I always liked Eddie Murray as a ballplayer, thinking him kind of a nicely timed successor to Henry Aaron, since Hank hung it up in 1976, and Murray showed up the next year. The similarities between the two are numerous and significant, but the overriding one was the staggering consistency that they both displayed on the field, and the quiet majesty that enveloped them off it.
Part of that understanding came more than 10 years ago when I first saw Murray signing autographs at a show, and it quickly became apparent that he also had something in common with yet another of the game’s legendary players from my youth: Brooks Robinson.
Like Brooksie, Murray seems to be one of those great ambassadors for the game, showing an affection and understanding for fans – especially the younger ones – that typically makes old-timers like myself grumble that the multimillionaires in today’s game could take a lesson from the likes of the Murrays and Robinsons of yesteryear. In truth, there are a number of modern guys who display the same laudable characteristics, but that’s a different story.
I watched Murray sign autographs at the late-November Sun-Times Show, and I can’t recall another player in recent memory who seemed to be having so much fun with little kids. Learning to fake sincerity is one of the great tricks of master politicians, but learning to spot the real thing ought to be a cherished skill sought by the great unwashed. As a duly ensconced member of that club, I can assure you of his bona fides.
As I was leaving the show Sunday afternoon and walking to the parking lot across from the convention center, Murray was about 10 yards ahead of me. At one point, he spotted a $100 bill on the ground, picked it up and quickly called out to a man who was maybe 40 yards in front of him. Murray handed him the bill and was thanked for his efforts.
That doesn’t make him a saint, but it’s still useful information. So is this: “Steady Eddie” hit 504 career home runs and never hit more than 33 in one season.
Think about that for a minute or two.