Ed-die Spells Joy I-n-d-i-a-n-s

March 20, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

BASEBALL CITY, FLA. — Seated in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse at the Kansas City Royals' spring training facility, Eddie Murray spots Cleveland Indians superstar-in-waiting Manny Ramirez walking out the door.

"He's going to be something special," Murray said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to point out one of baseball's top prospects.

In signature understated fashion, Eddie Murray is excited. Out of New York. In Cleveland. Surrounded by so many potent bats and so much young talent. Married. Loving life.

Murray, 38 and carrying a bat that refuses to age, is starting over again, playing for his third team since leaving the Orioles after the 1988 season.

"I made some phone calls, talked to people who have been in the league for a while and everybody seemed to think this was a ballclub on the move," he said of the Indians. "If we can catch the ball a little better, throw a few more strikes, we have a chance to do something."

For a time last winter, it appeared as if Murray would have a chance to do something again for his first organization, the team for which he hit a club-record 333 home runs and drove in 1,190 runs in 12 seasons.

If Orioles owner Peter Angelos made the personnel decisions, as has been suggested, Murray and Dennis Martinez might have returned to Baltimore. Instead, they signed with Cleveland. Sid Fernandez and Rafael Palmeiro signed with the Orioles, proof that Angelos trusts general manager Roland Hemond on personnel matters.

"I think it was more just the owner wanted us back," Murray said. "I don't think anyone else really did."

Murray didn't say he would have returned, but didn't say he would have rejected the chance, either.

"There was never really an offer on the table," Murray said. "Therefore, it was nothing but words."

Murray never has wasted much time on idle words, so he doesn't waste time thinking about what might have been.

"We couldn't sign everybody," Hemond said of his decision. "He [Angelos] was pulling for it, but with Palmeiro available at 29 years old, we figured he would fit in better for us. That doesn't mean I don't have high regard for Eddie. I do.

He's put together a Hall of Fame career. But we had Harold Baines, who did a very nice job for us at DH, and we had an opportunity to get Palmeiro. I'll say one thing. I don't think I'll enjoy watching Eddie come up to the plate for the other team against us."

That won't happen until May 6 at Camden Yards, where Murray spent one day, for the Mets in an exhibition game before the 1992 season. Many Murray fans in Baltimore might have that date circled, but he said he doesn't.

"I don't even think about it," Murray said. "I can't imagine too much good will come from it."

Remembering the boos

He remembers the boos of his final two seasons, but talks of them more in puzzled tones than out of either anger or bitterness.

4 "Basically, I was run out of town," Murray said.

He indicated he believes the media turned much of the town against him.

"It was ugly. It was time to go, time for both sides to part," he said. "It got to the point the last two years I wasn't talking to the media. It seemed like all the stuff started, all the problems with the media started after I was made team captain. I guess people expected me to change the way I am because I was made team captain."

Five-and-a-half years after being traded to the Dodgers in a deal held up when officials from both front offices were trapped on an elevator for 44 minutes, Murray will return to Baltimore in a meaningful game. What reaction does he expect from the Camden Yards crowd?

"Who knows?" he said. "I don't even want to think about it. It could be the same old thing, or it could be something different."

As unskilled at the art of self-promotion as he is uninterested in practicing it, Murray does not have a political breath in his lungs. He has no use for phonies and isn't about to learn how to become one himself.

Consequently, when asked about his impressions of Camden Yards, he didn't turn poetic, didn't ruminate on its ambience. He envisioned it through the eyes of a ballplayer, specifically through a power hitter's line of vision.

"It was hard to tell much about it from just one game, and it was early, the grass wasn't really in shape," he said. "I've heard nice things about it. I've heard the ball carries well, so they've definitely got it facing in the right direction."

A throwback

In so many ways, Murray is a throwback to another era. He talks and thinks baseball with teammates, quietly leading younger players. He seldom sits out a game. In 15 of his 17 seasons, he has played at least 151 games. He was limited to 99 games in strike-shortened 1981 and to 137 by a hamstring injury in 1986. In every season except '81, when he had 78 RBI, he has driven in at least 84 runs.

Murray seldom is portrayed as a player from another generation. He doesn't fit the throwback stereotype forever perpetuated: Brush cut, dirty uniform, pale complexion.

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