- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

So Eddie Murray, my old non-buddy, is on the ballot for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He belongs and should make it, if not this time then in the next couple of years. The question is, will he?

As many fans know, Murray regarded the media with all the affection most of us display for IRS agents and serial killers. That could come back to haunt and hurt him now because 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America do the voting for Cooperstown.

Steve Carlton's stance as a one-man Silent Minority didn't prevent him from becoming a first ballot Hall of Famer (which may have left Lefty eternally speechless) in 1994. When it came to deserving a plaque, Carlton's 329 victories spoke for themselves, and most eloquently.

So it is with Murray, one of exactly three players in the history of rounders to better and batter 500 home runs and 3,000 hits (504 and 3,255, if we're counting). As a potent switch-hitter, he keeps company with the likes of Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose. And when he put his mind and glove to it, Eddie was a pretty fair first baseman, too.

But when it came to being quoted, Murray was a zero hero. Supposedly, veteran Lee May taught him to beware of wretches bearing notepads and tape recorders when Eddie joined the Baltimore Orioles as a 21-year-old in 1977. Some years later, Murray relented enough to allow one of the O's beat writers to visit his home in California during the offseason and felt the guy misquoted him. That did it, brother.

One of the first things a sportswriter learns is that fans don't give a rodent's rump what problems we have in our racket after all, we're getting to see the games free and gobbling free food. But the point is this: By refusing interviews, Murray did himself great harm. Think of the endorsement money he could have made. And had he so desired, Eddie could have joined Johnny U, Brooksie and Cal Junior as all-time Baltimore sporting icons.

Instead, there was only silence.

I always found it strange that Murray and the generally accessible Ripken were bosom buddies. For years, Cal would tell writers, "Eddie's really a great guy when you get to know him." But we never did.

When Murray's career was in full flower, a beat writer for the Baltimore Sun left the paper. Asked by a friend why he had quit, the man sighed. "You can't imagine what it's like to go to work every day and have to try to talk to Eddie Murray," he said.

Once during spring training in Miami, I was sitting on a stool interviewing Ripken in the clubhouse when Cal suddenly began rolling his eyes and gesturing frantically while I took notes. Naturally, I paid no attention until I felt an unfriendly tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, I gazed into the coldest pair of eyes I'd ever seen.

It seems I was sitting on Murray's stool. Luckily for me, the man must have been in a good mood that day. Otherwise, he might have laid one of his bats upside my head.

Sometimes, though, it was possible to pity his closed mindset. One such occasion came in the spring of 1994, when former Orioles Murray and Dennis Martinez returned to Baltimore with the Cleveland Indians after lengthy stays in the National League. The sellout throng at Camden Yards welcomed the pair warmly, and after the game newsmen surrounded the popular Martinez in the clubhouse and listened to him tell how wonderful it was to be back in Charm City, even briefly.

Then they approached Murray.

Glare and stare: "No interviews."

Too bad. When a sports star sparkles at his trade as long and as well as Murray and for consistency at bat and leadership qualities, not many have been better we like to think he's a pleasant fellow who treats everyone with courtesy and respect. Of course, that's not always the case. (Did I hear anybody mention Barry Bonds?)

Nonetheless, I'll vote for Murray on the first and any subsequent Hall of Fame ballots. He never had a monster season at the plate like so many of today's bulked-up phenoms, but every year he was good for 30 homers and 100 RBI every year.

Between the lines, which is the only place it matters, Eddie Murray was a Hall of Famer. As far as helping him get there for real well, I'd like to think I'm more charitable toward others than he was.

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