Monday, November 8, 2010
#407) EDDIE MURRAY
Eddie Murray joined the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on November 27, 1991. The 36 year-old veteran came with Hall of Fame credentials. "The Mets have the makings of being a good ball club," said Murray upon signing. "And Al Harazin (general manager) said he wasn't done working on them." New York would sign free agent Bobby Bonilla to create a formidable pair in the middle of their batting lineup. "When he comes up, he comes through," Bonilla said of Murray. "He ain't going to do it forever. But when he does it, it's special."
On May 3, 1992, he would hit his second home run of the season for the Mets, but it was his 400th of his career. The solo shot came facing the Atlanta Braves during a 7-0 crushing at Fulton County Stadium. The milestone made him reflect on the possibility of reaching 500. Mickey Mantle had delivered the most in history as a switch-hitter with 536. "I don't know that's something to think about." said Eddie. "If I can stay healthy...A lot of people play this game and not many have 400. I probably would be more proud of passing Mickey. I don't know if I can catch him." On June 5th he drove in two runs as the Mets faced the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. Those gave him 1,510 total and passed Mantle as the all-time RBI leader among switch-hitters.
"Steady Eddie" finished his first season in New York with 16 home runs and 93 RBIs. He led the the team with his .261 batting average, and also with 64 runs scored. New York would finish with a dissapointing 72-90 record for 1992.
During the winter Murray would undergo arthroscopic surgery on both ankles. "I still feel good about the ball club and just hope that everybody can stay together." offered Eddie. "I mean, I've never seen anything like what happened last year. For a while it seemed like every other day everybody went down and we ended up calling up a Triple-A player that wasn't necessarily burning up the Triple-A league. But this is a different year and I am not giving up on these guys."
An incident in Cincinnati on April 19, 1993 was not the best start to the new season. Eddie who had argued the first called strike to him, was ejected as he traced a line in the dirt with his bat showing just how inside he felt the second pitch was. "There are acceptable ways to object a call," said Paul Runge, the chief of the umpiring crew. "That is not one of them." A war of words in the press ensued and cast a cloud of conspiracy theories around Murray's handling by umpires.
Despite leading the Mets in RBIs again it was apparent that Eddie was not going to be a part of the team's future. His work at first base was not as strong as past seasons, and strained relationships with reporters led to a deteriorating clubhouse environment. "He's an American League ballplayer," said one member of the Mets management staff in August. "He can't be part of the club we want to go with." On September 6th, Murray was ejected following a complaint over the positioning of the second base umpire. "It certainly makes you wonder," GM Harazin said. "Eddie plays the game as a professional. He won't be particularly concious of being someone's friend. But he shouldn't be penalized for it." The next day Murray asked reporters, "Am I surprised I'm still here? Probably as surprised as you, and how surprised are you?" When the reporters said they were shocked he was still here, Murray responded, "Good answer."
The Mets ended the 1993 campaign with a dismal 59-103 record. Eddie had a fine offensive season for the club with 27 home runs and 100 RBIs. All while raising his batting average to .285. Murray would sign as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians on December 2, 1993.
"To me, it's all about 'win', " Eddie was quoted. "Something I love to do is win. No amount of money can take the place of that ring, something the younger players don't understand all the time."
Murray finished his 21-year career with 504 home runs, 1,917 RBIs, and a .287 lifetime batting average. He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Eddie Murray signed his card in the set for my newest friend, Adam Novak at the MAB Show in Secaucus, New Jersey on October 26, 2010.