Quietly but steadily, Mets' Murray doing number on record book

September 24, 1993|By Marty Noble | Marty Noble,Newsday

Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Ray Miller approached Eddie Murray during batting practice Wednesday night at Three Rivers Stadium, extended his hand and reacquainted himself with a former fellow Oriole.

A hello, some small talk and some genuine smiles followed, then each had to go. But first Miller offered his hand a second time. "Congratulations on any records you've broken while I wasn't watching," he said to the Mets first baseman. "There've been a bunch."

Later, with Murray in the cage, Miller marveled at him. He clearly appreciates the skills that have carried Murray to his current position among the elite in baseball.

"I saw a lot of the early stuff," he said. "Home runs, RBI, big hits. There aren't many guys who could match him. And he hasn't lost that much."

Murray clearly appreciated the kind words. He understands the significance of what he's done in his career. "When you look," he said, "you become amazed at the guys you've passed."

Indeed, he's keeping company with names such as Carl Yastrzemski, Mel Ott, Heinie Manush, Charlie Gehringer and Reggie Jackson.

Murray has been passing names on several of baseball's all-time lists. Chances are he won't reach No. 1 on any of them, which hardly diminishes all he's done.

This season alone, he has driven in 90 runs to move from 26th place to a tie with Tony Perez for 17th place in career RBI; amassed 161 hits to move from 53rd place to 35th place; at age 37, hit well enough to maintain his career batting average at .290; and hit 26 home runs, equaling his personal high of the previous four seasons, to move within three of taking over 20th place from Dave Kingman. His 25 doubles have pushed him to 37th on the all-time list.

"When you start out playing, you never think about numbers," Murray said. "You don't even look at that much when you're getting up there. But then someone tells you. Jay [Horwitz, the Mets public relations director] told me the other day I needed fewer than 200 hits for 3,000. I didn't keep track."

Murray certainly intends to continue his pursuit of history beyond this disappointing -- from a team standpoint -- season. He knows he will do so somewhere other than Queens. And while it has been suggested he may have trouble finding an employer for next season, he seems unconcerned by that possibility.

He has heard and/or read all of it, that his presence on a club can damage the chemistry. He declines to challenge the accusations, saying he can't win that war. But he does say, "Any club can call any one of my teammates or the clubs I've been with and ask about me. They won't hear the same things."

"He really hasn't bothered me," Mets manager Dallas Green said. "Eddie's a veteran who does his own thing. I'm not wild about his preparation [for a game], but he's not going to be with us next year. I saw no reason to change it. I talked to him when I got here and told him I wanted him to stretch with the others. And he's been there on time every day. He doesn't take a lot of ground balls. He floats around a lot. But I've never had a minute's problem with him. He plays every day. You want that. And he's still a force with the bat."

It is the bat that probably will land Murray a job for next season and beyond, regardless of the perception of him. He's not opposed to serving as a designated hitter, even though he will need to play first base at least once next season to become the all-time leader in games played there. With 10 games left in the season he has played first in 2,358 games, as opposed to record-holder Jake Beckley with 2,368.

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