Former Orioles first baseman, current bench coach and future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray was regarded by teammates as a player who let his actions on the field speak for themselves. However, when his No. 33 was officially retired yesterday, the usually stone-faced Murray couldn't help but give in to the moment.
Murray, one of only three players to hit 500 home runs and amass 3,000 hits, wiped tears from his eyes and his voice cracked as he thanked fans, teammates and family after Orioles manager Ray Miller presented him with a framed 1980s Orioles )) uniform bearing his signature No. 33. The sellout crowd at Camden Yards chanted "Ed- die" and stood in his honor.
"I didn't think it could be done, but it's been done," he said of the tears. " Everybody here has made this day very special for me. This is definitely a day I will never forget."
The Orioles rolled out an orange carpet on a day that many say was a long time coming, 10 years after Murray and the Orioles first parted ways on less than desirable terms. But on this day there was nothing but praise for Murray's work ethic, dedication to the game and friendliness to his teammates.
Players from both teams stood on the dugout steps, listening as others praised Murray, who also was joined on the field by his wife and two daughters, his father and his two brothers.
Each of the four other Orioles to have their number retired -- former manager Earl Weaver (4), pitcher Jim Palmer (22), third baseman Brooks Robinson (5) and outfielder Frank Robinson (20) -- spoke at the ceremony, as well as current third baseman Cal Ripken. Brooks Robinson appeared via a taped message shown on the JumboTron.
"Eddie Murray arrived here in Baltimore knowing how to play the game and that was to give 100 percent and play as hard as you can at all times," Frank Robinson said. "The numbers speak for themselves, but Eddie was more than just about numbers. Eddie was into the game."
"I told you three years ago on Sept. 6 about Eddie, about how influential he was in my career as a player, as a person and how special he is as a friend," said Ripken, referring to the night he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak.
Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks then unveiled a silver No. 33 statue that will be placed along with the other retired numbers in front of Camden Yards' North Eutaw Street entrance.
Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Murray closed his brief but heartfelt speech by saying "You talk about lost for words. All I can say is I love you. Let's get on with the ballgame."
The Orioles, in keeping with the silver theme, presented Murray a 1998 silver Corvette adorned by a No. 33 vanity plate. He then rode around the warning track in his new car to a standing ovation while the stadium matrix played a video of Murray highlights and the PA system played Mariah Carey's "Hero." After the game, Murray expressed how this day ranked with other important moments of his career.
"This was definitely one of them," he said. "It goes right up there with Opening Day 1977, on that first Opening Day when you get a little nervous."
Earlier inside the Orioles clubhouse, Ripken reflected on Murray.
"I think it's very deserving," Ripken said. "He was a huge part of the Orioles' success, a great contributor, a great teammate and he went out to do his job every day."
Frank Robinson said: "Eddie was like a coach on the field. You just don't find that type of player anymore."
And now, after more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits -- an achievement duplicated only by Hank Aaron and Willie Mays -- no other Oriole will ever wear the No. 33.
Murray at a glance
Seasons: 1977 to 1997 (1977-1988, 1996 with Orioles).
Playing position: First base.
Current position: Orioles bench coach.
All-Star-teams: Eight, seven as an Oriole.
Career highlights: Joins Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as only players with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. Is 15th in homers (504) and 10th in hits (3,255). 13th all-time in RBIs (1,917), first among switch-hitters. Had at least 75 in each of his first 20 seasons. Second in grand slams with 19. Most career games (2,413) and assists (1,865) at first base. Played at least 150 games in 16 seasons, behind Cal Ripken and Pete Rose (17).
Orioles highlights: Won the Orioles' Triple Crown five times, leading in batting average, homers and RBIs. Most Valuable Oriole seven times.
Orioles records: Most intentional walks in a season (25), 1984; tied for most RBIs in a game (9), Aug. 26, 1985, vs. Angels.
* How he ranks as an Oriole:
Games: 4th (1,884)
Hits: 3rd (2,080)
Doubles: 3rd (363)
Homers: 2nd (343)
Grand slams: 1st (16)
RBIs: 3rd (1,224)
Runs: 3rd (1,084)
Batting average: 5th (.294)
Pub Date: 6/08/98