The Orioles fans' love-in with Eddie Murray began well before game time yesterday.
There was plenty of chatter around the Orioles' dugout during batting practice, and fans were asking the media if Murray seemed happy to be back in Baltimore during his afternoon news conference. Scattered chants of "Ed-die! Ed-die!" could be heard throughout Camden Yards. A "Welcome Back Eddie" banner hung beyond the bullpens in left-center field.
The crowd picked up again during the introduction of the starting lineup. When Murray's face and name flashed on the Diamond Vision, there was a standing ovation and nearly a half-minute of applause.
In the bottom of the first inning Murray emerged from the dugout for the first time to get loose in the on-deck circle, but he didn't get to bat. Sporadic chants picked up between innings and in the bottom of the second, the designated hitter made his way to the plate for the first time.
Before P.A. announcer Rex Barney could say Murray's name the fans were up again, chanting even louder. A montage of Murray's highlights from the 1980s played on the Diamond Vision, and the cheers didn't stop until the first pitch of the inning.
The same fan response greeted his next plate appearance. But the most rousing cheers of the night were unleashed after Murray's fifth-inning home run, the 492nd of his career. The crowd stood and cheered until Murray came out of the dugout and waved his cap.
At his afternoon news conference, Murray did appear happy to be back in Baltimore and playing in front of his old fans.
"You hope it's an applause out there," Murray said. "Today is a new day. I honestly think a lot of people are excited about my coming back here, and I'm very excited about coming back here and getting some at-bats . . ."
Murray's worries stem from his departure from the Orioles in 1988, when he was criticized by fans and media alike. Now, it all seems forgotten.
"I hope they treat him better the second time around," said Jim Bernhardt, an Orioles fan from White Marsh. "He got a bad rap when he left. He got blamed for a lot of things that weren't his fault. He's a sure Hall of Famer. I'm glad to see him back. I think and hope he's going to get a good reaction from the fans, the city and the team."
Lauren Katz, sporting a vintage orange Orioles jersey with Murray's name and number on the back, sat anxiously in her box seat 45 minutes before game time waiting for her favorite player's return to her favorite team.
"I'm so glad he's back," Katz said. "I still remember watching him in the  World Series. At first I couldn't believe we had him, and then I heard it on the news and I believed it. And I was glad. They've been saying we might get him for months, and I couldn't believe we got him back."
Katz and other Murray fans are keeping their fingers crossed that the slugger has eight more homers left in him. That would give Murray 500 for his career, and he would surpass the milestone with the team that first brought him up from the minors.
"He's older now, but he can still DH," said Ann Morsberger, of Baltimore County. "I hope he finishes up here. I'd love to see his 500th home run, because we're here at every game, and I would love for that to happen here."
Pub Date: 7/23/96