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Orioles honor their Steady Eddie with statue

Hall of Fame first baseman is fourth to be immortalized this season

BALTIMORE -- The chants began before Saturday's ceremony where the Orioles unveiled a statue honoring Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray. They popped up again during it and even more when the guest speakers were done.

"Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die."

That chant was a signature during Murray's career with the Orioles. Fans did it all the time when he came to the plate or made a good play in the field, and the chant again came alive when the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Murray was revealed to the public.

Murray is the fourth Orioles great to have a statue made in their honor this season -- joining Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer. Cal Ripken Jr. (Sept. 6) and Brooks Robinson (Sept. 29) are the final two parts to this Orioles Legends Celebration Series.

The usually stoic and soft-spoken Murray clearly was touched by the statue -- done by Toby Mendez and one that depicted the switch-hitter as a left-handed batter in his crouch waiting for a pitch with some good sideburns from earlier days.

And those early days are when the "Ed-die, Ed-die" chants began. Murray said the chants actually threw him off a bit at times, but then he got used to it.

"You learned to deal with it because you had a job to do," Murray said. "It was always fun and you always figured it would really disturb [or] be the opponent's problem more than anything. You just had to do your job."

The chant is an example of the strong bond Murray had with Baltimore fans, something he joked made shopping a tough task. But Murray was long a fan favorite in town, probably because of his success.

He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1977 and was named Most Valuable Oriole seven times. The Hall of Famer played with the Orioles for 12 1/2 of his 21 seasons, coming back to the team in mid-1996 to help the O's make the playoffs and hit his 500th homer.

"From the time I saw Eddie Murray swing a bat, I felt sure he was going to be something special."
-- Earl Weaver

Murray ended his career with 3,255 hits, including 504 homers. He's one of just four players to finish with at least 500 homers and 3,000 hits. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Rafael Palmeiro are the others.

"His achievements in baseball were simply remarkable," said Louis Angelos, Orioles ownership representative. "One of the most reliable and productive hitters in the history of baseball, Eddie Murray was a model of consistency."

Some of the numbers illustrated that consistency very nicely. Murray had at least 75 RBIs in his first 20 seasons in the Major Leagues. He also played in at least 150 games in 16 of his 21 seasons.

"From the time I saw Eddie Murray swing a bat, I felt sure he was going to be something special," Weaver said. "I knew right away he was going to be a great asset to the Baltimore Orioles."

A fellow Hall of Famer also showed up at the ceremony to honor Murray. Shortstop Ozzie Smith, a childhood friend and teammate at Locke High School (Los Angeles) also talked about how he knew Murray was going to be something special when they were kids.

"I saw firsthand what was to come," Smith said. "I've never seen anyone more determined, more confident when the game was on the line."

Murray credited Weaver and several others for helping him fare so well. He thanked Weaver for battling the front office to keep him on the team and give him a shot in 1977 -- saying the lessons he learned over the years from guys like Elrod Hendricks, Lee May and Cal Ripken, Sr. were invaluable to him.

May was a well-respected first baseman and designated hitter who'd been with the Orioles for a few years when Murray arrived. And even though Murray eventually pushed him over to DH job, May kept teaching him.

"He was the one [who said] that once you step on that field and anybody asks for help, you give it to them," Murray said.

Murray was a leader on the teams he played on. He wanted everyone to do their best, something that current Orioles manager Buck Showalter talked about on Saturday.

"Eddie wasn't a suck-face guy with the other team," Showalter said. "I can't remember ever having a conversation with him until here. You wore that other uniform, he didn't have time for you."

Murray now lives in Los Angeles and probably won't be at Oriole Park to see the statues too much. But it was easy to see how much the honor touched him.

He paused a few times when talking to the crowd and told reporters later that the statue was great, and he loved Mendez's work.

"It's really pretty cool; it's going to be special," Murray said. "You look at it and you still get a little speechless, and seeing it sitting out there with the rest of them and knowing that's where it's going to stay. That's going to be all right."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to
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