Murray feels burn to light Oriole Way

November 25, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal

They sat on a couch underneath the famous picture of Brooks Robinson leaping in triumph at the end of the 1966 World Series. Ray Miller and Eddie Murray helped the Orioles win another world championship 17 years later. Now they want to re-create the experience 15 years after that.

The Oriole Way might be gone forever, but not if Miller and his coaching staff can help it. Miller and Murray sounded almost nostalgic yesterday, reflecting upon on a time when it was great to be young and an Oriole. But the more they spoke, the better they made the old days sound.

In their first Orioles' tenure, Miller was the hotshot pitching coach, Murray the All-Star first baseman. This time, Miller will be the second-chance manager, Murray a rookie coach. Funny how their years apart seemed to strengthen the bond between them. Yesterday, they sounded just like old friends.

When Miller spoke, Murray nodded silently in agreement. When Murray spoke, Miller looked wistful. Heck, when they first met, Miller was a 28-year-old pitcher at Triple-A Rochester, Murray a 17-year-old kid in Rookie ball. The high-pitched voice, that's what Miller remembers. The voice, and so much more.

Murray, 41, should make a fine coach, whether he's at first base, in the batting cage or on the bench. And irony of ironies, the qualities he offers -- the inner fire, the ability to communicate, the desire to make the game fun -- are the same qualities that many thought he lacked in his Hall of Fame career.

"A lot of guys today I don't think have the knowledge of players before them," Murray told reporters after his formal news conference was over yesterday. "This is where that fire and all of that starts to burn. You've got to have some history going.

"My brother [Charles] was the one in my life. People say who do you idolize? If not for my older brother, I would never have played the game. You look at Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, people of that nature. I had him right in my house."

Charles Murray hit 37 homers and drove in 119 runs playing in the California League in 1964. Three other Murray brothers -- Venice, Leon and Rich -- went on to play pro ball.

"You've got to have some history," Murray said. "You've got to want to do something. It's got to be more than a job. You've got to love it. That will take you that extra step, doing something without someone having to tell you."

Miller smiled.

"I was telling Eddie downstairs, I was talking to the pitching staff this year and brought up Scotty McGregor. About halfway into my conversation I looked around the room and realized that three-fourths of the people in there had no idea who he was.

"I mentioned the fact that one year he pitched two complete games and was in the eighth inning of a third before going to ball three. He was pitching games in an hour, 59 minutes. That got everybody's attention. That's one of the things Eddie and I talked about. You've got a history of everybody before we came in. Crabs and Brooks and Boog."

Now it was Murray who interjected.

"I did not ever play with [Don] Baylor and [Bobby] Grich, guys that we had before me," he said. "[But] we spoke to each other like it was just something there. There was a bond. We're searching to find that and get it back."

Can they find it? It seems unlikely on a team with so many high-priced stars, a team with individual agendas, a team given to petty jealousies. But Murray helped unite the clubhouse when the Orioles acquired him from Cleveland for the second half of the '96 season. Perhaps he can do it again in a different role.

Elrod Hendricks followed a similar path -- he was a player/coach before he joined Earl Weaver's staff full time. Weaver told him to detach himself from the players, saying, "You can't be their friend and be their coach." But Hendricks told Murray, "Things have changed so much now, you almost have to be their friend first."

"Players are more fickle now," Hendricks said. "They call their mom, they call their agent, they call anyone else. If you yell at 'em, they don't go to the manager, they go straight to the owner."

It will be a challenge for Miller and Co. to inject an entire culture into such an environment, but that has been the goal of almost every Orioles manager since Weaver. Davey Johnson was one of the most fervent proponents of the Oriole Way. Miller, though, might pay stronger attention to detail.

"That's all you can hope, to get some of this stuff instilled again," Murray said. "They can feel it from the coaching staff, the way we go about doing our jobs. They'll be out there working. But we're going to try to have some fun doing it."

"You know what the Oriole Way is?" Miller asked, picking up on Murray's thought. "It's really preparation. We know how we execute every phase of the game.

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