That's Eddie. He used to play for the Orioles."
Eddie Murray is back in town this weekend to participate in the Cal Ripken Jr. Winterfest for Literacy '91, a two-day baseball autograph and memorabilia show at Festival Hall. The show continues today at 10 a.m. Tickets are $3.
"Eddie Murray, my man."
While Murray sat at a table with Ripken and the Minnesota Twins' Kirby Puckett for four hours yesterday and signed his name perhaps 1,200 times, it was as if he had never been away.
"Good to see you back, Eddie."
Murray was traded by the Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1988 season, by which time the fans' "Ed-die, Ed-die" chants had been replaced by boos. He is 35, but is coming off a season in which he had 19 homers and 96 RBI.
"Wish you were still here."
Any disenchantment Baltimore fans might have had with Murray didn't surface yesterday. He obliged photographers, autographed baseballs, bats and photos agreeably and greeted some female fans whom he remembered with a "Hi, honey" and a few with hugs and kisses.
"Miss you, Eddie."
Behind him on the wall were Dodger blue and white balloons formed in the number of his uniform, 33. Evelyn Ehlers of the Orioles public relations department sat beside him, collecting tickets that fans had purchased for $8.
Murray never was comfortable in an atmosphere such as this. He said, "Here we go, sir" after signing a ball and "You're welcome," and obliged when someone wanted to shake his hand.
But he also frowned a lot and appeared bored on occasion, although not a minute passed when he wasn't signing something.
The autograph hounds, if they noticed, forgave him. This was Ed-die, Ed-die, and he was back.
"Coming back to Baltimore, Eddie?"
Murray apparently doesn't know where he's going. He is a free agent, and he's less than thrilled with the Dodgers' offer, reportedly for one year. The New York Mets have expressed interest.
"You going to the Mets, Eddie?" a man asked.
"No idea," Murray said without looking up.
"Hope you go and get $25 million from them," the man said.
At noon, Jim Palmer breezed in and exchanged a few words with Murray before signing autographs himself for an hour.
"I was in New York last week," Palmer said, "and I told him he was big news there. I asked him if he was going to sign a one-year contract, and he said it was still too early to know."
Palmer said he wasn't surprised that fans greeted Murray so warmly.
"I found after I retired that people remember the good, not the bad," Palmer said. "Remember, Eddie's going to be in the Hall of Fame."
Part of Murray's heart still may be in Baltimore. He donated money for a Baltimore Museum of Art exhibit that will open this week, and he still pours money into an Outward Bound Camp program here established in honor of his late mother.
Proceeds from the baseball show will benefit the Ripken Learning Center, where adults are taught to read.
Officials estimated that 10,000 fans, collectors and dealers were on hand for yesterday's show. The first person in line was a man from St. Louis who arrived at 9:30 p.m. Friday and spent the night in a folding chair.
By 6 a.m. yesterday -- four hours before the show opened -- the line outside Festival Hall was two blocks long. By 9:30 a.m., it had grown to 12 blocks.
Most came to see Ripken. But many were drawn by the return of an old hero, Eddie Murray.