Eddie Murray is back where he belongs


July 24, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

It never bothered me that Eddie Clarence Murray kept his uniform clean and his mouth shut. The man produced, week in and week out, year after year. The Orioles went to two World Series within five seasons during the peak of Murray's 12-year run here, and they haven't been to one since.

The Eddie trade of 1988 never should have happened. He deserved respect and an opportunity to play his entire career with the Orioles, just as Cal Ripken has. What he got, instead, were cheap shots from the then-blustery, now-dead Edward Bennett Williams, sports commentators and foul-mouthed fans who took all their frustrations out on the Sphinx of first base, criticizing him for not getting his uniform dirty, not putting out.

No wonder Eddie left bitter.

Baseball is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. Between 1977 and 1988, Murray did plenty. No one gave Orioles fans a more exciting at-bat each time he came to the plate. He hit between 25 and 35 home runs in all but one of his seasons with the Orioles, and averaged 100 RBIs in each. After leaving Baltimore, he hit 158 more homers and batted in another 675 runs. Last year, at the age of 39, he batted .323 for the Cleveland Indians.

Now he's back in Baltimore. And I gotta tell ya, I know jaded people who, with the exception of looking up for Cal and The Streak, haven't as much as sneezed in the Orioles direction in years, and they're paying attention again -- if only for a short time.

The Orioles might have been looking to soften the blow of another mediocre season for all their paying customers; they probably will enjoy a splash when Eddie joins Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as the only major league players to collect 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Getting Eddie back here was a good PR move -- ironically, for reasons that underscore the perversities and failings of Major League Baseball.

Eddie Murray in a Baltimore uniform reminds us of Oriole Magic, solid baseball played by guys who actually came up through Bluefield and stayed with the organization for years. It reminds us of loyalty, Wild Bill Hagy and a time when the Orioles had fans, not clients, and the fans and the team enjoyed a far more intimate relationship than they do today.

Plus, Eddie's a Baby Boomer who, at the big Four-Oh!, can still hit the long ball. What have you done for us lately, Mr. Murray? Plenty. Welcome home.

A choosy beggar

Ingmar Burger, who lives in Alonsoville (the North Baltimore neighborhood behind the bar, south of Cold Spring Lane), was sitting in his car at a downtown intersection the other day when he spotted a panhandler. "I'm maybe five or six cars from the front," he tells me. "There's this woman working the intersection, moving from one side to the other, asking for money. She hit up the lead driver, a guy in a yellow sports car, and I saw him give her a handful of coins. The light changed and traffic started to move. As I passed her, she was picking out the pennies and throwing them down the storm drain." Hold the coins, please

While visiting Manhattan recently, Kim Hammond, Baltimore's most famous veterinarian, spotted an old woman, who looked a little rough around the edges, with a cup in her hand. As he walked by, Hammond dropped some coins in the cup. He heard a ka-plunk, followed by a splash. Then he heard the old woman yell: "What did you throw in my coffee!!" Stunned and embarrassed, Hammonds apologize and offered to buy the woman another cup of joe. "No, get away from me!" she barked. "Who the hell do you think you are!!"

NBC's untold stories

How did John Tesh get this gig covering the Olympics for NBC? (Maybe he bartered for the job, offering in exchange unrestricted use of his saccharine pop music for all those sappy, overwrought video profiles the network has been laying on us.) The guy adds nothing to NBC's coverage of gymnastics. And Dick Enberg? Love the man, great announcer. But he's no Charles Kuralt. Enberg's end-of-day essays have been little more than music videos. In Lillehammer, Kuralt told stories, large and small, that completed CBS' picture of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Before that, no one could find and tell the Olympic story du jour with LTC more elegance than Jim McKay of ABC Sports. This NBC bunch -- there isn't a storyteller among them.

Art vs. chemistry

I'm skipping IMAX's latest presentation, "Special Effects," at the Maryland Science Center. I like movies but I'm not a special effects fanatic. I don't want to see the man behind the drapes. Movies about how movies are made -- there was a TV special about the making of "Independence Day" even before the film was released -- vaporize all the wonder and reduce cinematic art to chemistry experiments. It's further evidence of the nerding of America, too, with techies inviting us into their basements to watch them blow up stuff. Count me out.

Thumbs up in Va.

Joey Amalfitano, official food taster and chief cultural correspondent of This Just In, writes from the road: "On Sunday, Maxine and I were tooling down Rt. 29 near Remington, Va., serenaded on the radio by country greats like Kitty Wells and Johnny Paycheck, the latter serving up one of my obscure favorites, 'Meanest Juke Box In Town.' It was a superb day, and I'd be remiss if I didn't alert you to a place called Pete's Park N' Eat. We pulled in and scarfed up some cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Cheap, agreeable chow, spread on shaded concrete picnic tables. I suggest a notation on your readers' map in the event they wander down that way." Speaking of maps . . .

Really lost

Overheard the other day at AAA of Maryland:

Clerk: "Can I help you?"

Traveler: "Yes, we need maps and books for Ontario, Connecticut, and all the other states we go through between here and Minnesota."

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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