Eddie talks the talk O's silent again

July 23, 1996|By JOHN EISENBERG

The crowd wanted big noise from Eddie Murray on the night he returned to the Orioles after eight years.

The crowd got what it wanted: Murray crushed a home run deep into the left-field stands in the fifth inning, a moment that was nothing if not electric.

"Made my night, almost," manager Davey Johnson said.

The crowd also wanted Murray's big noise to magically renew the Orioles and send them screeching toward the teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt.

Good luck.

The disappointing Orioles are going nowhere in a hurry this season, with or without Murray.

In the end, Murray's comeback night was a telling gauge for a team deciding whether to trade for additional help or start dumping players.

Memo to Pat Gillick: Trading for additional help would be a waste of time and valuable baseball property.

The lifeless Orioles are 11-26 against teams with winning records and seven games under .500 since mid-April.

They couldn't handle the mighty Minnesota Twins last night in a game that pleaded to explode with emotion for the home team and instead just trailed away.

The Twins scored three runs in the first inning and never trailed in a 9-5 win.

Not coincidentally, the atmosphere at Camden Yards was flat throughout much of the game.

Only when Murray batted was there much life.

"He did his part; we didn't do ours," Johnson said.

Murray did indeed do his best to make it a special night. Not only did he hit his 492nd career home run, he also answered more reporters' questions than he did in his last five seasons as an Oriole combined.

He talked before the game and after the game. He talked to Home Team Sports and WBAL. He talked to minicams and note pads.

He talked so much that it was a wonder he wasn't hoarse by the end of the night.

No one should expect that to continue. Murray obviously wanted to grace his comeback night; he'll never be comfortable with the press.

4 But he did talk and talk and talk for one night.

"Today is a new day," he said in what amounted to a summary statement.

Not that he plans on becoming more accessible.

"I'm going to try to stay out of you guys' hair," he said, laughing.

But for one day, at least, he was willing to share what was on his mind.

On what 500 home runs would mean to him: "It would mean a lot if I got there. There are only two other guys that did that. [Get 3,000 hits and 500 homers.]"

On getting his 500th in an Oriole uniform: "Well, it would be nice to get it over with."

On leaving the Indians: "There was a lot going on. We had a few guys crying. It's tough leaving. The guys there are my buddies. We went to war together. But I think they were glad to see me go and have a chance to hit 500."

On whether this is his last season: "I haven't made any plans beyond this year. We'll see how things go. Hopefully, I would like to make that announcement. You would not like to have people just saying you're done. I think I can pretty well judge that. Hopefully, I can prove to people that I can still play."

It was refreshing to hear an athlete admit that an individual record was important to him, instead of resorting to disengenous babble about the team concept.

Murray was given a standing ovation when Rex Barney announced his name in the lineup before the game, then another when he came to bat leading off the bottom of the second.

It was obvious he didn't want to cause a big commotion; he quickly quelled the ovation for his first Oriole at-bat in eight years, stepping into the batter's box after acknowledging the crowd with a wave.

"It was nice to hear," he said, "although you kind of expect it."

He took two straight called strikes from Twins pitcher Rich Robertson, then broke his bat as he grounded the third pitch toward third baseman Dave Hollins. Hollins' throw pulled first baseman Scott Stahoviak off the bag, allowing Murray to reach base safely. He was stranded.

On his next at-bat, with one out in the third inning and runners on second and third, Murray had a chance to do what the Orioles had brought him in to do: drive in runs.

He took a called third strike and argued briefly with umpire Tim Tschida before returning to the dugout.

When he approached the plate in the fifth inning, with one out and Bobby Bonilla on first, the crowd again rose to its feet and started an "Ed-die" cheer.

He stepped immediately into the batter's box and wagged his bat at Robertson.

Robertson threw him a change-up that tailed high.

Murray swatted it so hard that it was instantly obvious that the ball was gone.

"It was nice to get that first hit out of the way," Murray said, "especially a home run, which kind of counts for me right now."

The homer put the Orioles within two runs of the Twins, 7-5, but the Twins scored twice more in the eighth inning.

The emotion of Murray's big night was wasted.

In the end, another sour day in a lost summer.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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