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Pirates Baseball Hall of Fame: Murray emotional as he enters Hall

Monday, July 28, 2003

By John Kekis, The Associated Press

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Eddie Murray asked for the chant, and it came in waves.

Hall of Fame inductees Gary Carter and Eddie Murray wave to family and friends as they pose with their plaques during induction ceremonies yesterday in Cooperstown, N.Y. (John Dunn, Associated Press)

With hundreds of Baltimore Orioles fans chanting "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" before, during and after he spoke, Murray was inducted yesterday into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And although he struggled with emotions and nerves, the reticent former slugger, who shunned the media during his 21-year major-league career, delivered as he did so often on the field.

"It's a dream -- one of the few things I never dreamed of," said Murray, the 38th player selected in the first year of eligibility. "When Ted Williams was inducted 37 years ago, he said he must have earned it because he didn't win it because of his friendship with the writers. I guess in that way I'm proud to be in his company."

Former Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter, Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker, and Ohio sports writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News also were inducted.

Ironically, Murray was the last to speak, which gave his fans lots of time to shout his name. So he asked them to chant before he spoke -- and as he was finishing up.

"I wanted to get it out of the way because I could get emotional on a day like [this]," said Murray, who with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are the only players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits. "When you play, you learn to turn it down to a whisper so you can do your job."

"Steady Eddie" broke in with the Orioles in 1977 and was named American League Rookie of the Year after hitting .283 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs. Taught to switch-hit in the minor leagues, he quickly became one of the most feared clutch hitters of his generation. He hit 504 homers, including 19 grand slams, second all-time to the 23 of former Yankees great Lou Gehrig. He also drove in at least 75 runs for a major-league-record 20 consecutive seasons.

With former Orioles teammates Cal Ripken and Lee May (the man Murray replaced in the lineup) among those in the audience and Orioles Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver on the podium, Murray seemed more at ease than expected as he explained his work ethic as a player and now a coach with the Cleveland Indians.

"There's more to this game than just walking up to home plate and swinging the bat," said Murray, who paid tribute to Major League Baseball's first two black players, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. "There's some dedication and love you have to put into this to become good."

Carter, whose selection came on his sixth try, kept his composure until he began to speak about his family. Carter's father, who was his Little League coach, died three weeks after the Hall of Fame voting in January. His mother died when he was 12.

"This is where it might get a little bit tough," said Carter, nicknamed "Kid" for his youthful exuberance and omnipresent smile. "My parents can't be here with me in person, but I know they're smiling down."

Carter, the first inductee to wear an Expos cap, was All-Star MVP twice in his 19-year career, helped lead the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series title and holds the major-league career record for most putouts at catcher (11,785) and most chances accepted at catcher (12,988).

Uecker, a bust at the plate during his career but a master behind the microphone, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. His self-deprecating humor, delivered off-the-cuff, left the audience in laughter at every pause.

"I wanted to have some fun," said Uecker, who has broadcast Brewers games for 33 years. "To sit up and look out at that mass of people -- that's what it's all about. This is perpetuity."

McCoy, who won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, has covered the Cincinnati Reds for 31 years. But after suffering a stroke two years ago that took away half his vision, it took a lot of convincing by family, colleagues, and baseball fans for him to continue.

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