The Orioles front office planned the festivities surrounding Eddie Murray's 500th home run a month ago; from the streamers at first base, to the video clips on the scoreboard, to the graphics of Murray's face on the scoreboard.
The players, coaches and manager did not have that luxury.
Those Orioles eagerly anticipated the game when Murray would become the
15th player in history with 500 home runs and the third player in history with
500 homers and 3,000 career hits.
But no one knew when that day would come. So, at 11: 47 Friday night, when
Murray sent a line drive over the groundskeepers shed in right field and into
the bleachers, the celebration that took place was truly spontaneous.
So spontaneous that Scott Erickson dropped a plate of food to join the
on-field bedlam and Rafael Palmeiro was inspired to herd his teammates on the
field like a bunch of teen-agers in the College World Series.
The players and coaching staff rose from the bench, walked to the dugout
steps and watched the ball's flight. Then everyone greeted Murray at home
"When he hit the ball, I was pretty sure it was going out," Cal Ripken
said yesterday. "I just wanted to see the ball go all the way out. I think in
some weird way we've all been anticipating it and expecting it. With the rain
delay, and it seemed like it wasn't a full house because of the weather, you
lowered your guard for just a minute and didn't think it would be that
"All of a sudden it happened so quickly, I don't think a lot of people
were thinking about it. It was a big home run for the team [tying the game],
but my immediate reaction was 500 home runs."
Brady Anderson sat on the bench for a few seconds to preserve the moment
in his memory. Anderson wanted to have the ability to recall the pitch, the
situation and Murray's home run trot. He also wanted to give Murray his space
and sensed the slugger wanted to get the celebration over with.
But by the time Murray rounded third base, a mass of Orioles had gathered
at home plate.
"I think Rafael jumped off the bench right away," Anderson said. "He was
the first one that really knew. He went on the field first and was telling us,
'Let's go.' We didn't know what we were supposed to do on a 500th homer. Do
you run out like a college game or just wait for him on the bench? We all
would've run out there eventually, we just wanted to make sure it was out, you
Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla sent Ripken on his victory lap after breaking
Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak a year ago. This time Palmeiro was
already on the top step before the ball had reached the warning track and
Bonilla was the first player waiting for Murray at home plate.
"It was a historical moment and I just reacted to the moment," Palmeiro
said. "When he hit it, I knew it was going out. I tried to organize the
celebration. I tried to get the guys out there. I thought I was pretty
Erickson was the last Orioles player to join the huddle. He and injured
outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds were in the clubhouse when Murray hit the home
run. Erickson sprinted by Hammonds, who couldn't run as well with his sore
"I was in the clubhouse," Erickson said. "I was starving. I dropped
everything and sprinted to the field. We were watching it on TV. As soon as he
hit it, I dropped my plate all over the floor. Better late than never. I got
to home plate before [Murray] did, or at least it was close."
Orioles manager Davey Johnson was Hank Aaron's teammate in Atlanta when he
broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, and Johnson said only that
experience rates higher than what transpired at Camden Yards Friday.
Detroit Tigers starter Felipe Lira bears the distinction of throwing
Murray his 500th home run. Lira was jogging around the warning track yesterday
afternoon while Murray was waiting by the cage to take batting practice.
Lira stopped when he saw Murray and came over to congratulate him. They
shook hands, exchanged a laugh, then parted ways.
"It was a horrible pitch -- a split-finger that did nothing," Lira said of
the pitch that became home run No. 500. "That's a big number to be next to my
name. If I throw that pitch 100 times, 99 would go out. He got me."
For Murray, yesterday was just another day at the ballpark. He rarely
spoke about or promoted his charge to 500 homers or 3,000 hits, and now that
he's reached the milestones, Murray still doesn't have much to say.
"Basically, I'm just glad it's over," Murray said before last night's
game. "It's no big thing. You just go back to playing and hopefully we'll win
some games. You just go about your business."
The business of hitting 500 home runs and compiling a Hall of Fame career.
500th is spontaneous joy to O's
Front office had planned for moment, but players were caught off guard
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