This weekend he's in town to participate in the Winterfest for Literacy, a baseball autograph and memorabilia show to benefit the Ripken Learning Center. Next week an exhibit he underwrote for $20,000 opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Eddie Murray hasn't played for the Orioles in three years, but he remains
part of this community. The city rejoiced over Cal Ripken winning the American
League MVP. It would be nice if just once it could celebrate Murray in like
This isn't a plea for Murray to return to the Orioles -- please, no more
first basemen. But the affection for Ripken, and the devotion to retired
greats like Brooks and Frank Robinson, only points out the sadness of his exile, both in body and spirit.
It's time to forgive and forget. No one expects Murray to hold a
conciliatory news conference. No one expects the Orioles to contrive a day in
his honor. This is about thoughts, not actions; sentiments, not deeds. It's
time: Murray, 35, is a free agent entering the final phase of his career.
For 12 years in Baltimore, he was "Ed-die, Ed-die," but by the end he was
completely disenchanted, with the fans, the media, the front office. In 1987
he called Memorial Stadium "an ugly place." A year later he was traded to Los
Today he's gone, but not forgotten. Just two months ago, fans voted Boog
Powell over Murray as the first basemen on the Orioles' all-time team. It was
a mean-spirited snub, but it reflected the strain of Murray's final years with
The racial element in all this is impossible to dismiss, for Murray is
black and most fans who attend Orioles games are white. Still, other black
players have been popular in Baltimore -- from Frank Robinson to Ken Singleton
to Randy Milligan.
Anyway, the whole matter might have been put to rest if Murray had
returned for the grand finale at the stadium. But typical of this star-crossed
relationship, circumstances got in the way.
It's always something. Murray might never have desired a trade if the late
owner Edward Bennett Williams had treated him with the same heightened
sensitivity the current front office shows its latest slugging first baseman,
Likewise, the fans might still revere him unconditionally if only he had
dropped the Frown Prince persona and met them halfway -- through media
interviews, public appearances, shows of emotion, whatever ways he preferred.
Yet, in his own way, Murray did his share. He donated more than $250,000
in 1985 to establish an Outward Bound Camp program in Leakin Park in honor of
his late mother Carrie. He still contributes to the program, giving nearly
$50,000 this year.
By financing the Jacob Lawrence Exhibit at the art museum, he'll enable
Baltimoreans to view the works of perhaps the greatest Afro-American
painter. He also supports a local education fund, and his appearance at the
Ripken Winterfest will raise money to help adults learn to read.
"I still get letters from people telling me they appreciate how much Eddie
is doing," said Murray's agent, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro. "Maybe someday
there will be a larger community recognition of what he contributed not only
on the field, but off the field.
"I view this as something that can only happen with the passage of time.
Probably Eddie doesn't think about it much anymore. He's gone on with his
life. As the museum contribution shows, he still feels something for this
That's why it's a shame he couldn't return for the final weekend, a
love-in if there ever was one. Murray's friend, Charles Steinberg, first told
him of the Orioles' plans last November. According to Steinberg, Murray
laughed and said, "You really think you can pull all those guys back?"
Steinberg, the club's director of productions, lobbied Murray again when
the Dodgers visited Philadelphia in May. He kept in touch, and the club
actually made up a uniform so Murray could participate in the "Field of
Dreams" sequence. It would have been something, seeing Murray run -- all
right, jog -- to first base.
Problem was, the Dodgers weren't eliminated until the day before the
season ended. Steinberg thought about calling to suggest Murray catch a
red-eye. But he figured Murray, with 19 homers and 96 RBIs, would want one
last chance to boost his numbers before free agency. As it turned out, he
didn't play the final game.
"Would he have come back? That's everyone's question," Steinberg said. "I
don't think anybody knows the answer, including him. Would he have wanted to?
Definitely. No doubt in my mind. It was a celebration of all the fun times. It
would have had a great healing effect."
That healing might still occur, perhaps as soon as next season, if Murray
signs with an American League club like Toronto. He remains a force, as his
major-league high 993 RBIs in the past 10 years attest. The question now is
whether he'll permit his Hall of Fame plaque to depict him in an Orioles
Frank Robinson, for one, believes a reconciliation is possible. "As you're
a little bit further from a situation you sometimes can see it better," he
said. "I think the city and the fans here are very forgiving. They understand
Eddie now more than then what Eddie was going through.
"I don't think a majority of people were here against Eddie, just a small
segment. As a whole, the city embraced Eddie, and will again. I think he will
come to terms with the situation. I think he will be looked up to and take his
place as one of the premier players in the organization."