This weekend he's in town to participate in the Winterfest for Literacy,a baseball autograph and memorabilia show to benefit the Ripken LearningCenter. Next week an exhibit he underwrote for $20,000 opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Eddie Murray hasn't played for the Orioles in three years, but he remainspart of this community. The city rejoiced over Cal Ripken winning the American League MVP. It would be nice if just once it could celebrate Murray in likefashion again.
This isn't a plea for Murray to return to the Orioles -- please, no morefirst basemen. But the affection for Ripken, and the devotion to retiredgreats like Brooks and Frank Robinson, only points out the sadness of his exile, both in body and spirit.
It's time to forgive and forget. No one expects Murray to hold aconciliatory news conference. No one expects the Orioles to contrive a day inhis honor. This is about thoughts, not actions; sentiments, not deeds. It'stime: Murray, 35, is a free agent entering the final phase of his career.
For 12 years in Baltimore, he was "Ed-die, Ed-die," but by the end he wascompletely disenchanted, with the fans, the media, the front office. In 1987he called Memorial Stadium "an ugly place." A year later he was traded to LosAngeles.
Today he's gone, but not forgotten. Just two months ago, fans voted BoogPowell over Murray as the first basemen on the Orioles' all-time team. It wasa mean-spirited snub, but it reflected the strain of Murray's final years withthe club.
The racial element in all this is impossible to dismiss, for Murray isblack and most fans who attend Orioles games are white. Still, other blackplayers have been popular in Baltimore -- from Frank Robinson to Ken Singletonto Randy Milligan.
Anyway, the whole matter might have been put to rest if Murray hadreturned for the grand finale at the stadium. But typical of this star-crossedrelationship, circumstances got in the way.
It's always something. Murray might never have desired a trade if the lateowner Edward Bennett Williams had treated him with the same heightenedsensitivity the current front office shows its latest slugging first baseman,Glenn Davis.
Likewise, the fans might still revere him unconditionally if only he haddropped the Frown Prince persona and met them halfway -- through mediainterviews, public appearances, shows of emotion, whatever ways he preferred.
Yet, in his own way, Murray did his share. He donated more than $250,000in 1985 to establish an Outward Bound Camp program in Leakin Park in honor ofhis late mother Carrie. He still contributes to the program, giving nearly$50,000 this year.
By financing the Jacob Lawrence Exhibit at the art museum, he'll enableBaltimoreans to view the works of perhaps the greatest Afro-Americanpainter. He also supports a local education fund, and his appearance at theRipken Winterfest will raise money to help adults learn to read.
"I still get letters from people telling me they appreciate how much Eddieis doing," said Murray's agent, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro. "Maybe somedaythere will be a larger community recognition of what he contributed not onlyon the field, but off the field.
"I view this as something that can only happen with the passage of time.Probably Eddie doesn't think about it much anymore. He's gone on with hislife. As the museum contribution shows, he still feels something for thiscity."
That's why it's a shame he couldn't return for the final weekend, alove-in if there ever was one. Murray's friend, Charles Steinberg, first toldhim of the Orioles' plans last November. According to Steinberg, Murraylaughed and said, "You really think you can pull all those guys back?"
Steinberg, the club's director of productions, lobbied Murray again whenthe Dodgers visited Philadelphia in May. He kept in touch, and the clubactually made up a uniform so Murray could participate in the "Field ofDreams" sequence. It would have been something, seeing Murray run -- allright, jog -- to first base.
Problem was, the Dodgers weren't eliminated until the day before theseason ended. Steinberg thought about calling to suggest Murray catch ared-eye. But he figured Murray, with 19 homers and 96 RBIs, would want onelast chance to boost his numbers before free agency. As it turned out, hedidn't play the final game.
"Would he have come back? That's everyone's question," Steinberg said. "Idon't think anybody knows the answer, including him. Would he have wanted to?Definitely. No doubt in my mind. It was a celebration of all the fun times. Itwould have had a great healing effect."
That healing might still occur, perhaps as soon as next season, if Murraysigns with an American League club like Toronto. He remains a force, as hismajor-league high 993 RBIs in the past 10 years attest. The question now iswhether he'll permit his Hall of Fame plaque to depict him in an Oriolesuniform.
Frank Robinson, for one, believes a reconciliation is possible. "As you'rea little bit further from a situation you sometimes can see it better," hesaid. "I think the city and the fans here are very forgiving. They understandEddie now more than then what Eddie was going through.
"I don't think a majority of people were here against Eddie, just a smallsegment. As a whole, the city embraced Eddie, and will again. I think he willcome to terms with the situation. I think he will be looked up to and take hisplace as one of the premier players in the organization."